The 2017 Coldstreamer, Andrew Guthrie, led 300 horses and riders over Coldstream Bridge and south into England for the town’s annual pilgrimage to commemorate the fallen of the 1513 Battle of Flodden.
Flodden day is Coldstream Civic Week’s big event, and before the cavalcade set off the Earl of Home, David Douglas-Home, charged the Coldstreamer to lead them to Flodden field, to cut a sod of turf from the field and carry it back to Coldstream to symbolise the actions of the Abbess Hoppringle, of Coldstream Abbey, who brought back the bodies of Scottish noblemen to be buried on consecrated ground.
The Countess of Home, Jane Douglas-Home, then presented the Coldstreamer with the Home colours.
The Coldstreamer stopped on his journey to lay a wreath at the Flodden memorial before leading the charge up Branxton Hill to the cheers of the large crowd waiting at the top.
Among the riders was one of the first streamer’s lasses to be appointed, Jude Turner, and the Coldstreamer’s mum, Wendy Guthrie, who followed Andrew side by side.
Once all horses and riders were safely at the top of Branxton Hill, Presenting Coldstream chairman Iain Dickson introduced the formal proceedings, handing over to Davey Scott, who gave the annual Flodden oration.
Speaking in his beloved Scots tongue, Davey held his audience captive from his opening line.
“Huddle round and lend an ear and share with me in solemn commemoration of the men of both sides in a bloody battle fought here where you stand now, a battle which never needed to be fought at all,” said Davey.
“There was no real determined attempt at diplomacy.
“Queen Anne of France had sent King James IV of Scotland a despatch in which was contained her turquoise ring, 14,000 crowns and her appointment of him as her chosen knight, and she implored him, as she was a lady in a dolorous plight with the enemy at her door, and as her bounden champion, she laid it on James to march three feet onto English ground.”
On August 19, King James set out, “crossing the glorious River Tweed near Castrum”.
“The omens were bad,” continued Davey.
“The rain was so heavy that overnight on the eve of the battle, the dye on the roof of the king’s tent ran and stained the fabric blood red.
“A hare ran wild in the king’s compound and was chased by his lieutenants and fell dead right at the monarch’s feet.
“But worse, on the afternoon of the battle itself, King James bent down to pick up his battle helmet only to find that mice – English mice at that – had eaten away the chin strap, which just goes to prove that the English will do anything to win!
“The king was counselled on more than one occasion, and by more than one tried and tested soldier, against entering into such a fray.
“Despite the early success of the Borderers and Highlanders on the left flank under Hume and Huntly, what followed was an attrition rate, or level of carnage, that surpassed even that of the Somme.
“One cry of a king, one call of a nation, 1,000 beats on a drum and 10,000 men and more stared into the eyes of their maker.
“It isn’t lost on us at all that James IV of Scotland was laid out beside his men.
“No doubt at all that he was brave, but no braver than most who were butchered and stretched out in the mud and glar of Branxton Hill.
“But look about you.
“You see around us the living, breathing Borders descendants of the heroic braves. They didn’t kill us all. Nobody ever will.
“Did it not make your heart skip a beat when you saw your Coldstreamer gallop up the hill in the same direction that the Borderers moved initially on that fateful day 504 years ago? Did you hear his beloved banner snapping in the breeze?
“Did you see the pride and passion in that callant, as he heard the roar of the crowd?
“Do you not want to, just once before you die, do what he has just done today? Are you not a wee bit jealous of them that have done it? I am.
“Do you not think that with his shock of red hair that he might just be the epitome of the Scottish fighting man who took to the field that afternoon?
“Do you not think that the principals who followed behind within the mounted cavalcade, along with the hundreds of men, women and horses, represent every town in Scotland who lost a man in that battle?
“Flodden must never again be referred to as the forgotten battle. And that’s the pledge we make.
“Remember, when you leave this hallowed place and travel north, to cross the glorious River Tweed over the Smeaton Bridge, and as you turn sharp left into Coldstream, the gateway to scotland, the folk you meet there and throughout that place we call home, you are second to none.”
The haunting Wail of Flodden was sung by Joyce Tinlin before the Coldstreamer cut a sod of earth from Branxton Hill to carry back to the abbey at Coldstream.
The Borders men who fell at Flodden on September 9, 1513, and the families left behind were remembered at a ceremony at the Flodden memorial, representatives from Borders towns each laying a thistle at the memorial, and this year the streamer’s lasses, also laid thistles to remember all the children affected by the Battle of Flodden.
By late afternoon, the weary horses and riders made their way back over Coldstream bridge, the principals heading to the Tweed Green for the final, official ceremony of the day, returning the Home colours back to the earl and laying the Flodden turf on the site of the abbey.