THERE is a saying that frequents Border Festivals – ‘it’s better felt than telt’.

After watching the enchanting Cleikum Ceremony and hearing of the legend of St Ronan, an eighth century monk who overcame evil, I was intrigued by this sacred pastime honoured by the people of Innerleithen for generations.

I decided to hail the legend with the residents of this Border town and witness for myself the fiery demise of the de’il at the climax of this year's festivities.

Early evening dusk had fallen as I arrived in Innerleithen with my family, and the sky was growing dark in the distance, a signal to residents to gather for a spiritual sacrifice.

The heavy downpour the night before had failed to dampen the spirits of St Ronan’s people, who turned out in droves to witness the colourful pageant the Saturday before last.

Around 400 children walked through the streets of Innerleithen with colourful blooms in hand. It would be hard not to notice the single imposing figure of the de’il amongst the floral sea of youngsters.

John Cockburn, clad in a black cloak and hood, carried the fiery red head of the de’il mounted on the top of a stout pole draped in red cloth. It's an eerily unnerving sight that I’m sure has sent shivers down the spine of many since it was carved in 1901.

To the sounds of the pipes and trumpets, local bands joined the parade which halted briefly near the top of Waverley Road for Dux Boy Aaron Glendinning to hang a wreath at the wall plaque commemorating John Euman, who acted as Master of Ceremonies at the Cleikum for almost 50 years.

This ceremony was repeated at the plaques on the wall of the Burgh Chambers to former Games Chairman Walker McLaren and John A Anderson, one of the instigators of the Cleikum Ceremony.

An act of kindness was carried out at the end of the parade as children handed their flowers to committee members which would be delivered to local hospitals.

The procession, which opened the 192nd Anniversary of St Ronan’s Border Games, took the form of a massed bands display. St Ronan’s Silver Band and Peebles Burgh Silver Band combined to present a most impressive march along Innerleithen High Street just after the 'Race Roond the Toon'.

Large crowds lined both sides of the High Street to witness this spectacle. The march played was 'The Pride of Princes Street'. Huge crowds gathered on both sides of the street to support both of Innerleithen’s fine bands and to enjoy the music at this year’s Beating of the Retreat.

Presiding over the performance was the President of St Ronan's Border Games Alan Patterson along with St Ronan and the Dux Girl, Standard Bearer Ronan Caine and Lass Caitlin Urquhart, their supporters, Principal Guest Geraint Florida-James, and his wife Sarah, the monks, and the de’il.

The two town bands marched on together under the expert direction Band Sergeant David Lindsay playing 'Scotland the Brave'. The Pipe Band then performed an excellent Drummer’s Call followed by the traditional Retreat marches 'Greens Hills of Tyrol', 'The Battle's O'er' and 'Lochanside'.

Next the Silver Band played an upbeat version of the Queen hit, 'Fat Bottomed Girls' which featured one of the band’s percussionists, Cameron McCreadie, on drum kit and soprano cornet player, Simon Railton, as soloists.

The Pipe Band followed on with a rendition of their new competition medley set comprising a variety of time signatures, featuring an emotional arrangement of the slow air 'Mingulay Boat Song'.

More marches back and forth had the crowds clapping and tapping their feet before it was time for the combined piece, which was a beautiful arrangement of 'The Rose of Kelvingrove' featuring Pipe Major Gillie as soloist. The Silver Band then rendered 'Sunset' with Callum Anderson and Callum Robb sounding the calls. The hymn tune 'Eventide' was played by principal cornet player, Callum Robb, and conducted by Band Secretary Keith Belleville.

Games President Alan Patterson then gave permission for the Bands to take their leave. To resounding applause, the bands marched off playing 'On, St Ronan's, On!'.

There was only one important task that remained, the matter of the de’il. We were honorary torch bearers lighting the way for our neighbours the St Ronanites, to burn an effigy of the de’il.

I quickly ran to the High Street for a prime view of the black cloaked carrier of the de’il, monks dressed in their habits chanting and punching their croziers in the air, Standard Bearer Ronan carrying the Blue Banner. The magic of this ancient tale was brought to life. I can only compare it to watching the village mob with torchlights off to kill the beast in the classic Disney film.

The friendly Innerleithen mob halts on Hall Street and the de’il strangely disappears out of sight.

I think of the Cleikum Ceremony and remark to my husband, who carried out the duties of the Dux Boy in 1986, how nice it is that the old customs and traditions exist today, said exactly as it was since its inception in 1901.

He recalls word for word the outgoing speech of the Dux Boy which makes me think back to the words of Principal Guest Geraint Florida-James: “Innerleithen and the Games will be in your DNA forever”. Never a truer word. You can take the man out of Innerleithen but you’ll never take Innerleithen out of the boy!

We begin the climb of Curly Hill to the soul-stirring sounds of the Pipe Band. It is dark and the fire-lit torches have been extinguished. The climb feels never-ending and locals start to sing On St Ronan’s On. We finally reach the top and, as I look out over the valley, it is simply breathtaking. Some things are better felt than telt.

My eyes are drawn to the dark figure that sits on the pyre. A haunting figure approaches bearing a flame, St Ronan has returned in the form of Aaron Glendinning. The pyre bursts into flames and the crowds on the hillside cheer the effigy’s fiery demise. Fireworks then light up the dark sky.

The de’il is now in ashes and the evil spirit has been banished once more. And I, along with the people of Innerleithen, head safely home after truly enchanting evening.