Today’s guest picture comes from Matilda’s ‘other grandfather’, Francis. He took this shot of Matilda aboard the good ship Alistair, waiting for the horses to gallop up the Kirk Wynd this morning.
We were awakened by the beat of the big drum of the flute band pounding round the town at five o’clock in the morning as the band reminded us that it was Langholm’s Great day and called on us to join them in going up the hill to watch the hound trail, an invitation that we ignored and rolled over to go to sleep again.
We got up at a more normal time and Matilda greeted me from an upstairs window as I checked on the weather.
We were joined by Francis and Eileen, Matilda’s other grandparents who had being staying in Canonbie, and after a light breakfast, we all went along the road to see the procession of emblem bearers, the Town Band, the cornet and his mounted followers come down Thomas Telford Road to ceremonially circle the old pump there.
The Town band members go on foot…
…and the cornet and his followers on horseback by a slightly more circuitous route.
Once round the pump, the front three waited for the road to clear…
…and led the procession back towards the Old Town…
…crossing the river on their way.
I had lingered behind the rest of the party to take pictures and when I got to the far side of the bridge, I came up with Alistair and Matilda who were standing on the steps of the old church counting the number of horses.
There was some argument about the exact number but it was as near 150 as made no difference.
Our party headed to the top of the Kirk Wynd to watch the cornet lead the gallop up out of the town and I left them there while I walked a little further up the wynd to make sure that I could get a clear shot of the riders without a hundred heads in between me and them.
I had time to admire the view of a rather misty but dry and warm day….
…and count the blades of grass beside me…
…before the cornet and his right and left hand men appeared. Henry was proudly flourishing the town’s standard.
Shortly afterwards the other 147 (approximately) riders came along too….
…and they were soon streaming out onto the hill, where they would visit the Castle Craigs and the Monument before descending back to the town.
I left them to it and went straight back to the town myself where I joined the townspeople and visitors in walking along the traffic free High Street (watching where we were treading with great care).
When our party assembled at home, we had a delicious brunch prepared by Mrs Tootlepedal. In a normal year, we might have gone back to the High Street to hear the fair crying or gone to the Kilngreen to watch the crossing of the water, but this year dancing was the major business of the afternoon. Matilda’s cousin Lola had arrived with her mother Cathy, and Matilda and Lola were due to start dancing at one o’clock so as soon as brunch was over, we headed to the Castleholm where the dancing takes place.
Matilda and Lola looked as smart as paint in their Highland dancing costumes.
Before the dancing started, we had time to watch the two entrants in the pony race whizz round the track in fine style.
And then I went to see the start of the 90m open sprint race. These are top athletes and nine seconds later, the man nearest to us, far from landing flat on his face as might seem likely from this picture, had dashed down the track and was £500 pound richer.
The foot races continued all afternoon, hotly contested…
…by athletes of all ages and both sexes.
Owing to getting my camera settings very wrong, I totally failed to get a usable picture of Matilda actually dancing. In fact photographing the highland dancers is a tricky business as they spend most of their time facing the judges and with their backs to the audience, so you will have to taken my word that this is Lola at work getting some good height.
In between the dances, I was able to watch more handicap foot races…
…and enjoy the thrill of being close to horses and jockeys racing at a fearsome pace round the sharp corners of the track on the Castleholm.
There were good fields in all the races that I watched today.
I didn’t see Matilda dance but I did see her in the line up at the end of her classes (she is second from the left with her back to us of course) getting a presentation from the organisers.
I went right round to the other side of the dancing arena and peered over the judges’ shoulders to get a view of Lola in her next dance…
…before going off to watch the start of the big race of the day, a hotly contested event with a first prize of £2000 pounds…
…which this horse won, having stolen a march on the rest of the field up the back straight…
…and hanging on as they chased him home.
While the horses had been racing, Alistair had bought Matilda a unicorn balloon.
She showed it to Francis.
Lola had magically transformed from Highland Dancer to Hello Sailor and was now performing a hornpipe with great gusto.
After the last dance, there was a chance to see one more horse race..
…and once again to admire the skill and courage of both horses and riders…
…before it was time to head for home and a cup of tea. Then Lola and Cathy drove back to Edinburgh where they had another social engagement and the rest of us had a family meal. After the meal, Francis and Eileen also drove off to Edinburgh and we were left to have a sit down to recover from the day.
Matilda and her parents go home tomorrow and we shall be very quiet when everyone has gone.
The Common Riding colours were pink this year so it is fitting to end this post not with a flying bird of the day but with six fine pink poppies in the garden this morning.