ONE of its mainstays was missing through illness - but she would have been buoyed by the continued success of the Walkerburn Festival.

Mollie McIntosh was absent from the former mill village’s summer gala for the first time since it was instituted in 1932.

The 95-year-old is recovering in Hay Lodge Hospital, Peebles, after sustaining a broken hip and wrist in a fall.

Festival President Brian Lees revealed that Miss McIntosh is on the mend - and that the enduring popularity of an event that she has embraced for most of her life will help to speed her rehabilitation.

“Mollie is already up and about and hoping they’ll let her come home soon,” said Mr Lees at the Festival Concert. “She didn’t want to miss any part of the Festival but she would be thrilled to see all these people here tonight.” Walkerburn’s pageant is principally for the children - but their parents and other villagers took the opportunity to join in the celebrations.

Piper Bruce Gillie led the parade of children, fronted by Festival Lass Holly McKenzie, 12, and Essay Winner Poppy Moffat, 11, from the primary school to the village hall for the installation and concert.

More than 100 people packed into the building along with the entire complement of 33 children from the school.

Retired headmaster John Tait, a former pupil at the village school, has returned to live in Walkerburn and was the special guest.

He told the audience that his first day at school was not one of his highlights. “I’d gone along to the school very reluctantly in the morning and I was positively horrified to learn at lunchtime that I was expected to go back again in the afternoon,” he said.

“As a result my poor dad had to chase me around the bottom of the garden and virtually drag me back to school so that I could complete my first day of education.

“I’ve often thought that I’ve spent most of my life as a pupil, student and teacher, it was a rather unusual beginning to my career.

“However, the great thing about a school like Walkerburn is that you soon make friends and I must say that I had excellent classmates in all the years that I was there.” He praised the school for its garden and the care it has taken with the environment - it has been awarded a green flag to mark its efforts - and for setting up an eco-committee involving the children.

“Over the years Walkerburn Primary School has played a really important part in the life of the village.” he said.

Installing Holly as Festival Lass, he said: “I know she’s very much looking forward to the week and I hope when next session she starts at Peebles High School she remembers her time at Walkerburn with great affection.” Miss McIntosh had originally been planning to present a dictionary to Essay winner Poppy - and Mr Tait took over that task.

“Mollie wanted to say to you all that she’s very sorry she couldn’t be here tonight,” he said. “Like me she was very impressed by the essay - it shows an insight into the village past and present.” The two Principals both said a few words of thanks but admitted to stage fright. “I thought I was going to freak out,” said Holly while Poppy added: “It’s great that it’s all over, we can mingle and enjoy the rest of the Festival now.” Shirley Bean, the headteacher at Walkerburn Primary School, revealed that Holly and Poppy were going to visit Miss McIntosh. “They’ve got some flowers and they are going to go and see Mollie - I think that’s a lovely gesture,” she said.

Children from the school took to the stage after the installation and beguiled the audience with their readings of poems, including The King’s Breakfast by A A Milne, and their performance of two French songs.

They were followed by young members of the Oyster Theatre - some of them from the school - with an entertaining song and dance routine that included such popular numbers as Teddy Bears’ Picnic, Follow The Yellow Brick Road and (I’m Gonna Be) 500 Miles.