I was delighted to deliver the oration at this year’s Flodden Day service on Branxton Hill, which formed part of a hugely successful Coldstream Civic Week.
It has now been 501 years since a battle which has, in many ways, shaped Scotland’s national psyche and encapsulates Scottish values of honour, duty and bravery. Giving the speech on top of the hill which the Earl of Surrey’s troops met and defeated James IV’s Scots army was a memorable and touching experience.
I spoke of the tragic loss of life, including that of King James himself and of the pillars of communities who perished on Branxton Hill. It is said that until the brutality of the Somme, no other battle saw so many slain, so quickly as did Flodden. I was struck by the fact that those Borderers who fought and died that day, did so with their homeland in full sight.
But I also spoke about how the nuns of Coldstream ventured to the battle site and brought back bodies of the dead so that they could receive a Christian burial. Led by Isabella Hoppringle, the nuns ensured a proper final resting place in the consecrated grounds of Coldstream Priory. In so doing, they symbolised the same honour, duty and bravery of those who had fought and perished at the King’s side.
The Battle of Flodden is therefore a poignant reminder of both the futility of war, but also of the strength of human spirit. Unfortunately conflict remains a destructive part of our world today, but there is another side to conflict and that is the side of duty and honour; courage and compassion. It’s the side of the Coldstream nuns. And today, it’s the side of our armed forces and of volunteers and charities, carrying out brave work, in conflict torn areas.
This month saw another brilliant Berwickshire County Show take place in the grounds of Duns Castle, and it was great to once again see such a big turn-out, despite the wet weather. Farmers, cattle breeders and agricultural enthusiasts from around Scotland come to the show every year, making it one of the best of its type in the country.
Ever since Berwickshire’s Agricultural Association was founded in 1885 it has helped to promote and encourage the growth of our local agriculture industry. Now boasting around 600 members, the association does a first class job in hosting the Duns Show and it continues to offer entertainment for all ages. If you haven’t yet been along to the show I would highly recommend it.
I had my usual stall at the show and it was great to see so many people stop by to say hello. I was struck by how many were interested in supporting Better Together’s efforts to keep Scotland in the UK. There is a strong sense in the Borders that our communities benefit from sharing the UK pound as our currency, higher public spending on schools and hospitals and lower interest rates on our mortgages as part of the UK.