The Hunter 2017 – Grant McLagan
I was born in the small town of Alyth on the 5th of January 1960 to Alexander (Sandy) & Jean and was raised in Blairgowrie with my elder brother Alex. I attended St Stephens Primary & Blairgowrie High School.
On leaving school at 16, I completed a four year apprenticeship as a Carpenter / Joiner, spending my time mainly in the workshop, until the recession of 1980 where I was unfortunately made redundant.
Since then I have had a varied career from working in retail; starting as a storeman, where through hard work & determination I climbed the ladder to Assistant Manager within Wm Low supermarkets (now known as Tesco), to the Production Manager of a family run sandwich manufacturing business, before getting into sales where I’ve been for the past 15 years.
Through my sales career, I found myself working again within retail, where I met the mother of my daughter Lauren. Sadly after 12 years our relationship drifted apart and we separated. Lauren is an inspiration to me and has been a massive part of my life. She makes me very proud in all that she achieves.
I moved to Penicuik around six years ago and was fortunate enough to meet my Lass Sharon at a weekly class we both attended. As things do, our life together blossomed and just like the people of Penicuik have accepted us and made us feel that this is now our home, Sharon’s children have also accepted me into their lives.
We have been affectionately know as “The Pony People” due to our miniature Shetland Pony, Kerri and Shetland Cross Flo, which we have been known to walk round the Penicuik streets.
The ponies have allowed us to talk to people in a relaxed fashion, better than just saying hello in the street, which has introduced us to a lot of new friends.
At this point I would like to thank one of our good friends Margaret McKenzie, who was born, raised and has lived all of her life in Penicuik. Margaret has made us so proud by nominating us both for this year’s Hunter & Lass. We are honoured that both Margaret and the Hunter & Lass committee have given us the opportunity to honour the people and the town for 2017.
In between work and events we attend with our ponies I love listening to music, pottering around in the garden and photography.
Sharon & I hope that everyone young and old will come along to this year’s festivities to cheer us on and allow visitors to see the people of Penicuik at their best. We are looking forward with pride in honouring Penicuik throughout the Borders towns. This is a year that Sharon and I will treasure in our hearts forever and we would love you all to be a part of that.
I am so incredibly honoured to be Penicuik Hunter 2017 and proud that my Lass Sharon will be by my side.
The Hunter’s Report
“What a summer this has been”!!!
From the day I was elected by the Hunter & Lass Committee, my life changed so much & all for the better. In my capacity as Penicuik Hunter & on behalf of the town of Penicuik, I have travelled to 16 towns throughout the borders, as far afield as Berwick upon Tweed, Annan & Sanquhar, to ride or support at ride outs of the marches; attend balls & installations, in support of their “new” town principles.
I can’t believe the number of wonderful new friends I have made this year. In my installation speech, I intimated that at my age, I wondered “if this old man could handle the pace”. Well, I can honestly say that because of the support I have been given from my new found friends young & old, I’ve had an absolute blast & I can’t thank them enough. The principles & people of all the towns visited have all spoken with me & told me how much they love Penicuik, which I think we should all be very proud of.
Our week began on Saturday the 13th of May, with “Penicuik’s got Talent” & believe me, it does. The final in the town hall was a very close run competition & I can’t praise the children highly enough for working so hard & being so brave to get up on the stage. The following Saturday was the “Hunter & Lass family bike ride” & despite the weather, we all had a fun day, which certainly tested the legs & lungs of some of us. This was followed on the Sunday with the “Custom & Classic car show”. Monday night featured the “Young Ladies Football”, which was lovely to see so many talented players with nifty footwork. On the Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday during the day, we visited local primary schools & the “John Chant” centre. The children & residents were all lovely & it was great to see the enthusiasm for the Hunter & Lass. Tuesday night was our midweek ride out & after a bit of a ropey start by me, I learned quite quickly the ethos of “Heels Doon & hing on”. Wednesday night saw the pram race with “Boogie” from Forth 1 to get things started. I dressed as the candlestick “Lumier” from Beauty & the Beast, which I hope made up in laughter for not being anywhere close to the first team to finish. Thursday night was our installation, Supported by other town principles who were already becoming very good friends, they made the evening so special. This was the night where my nerves really took hold. Between trying to remember the order of the ceremony, my oath, speech & then my first true blast of the “Hunters Horn” followed by the “Hunters Reel”, (I’m sure I lost a couple of stone with that workout). But the nerves were lightened by the help of Gavin Stephen having us in fits of laughter. Gavin will probably cringe reading this, but he certainly put us at our ease & gave me a memory I will always smile at. Friday is a pretty full on day with lots to do along with ensuring you’re prepared for Saturday. We visited the residents of Baldwin Court, Cowan Court & Broomhill Day Centre in the morning. The stories we were told by the residents had us transfixed, one in particular of a lady who was a Ham Radio enthusiast, telling me how she had spoken to someone of nobility in a foreign country just as if it were her neighbour next door. I could have listened to their stories for days. After lunch my Lass Sharon & I judged the “Best Dressed Window Competition”. It was a pretty close call for deciding on a winner, but the “Studio” had pulled out all the stops. I hope that in 2018 more people will take up the challenge & give the new Hunter & Lass a lot more to think about (you’ve got to be in it to win it, as they say).
Then it arrives; “Our” Hunter & Lass day. If I’m honest, it’s very difficult to put into words the feelings you have on the Saturday, between the excitement, nerves and anticipation of the full day, I can only say I was on cloud nine. The day starts from outside our house, where I mounted my trusty grey (Monarch) & rode to the town hall. My fear subsided a little when I managed to blast the “Hunters Horn” twice for the start of the ride out. It was an absolutely stunning day & on arrival at Penicuik House, we were greeted by Sir Robert & Lady Faye Clerk for the horn blowing ceremony (& phew, I managed it again), this time blowing a stunning old hunting horn. After riding across the Pentlands with visiting principles, friends & family, we walked the horses down Mauricewood Road. Then as we turned the corner & the horses walked towards Tesco & the awaiting crowds, it’s like the whole world freezes. I was numb with pride & awe struck to see the streets lined with so many people cheering us on & would like to thank you one & all (especially the young man who shouted to me, “Hip, Hip to me” and I replied “Hurray”, you made my day). I was told by a number of people that the crowd was one of the largest they have seen & I can’t thank everyone enough for making the day so special.
On my travels this year I have witnessed a variety of pageantry which is second to none & if I could, I would urge the people of Penicuik (where possible) to visit some of the towns closer to home (Peebles, West Linton, Galashiels, Innerleithen & Lanark, to name a few) as they offer some fantastic days out for everyone during their festival week. They would love the support, not only of the “Hunter & Lass”, but the people we are there on behalf of. They all cater for children & adults with a variety of town parades, races or pillow fights, to wheelbarrow races through freezing rivers to watch, brass & pipe bands playing & there’s always the Funfair. I would urge everyone to contact the Hunter & Lass page to ask what is going on in the area, so that you can go along for a fun day out.
At the close of the 2017 season, my Lass Sharon & I rode the Edinburgh Marches with the Edinburgh principles & principles from all the other towns. Then on horseback, we walked up the Royal Mile behind the lead party from Hollyrood to the Mercat Cross. This is something which was as exciting as our own Saturday & something we will remember for the rest of our lives. I was honoured to be asked by the Edinburgh Captain “Dean Smith” to do a reply speech on behalf of my Lass Sharon & the visiting principles from all the other towns. This year has given me so many once in a lifetime opportunities to be so proud of.
I’m looking forward to assisting the 2018 Hunter & his Lass. I hope that sharing the experiences I’ve had this year will help them enjoy their term in office & make it one to remember. I would like to thank my Lass Sharon, without your organisational skills, coaching & encouragement, I would have been completely lost; you made this adventure absolutely amazing. Thank you to Maggie Mackenzie, the people of Penicuik & everyone connected to Penicuik Hunter & Lass, past, present & future. Special thanks to Debbie, Abbie & everyone (including the horses) at Tower, for keeping us safe throughout the season & a massive thanks to our new friends from each town far & wide, can’t wait to see you all again soon.
Best wishes to all for 2018 “Safe Oot, safe In”…..