Ryan and Nicola's Braw introduction
HE'S competed in some of the biggest races on the steeplechase calendar, yet Braw Lad 2012 Ryan Mania admits this year's festival will be the most important ride of his life.
The 23-year-old jumps jockey was the popular choice to lead Galashiels' festivities this summer.
The identity of this year's Braw Lad and Lass, regarded as the town's best kept secret, was unveiled at the launch of the 2012 Braw Lads' Gathering on Friday.
And despite torrential downpours, hundreds of well-wishers still turned out with their umbrellas to lend their support.
Joining Braw Lad Ryan is 2012 Braw Lass Nicola Mackay.
The 20-year-old sports science student admitted keeping her appointment a secret had been difficult.
Nicola told the Border Telegraph: "As well as studying at Napier University I also work on the customer desk at Asda in Galashiels and I see friends every day. A lot of people will be really surprised when they hear that I am Braw Lass."
Nicola is a relatively old hand at the Braw Lads' Gathering, having ridden as part of the cavalcade 'several' times.
But the former Galashiels Academy pupil has some catching up to do with her fellow principal.
Ryan hasn't missed the main rideout since first climbing into the saddle as a four-year-old. He told us: "It has been a dream of mine to be Braw Lad for a long time. I've been round 19 times, but this time will be the best by far."
Ryan, who has been a full-time jockey for five years, works out of the Sue Smith yard in South Yorkshire.
But he is confident representing Galashiels throughout the festival season won't affect his day job. He added: "There isn't all that much jumps racing through the summer and everyone at work has been really supportive."
As the crowds gathered outside the Burgh buildings, a small sub-committee is appointed by members of the Braw Lads' Executive Council to select and appoint the Braw Lad and Braw Lass from the applications for the position, which is advertised each year in the Border Telegraph.
Recently promoted President of the Braw Lads' Gathering, Andrew Johnston, was handed the names of the two successful candidates in a sealed envelope by chairman, David Houston, during a private ceremony ahead of the official announcement being made.
A small party of dignitaries in the Burgh Chambers were let in on the secret ahead of the public announcement.
And Craig Whiteford, chairman of the ex-Braw Lads and Lasses Association, presented them with their rosettes before they were introduced to the crowds outside.
The night, which is affectionately known as Picking Night, began with music from Galashiels Ex-Service Band and St Ronan's Silver Band.
But the ceremonial dancing, which has become a main feature of the celebrations, was postponed until the sports day due to the torrential showers.
But it would have taken much more than a few spots of rain to wipe the smiles from the faces of this year's principals.
From the Burgh Chambers balcony Braw Lad Ryan told the gathered crowd: "It has long been my dream to be up here on this balcony.
"I hope I can do just as good a job as the Braw Lads that have gone before me."
Braw Lass Nicola was also given a rousing cheer as she was introduced.
She said: "I am absolutely delighted to have been appointed Braw Lass 2012. I look forward to representing the town beside the Braw Lad."
They were joined by past Principals Greg Borthwick (Bearer of the Stone) and Katie Scott (Bearer of the White Roses), Braw Lad and Lass in 2010, and Lewis Playfair (Bearer of the Sod) and Suzanne Henry (Bearer of the Red Roses), Braw Lad and Lass last year, as they descended to meet their supporters.
President of the Braw Lads' Gathering, Andrew Johnston, admitted nerves almost got the better of him on his first night. He said: "I have been just as nervous as any of the principals, but I have also really enjoyed the whole evening.
"Ryan and Nicola will make a tremendous Braw Lad and Braw Lass.
"It was a shame about the weather but it shows how popular the Braw Lads' Gathering is when so many people still come out to support their principals.
"It's still a number of weeks away, but the Braw Lads' Gathering can't come quickly enough for me." Unfortunately for Mr Johnstone and the rest of the Braw Lads' Gathering supporters, they will have to wait another three weeks until the celebrations return with the Spurs Rideout on May 18.
Other key dates during this year's festivities are Threepwood Rideout on Friday, May 25, the Braw Lads' Ball on Saturday, June 23, the Braw Lads' Sports on Sunday, June 24, Lindean Rideout on Monday, June 25 and Torwoodlee Rideout on Wednesday, June 27.
The Overseas and Civic Reception will be held on Thursday, June 28 this year, with the Investure Reception the following evening, and Braw Lads' Day falling on Saturday, June 30.
This article appeared in Border Telegraph 01 May 12
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