Flodden Day brings people from across the region together to remember the dead of both nations who fell at the 1513 Battle of Flodden.
For Coldstreamers it is a day that stays with them forever, and for the 2018 Coldstreamer Stefan Home, this year’s pilgrimage to Flodden was the highlight of a memorable week: leading 308 horses and riders through the town and over Coldstream Bridge on to Flodden.
Up on Branxton Hill the crowds gathered to watch the final gallop up to where the service of commemoration is held and for those waiting at the top and looking across the gently undulating Merse valley it was a reminder of a brutal time when the scene was anything but peaceful.
For Lord Purvis of Tweed, who was giving this year’s Flodden oration, standing on Branxton Hill was “humbling, given the battered bones and mangled metal still under our feet”.
“The list of orators before me reads as a cast of national leaders, local thinkers, landowners, land workers, stalwarts and statesmen,” said Lord Purvis.
“All have in common their love for the Borderland, a love enriched by the glory and tragedy of this land, of this soil, and here soaked in the blood of the Flowers of the Forest.
“As we celebrate the spirit of community we do with joy and a recognition of what this community means. Our community is not accidental, and my comments today look to a wider world and why what we hold dear and how we respect it is relevant way beyond this area, especially for young people and the future.
“We are not an invented folk, we are an evolved community and violence and instability, thankfully is long in our past. Border communities around the world have much in common with us, but fair less well in the present.
“In my new role after serving in Holyrood I have been fortunate to do a great deal of travel and meet other borderers: in south and east Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, the middle east and North Africa. Last week I was in China not far from the border with North Korea and on Saturday I return to the Middle East where in many regards there are more borderers than any other group. Areas of tension where we can teach on how to bring about peace building.
“What we take for granted today across this border between two ancient nations is in many areas a daily struggle for other borderers in the world today, especially children.
“Sometimes it’s a nuisance for us to have Scottish Borders Council and Northumberland Council not coordinating transport, or the two governments not working together on farming or health. But in the Middle East and North Africa eight million children are getting their end-of-year school exams results as Scottish children are now too.
“Many of those will have done so after overcoming significant challenges - displacement, poverty, child labour, poor school transportation, overcrowding, lack of teachers and facilities and low-quality education. One in five of all children across the region live in conflict-affected countries. With challenged borders and uncertain futures. Those children do not only deserve our admiration but consideration of the role we can play to help them grow up in a safe, stable and prosperous region where they can realise their ambitions.
“We can enjoy being a Borderer and either Scottish, English or for many families, both. This confidence of identity which we can see as something we now cherish, others see it is as something to be afraid of. We have a sense of place, they have rootlessness. We know how it feels when many people travel through our area to get to Scotland or to get to England. Other areas they see attack and invasion. What we see as our strength they see as their vulnerability.
“Those children, and those displaced people will need to have years of reconciliation ahead of them and we, by simply being local in focus but global in mindset can lead by example.
“What can we do to allow others to learn of our success? How can our border children here connect with border children in other parts of the world and share our story?
“Perhaps we learn more from continually asking than believing we have all the answers. I have always considered it a remarkable stroke of fortune I was born into this area. When I travel I will never lose sight that what we have, we need to share.”