Besom sing-song tops off wonderful week

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Ah Coldstream Civic Week. Now, as something of a veteran, having been Coldstreamer more than 40 years ago, I have been round the Civic Week block more than a couple of times. But this year was different.

My son, his wife and twins now live in the town. Indeed, he edits the very publication you are now reading.

So this year I was able to introduce him to his first Civic Week since he was but an ankle-biting child.

As one might expect, there is much pleasure to be had in showing something off when you know full well that it is going to be very good. So it proved. These are the highlights of my week.


As befits a Sunday, the week begins with more protocol than alcohol.

The opening ceremony, held this year in the Parish Church (lest a lightening bolt carry away a Guard, dignitary or ex-Coldstreamer) is as it has ‘aye been’.

Martin Lees was installed as Coldstreamer 50 years ago, on August 5, 1962, the very same day that Marilyn Monroe died and Nelson Mandela was arrested. But clearly Martin’s sashing was easily the biggest news story that day.

The fitba in the park was cancelled, on the basis that the soggy pitch would have been more conducive to splashing than passing.


Previous Dub Dash winners and guests begin the day at 8am with beer, bacon and eggs. Phew.

This is the beginning of a recurring theme which you may notice (and I don’t mean the bacon and eggs).

Then its down to Duke Street, where, after a refreshment at Hamish Broon’s, the races begin. My wife and I both compete, to no avail. Bobby Hanlon’s brilliant commentary ensures smiles and happy faces all round.

Oh, and the editor of this newspaper’s golden retriever, Molly, is called upon to check a heat winner for drugs, which she does with some aplomb.

Martin Law is declared winner, and within a minute John Elliot is entertaining us with a song dedicated to Martin. How does he do that so quickly? Unless? Could it be that...? No, perish the thought.

The Newcastle Arms Sing-Song follows immediately. Bobby is master of ceremonies, and there is a buffet, beer, singing, more beer and bonhomie.

Walter Atkin, at 93, gives us a song. It is all terrific stuff. I am whisked away home to Eskbank by the Mrs, to return on Wednesday.


Watching the horses leave for Birgham from a vantage point outside the Besom, I once again spy a larger-than-life-Londoner, called Steve.

Steve, it turns out, discovered Civic Week five years ago and has never missed since. His T-shirt causes much mirth among the locals “Particle Physics gives me a Hadron”. No, I don’t understand it either, but it certainly made a few people smile.

In truth, it is some years since I visited Birgham on the Wednesday of Civic Week, so it is with some trepidation that I recommend it to son and family.

I needn’t have worried. Loads of people, beer (again), BBQ, live music .... and Steve with his ‘Hadron’ shirt still making people laugh. Wish someone would explain it to me.


Flodden. What can I say? A perfect day. Not too hot for the horses, it was bright and clear, enhancing that spectacular view from Branxton Hill.

My Civic-Week-Virgin-Son had been secretly impressed with the size of the Birgham Cavalcade (30 or so?) so Flodden’s 250 came as a surprise. Anybody still reading this who hasn’t been to Flodden, make sure you go next year to the special 500th anniversary day. It is simply unmissable.

The after-Flodden beer in The Besom courtyard is as much a tradition now as the ride itself. In other places, neighbouring towns may be rivals. In the beautiful Borders, they support each other, and the many visitors from other towns add so much to a wonderful day.


As I walk through Home Park at 9.30am it occurs to me that the marquee which housed the Civic Week Ball a mere five hours ago has gone. How on earth do they do that so quickly?

Friday evening has turned into a huge affair, particularly for the younger set.

I view the torchlight procession astonished at the size to which this event, and the fireworks, has grown. One would expect that a small town would be able to put on just a modest show .... but not a bit of it. Coldstream’s fireworks are outstanding. Well done everybody involved.


Everybody will see it differently, but for me the sing-song in The Besom on a Saturday afternoon is my favourite bit of the week.

Flodden has its proud tradition and spectacle, but to look at the sea of smiling faces and appreciate the camaraderie in The Stable Bar on a Saturday is an emotional moment in its own right. The Vicar’s rendition of ‘Three Wheels On My Wagon’ was my absolute highlight of the week.

As the week draws to its close, the Fancy Dress Parade, with Harry Brydon as a very desirable Lady Penelope, is the usual raucous affair. Apparently Harry’s wife had no idea. He has secretly been trying on dresses for months. Well done Harry.

So it ended for another year. Thanks to all the amazing people who made it possible, and here’s to next year, which promises to be bigger and better than ever.

Just hope my liver has recovered by then.