Selkirk Merchant Company Dinner 2015 and 2015 Merchant Company SB
Selkirk Merchant Company announced its new Standard Bearer David Nichol and Master Douglas Hogarth at their annual dinner on Friday.
Toasting the Town and Trade, the 2007 Royal Burgh Standard Bearer Alasdair Craig hailed the company’s new Master. “I know the company will be in safe hands with you at the helm,” he said, before continuing: “I’m very humbled that such an important toast should be entrusted to my care especially when this ancient Merchant Company is now over 320 years old.”
Mr Craig toured the town’s recent economic highs and lows, and turned to the protection afforded to Riverside businesses by Selkirk’s Flood Protection Scheme, which, he hoped, will remove a barrier to future development, and thus create more local jobs.
“At this time I’m sure, many here are the same as myself – finding it difficult to remember the positives when at the moment all we see are hundreds of trees being cut, disruption, and the landscape changing for the rest of our lives,” he said.
But “it is future generations who will benefit from these works being carried out now. Sacrifices we have to make, just like the many sacrifices made in the past by our forefathers.”
In his reply to the toast, Provost David Anderson thanked Alasdair, and added his congratulation to the new Master: “I think Dougie will make an excellent job of his role in your esteemed organisation, and I hope that both you and Isabel enjoy your term in office as much as your predecessors.”
Provost Anderson then turned to recent events in the town. “Selkirk, home to the Dandy Dougie as well as the Dandie Dinmont,” he joked: “I was discussing with Dougie the recent finding of a manuscript written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for the people of Selkirk. I asked Dougie whether he had heard if it was a whole book, but he reckons it was just an ‘abridged version’.”
Then, addressing the company’s new Standard Bearer David Nichol, he said: “It will be a great honour, and a great challenge, for you to follow in both your father, Derek, and your brother, Mark’s footsteps.
“I had the privilege of playing Rugby with David here at Philiphaugh, and I can still picture him charging about the field with his red locks resembling a ‘see you Jimmy’ wig. How times have changed. From what I remember he was prone to the odd dislocation, which should make his flag casting interesting viewing.
“This year we will see the first trains for almost 50 years returning to the Borders. Some might still see this as a waste of money, but for me I think this is the biggest opportunity for the central Borders in my lifetime. It is going to be incredibly important that we promote Selkirk to both new businesses and to new people.
“We can complain about the local council locating tapestries in Tweedbank, or a textile museum in Gala, but unless we are more proactive in promoting our own town, we are always going to be at a geographical disadvantage to towns directly linked to the new railway.
“The local High School can predict its population over the next ten years by looking at the school roles of the various primary schools and nurseries in its catchment area. I believe that it is predicted that Selkirk High School will lose around 25 per cent of its current students over that period. This means fewer teachers will be allocated to the school, fewer subjects will be offered as a result, and it is likely that there will be less investment in the infrastructure of the school.
“176 years ago the Merchant Company realised the significance a new railway might have for the local economy. Hopefully the current generation of local businessmen and women will grasp this opportunity.”