Sunshine and celebrations as the 70th Herring Queen is crowned

Familiar faces from Eyemouth’s past and present descended on the town at the weekend as Eyemouth Herring Queen marked its 70th crowning in fantastic style.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 31st July 2014, 7:03 am

At the centre of the festivities was 2014 Queen Ailsa Landels and she headed a line-up of queens, with nearly all 70 queens either being there in person or represented by a relative.

With their names written in Eyemouth’s history books, the ladies continue to be held in high regard and they all looked every inch a queen as they gathered together for Ailsa’s crowning.

It was an early start for the young Eyemouth High pupil as she geared up to be handed the Herring Queen title for 2014 with hair, makeup and photos to be done in the morning.

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Her afternoon began with a trip to St Abbs in a Bentley where she was piped along the harbour past a crowd of well wishers to board the Barclaycard lifeboat, which in keeping with Herring Queen tradition, was bound for Eyemouth.

She was joined on board by her four maids Isla Dempster, Miranda McFarlane, Sophie Ritchie and Cerys Smith, lady in waiting Jennifer Girrity and 1946 queen Anne Collin (nee Rosie).

The boat set sail in warm sunshine and arrived at Gunsgreen to similar conditions to be welcomed by 2013 Queen Devon McNab and her maids, with both courts piped through a guard of honour made up of the former queens.

After catching her breath Ailsa was then at the centre of attention as a number of photos were taken on the famous steps of Gunsgreen House, including one of all the queens together and one of Ailsa and all her court including sailors Rocco Smith, Ferguson Coates and Ruairidh Burgess and trainbearers Martha Cromarty, Sophie Crowe and Evie Virtue.

The youngest members of the court were swiftly taken across the harbour to the Home Arms car park ready for Ailsa’s arrival which was preceded by the arrival of the former queens who were treated to a standing ovation from the crowd as they took their seats after making the short trip over from Gunsgreen.

A large crowd of invited guests took their seats in front of the stage at the Home Arms ready for Ailsa’s entrance and she was greeted by a host of well wishers as she followed Eyemouth Pipe Band into the car park.

Master of ceremonies and Eyemouth Herring Queen chair, Douglas Stewart welcomed everyone to the crowning and it was then the turn of Devon to reflect on what being Herring Queen had meant to be her.

She told those assembled that she’d had a fantastic year in the role, met many great people and created many memories to treasure. She thanked her maids, sailors, trainbearers and lady in waiting Ellen Dougal before officially handing over the crown to Ailsa.

Addressing her audience, Ailsa said she was honoured to become Eyemouth’s 70th Herring Queen, adding that growing up watching many other girls take on the role it was like her “dreams had come true.”

In an emotional speech Ailsa also paid tribute to the Herring Queen committee and her large family who’d been a massive support, particularly her mum and dad who she said had been with her “every step of the way”.

After being crowned, Ailsa was handed the all important sash and sceptre before being given numerous gifts by local children and groups including the Rainbows, Brownies Guides, town council and Chamber of Trade.

And it wasn’t just Ailsa who was showered with presents; there was a gift for every former queen, with each lady receiving a hearty applause from the crowd.

Douglas wished Ailsa every success during her time as Herring Queen and she was given a standing ovation as she was piped away from the crowning area and down the high street to the war and disaster memorials before making her way to the EU Church.

Saturday ended with a ceilidh in the old Eyemouth High School and there was just enough time for the Herring Queen committee to have a bit of a breather before Sunday got underway with the Kirking in the church.

Thankfully the Kirking wasn’t reliant on the weather as the rain did make a few appearances during the day, not that it dampened the spirits of those who attended the Street Market featuring live music from Andrew Valentine, The Podlies, Reston Concert Band, Seebreeze, The Joe Mangels, The Spangles, Fat Lips, Urang Matang and We Were Kings.

The sun decided to put his hat back on for Monday, which was just as well as there were plenty of willing participants for the annual sandcastle competition on Eyemouth beach with some very creative outcomes.

The same could be said for the fancy dress on Monday night. Always one of the highlights of Herring Queen week, 2014 didn’t disappoint with some very current costumes including T in the Park, Glasgow 2014 and Commonwealth Games mascot Clyde; outfits with a strong local theme including numerous future Herring Queens, Gunsgreen smugglers, Mums of the Maids and an Eyemouth Harbour Master and some real classics with The Addams Family, The Wizard of Oz and Elvis Presley all making an appearance.

Tuesday night saw talented youngsters step into the spotlight at the EU Church while on Wednesday it was the animals that got all the attention at the children’s pet show.

There is still plenty to look forward to as this year’s Herring Queen festival draws to a close. Today’s highlights include the baby show in the parish church hall and a special Herring Queen quiz at Oblo.

Tomorrow you can learn a dance routine from Devon and her maids in the community centre before performing it at Something Scottish in Kirk Square and on Saturday there’s sure to be some keen competition in the 4 Legged Bantry Challenge and Dry Boat Race before the ever popular Pyjama and Torchlight Parade and fireworks.

In Homecoming year, the committee have once again delivered an event for Eyemouth and the whole of Berwickshire to be proud of, giving former Eyemouth residents a reason to return to their home town.