MUSSELBURGH’S annual festival week has been hailed a huge success as it returned after a Covid-enforced break.
And a carnival atmosphere is expected in the town as the popular fancy dress parade takes place tomorrow evening (Friday).
Taking center stage at the event are the 2022 Honest Lad Jack McFarlane and Honest Lass Amy Rooke, who are accompanied on their official duties by attendant Abby Pickles.
Dating back to 1936, the annual Musselburgh Festival honors the traditions of the town and aims to bring the community together.
Alison Elgin, president of the Honest Toun’s Association, which organizes the annual event, said: “The week is going really well and we have been lucky with the weather.
“It’s lovely to see people come out to support the festival.”
She added that organizers had tried to bring back the festival as people remembered it after a two-year absence due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
She paid tribute to the official party, saying they had done a “fabulous job”, adding: “They have embraced everything and enjoyed themselves.”
Their official duties included a visit to East Lothian Foodbank in Tranent and Jump In trampoline park in Musselburgh.
Events got under way with the Kirkin’ ceremony at St Michael’s Church, Inveresk, on Sunday, which was preceded by a procession of parliamentary and council representatives, past Honest Lads and Honest Lasses, community groups and organizations, which left the Town Hall in Musselburgh .
SEE MORE: Kirkin’ pictures
Well-known Musselburgh resident Alastair Knowles, Town Champion at the Riding of the Marches in 1995 and chairman of the 2016 Riding of the Marches board, had the honor of being this year’s sasher at the sashing ceremony on the banks of the River Esk following the Kirkin’. He presented Jack and Amy with their emblems of office.
Musselburgh Councilor Andy Forrest, Depute Provost of East Lothian, presented the Burgh Flag to Jack, tasking him to carry the standard around the boundaries of the town, returning it “unsullied and unstained” at the end of the Festival Saturday rideout this weekend.
SEE MORE: Sashing pictures
Alison said that both events were “wonderful”.
Mr Knowles said: “I have had a great interest in, and support for, the festival since boyhood and fully in tune with the principles and objectives of the HTA, including the way that they are promoted through the festival.
“I believe that one of its enduring strengths is the intergenerational cooperation it fosters by encouraging the participation of the youth of the town in the principal roles.
“The passing-on of the sashes is a key symbol of the continuity which that generates. I was therefore more than delighted to be invited to carry out this most pleasurable festival duty.
“As an ordinary son of Musselburgh, I am grateful at the same time and humbled by the opportunities the community has provided me with, opportunities that have led to such a prestigious honour. In the words of Wallace and Gromit, it was ‘a grand day out’.”
More than 100 riders took part in the Crusaders’ Chase – a festival highlight – on Monday evening.
SEE MORE: Crusaders’ Chase pictures
As the horses crossed the Esk at the Roman Bridge, one young rider took a tumble on her way through the water but she remounted and completed the ride. She was later described as “fine” by organizers.
The Crusaders’ Chase took the cavalcade, which included Mr Forrest on horseback, from Musselburgh to Carberry, around farm tracks at Elphinstone, to Wallyford, before heading to Musselburgh Racecourse.
A flag-raising ceremony took place at Fisherrow Harbor following the beach gallop.
Supporters turned out in Wallyford, home of the Honest Lad, to welcome the riders, and posies were presented to Jack and Amy by the Stewart/Bailey family in what has become a festival tradition.
Other events this week included a junior rideout and presentation night at Eskmills Function Suite.
Anniversaries were marked, including: 70th year Honest Lad and Honest Lass, the late Robert Waterson and Helen Inglis (nee Pearson), who has sent her good wishes to the official party from her home in Australia: 60th year Honest Lad Ian Allan and Honest Leave Jeananne Young (nee Baty); 50th year Honest Lad Cameron Shiel and Honest Lass Jennifer Fairnie (nee Downie); 25th year Honest Lad Alexander Cavers and Honest Lass Sarah Hawes (nee Millar).
Events still to come
It is hoped that spectators and participants will turn out in force to support the festival fancy dress parade tomorrow (Friday). Lorries should assemble at Ashgrove at about 6.15pm for judging to begin at 6.30pm. Pedestrians and cyclists should assemble in Loretto RC Playing Fields (access by King Street) for judging at 6.15pm.
The parade will move off from Pinkie Road at 7pm and head down Newbigging, turning left onto High Street. After crossing the bridge, participants will proceed along Bridge Street and North High Street before turning right down Harbor Road onto New Street towards Fisherrow Links, where they will disperse.
Festival Saturday is the climax of festival week, when the community gathers to see the Honest Lad carry the burgh flag around the town boundaries in celebration of a tradition that dates back many centuries.
Members of the official party, led by the chief marshal, will move off from Balcarres Road, making their way to Pinkie House for the traditional scroll presentation.
At 9am they will ride out of the gates of Pinkie House to be met by the rest of the cavalcade, accompanied by the town band, local councillors, guests and Border visitors.
The Burgh Flag will be returned to Mr Forrest by the Honest Lad at about 1.30pm at the Town Hall.
A free but ticketed festival family fun day at Musselburgh Racecourse following the rideout on Saturday is now full, with about 5,000 people expected to flock to enjoy the fun and games on offer. The event has received support from the racecourse and Musselburgh Common Good Fund.
Alison paid tribute to the support of East Lothian Council, saying the town looked “absolutely stunning” with planters and flowerbeds.
She also highlighted the support given by the festival’s paramedic, vets and foot marshals, as well as Musselburgh’s new members of East Lothian Council.
Visit musselburghfestival.org for more information on all events.