YOUTHFUL exuberance ensured the success of one of the Borders longest-running and most popular festivals.

At 18, Ryan Stewart is one of the youngest ever leaders of the Whipman, this year enjoying its 212th renewal.

He took over from Calum Murray who was only two years older when he took the lead role at West Linton’s summer gala 12 months ago.

But before that there had been much older holders of the office, including Ryan’s father, Alan, in 2013.

“I know Ryan’s going to do a great job in the role - he’s got youth on his side and that’s a good start,” said Calum.

After handing over to his successor, Calum admitted he would have liked to have continued in the role.

“I could have quite easily held on to this flag for another year - I can’t believe it’s 12 months since I took this on, it’s gone so quickly,” he said.

The marquee on the village green was the scene for the traditional initiation ceremony - and there was rapturous applause from the packed audience as Calum and his Lass, Alison Hardie, handed over to Ryan and his Lass, Rebecca Murison.

Calum said: “We faced many new challenges which we managed to take in our stride. We’ve been overwhelmed by the support and hospitality shown by everyone during our 12 months.” He paid special tribute to his mum for “polishing my boots and dragging me out of bed”.

“She did her best to make sure I did all this properly,” he said.

“I wish Ryan and Rebecca all the best - I am sure they will have as much fun as we had.” As tradition dictated Calum handed the flag back to the Whipman President Raymond Nicol “unsullied and untarnished”.

The Barony Herald, 12-year-old Cameron Willacy read the proclamation of the new Whipman before the President handed over the flag to Ryan and invested him and his Lass with their sashes of office.

Ryan said: “Becky and I would like to thank everyone for giving us the honour of being the Whipman and Lass for 2015. It’s a great privilege for us and we will represent this village with pride.” He went on to thank his immediate predecessors, including his dad and mum Susan, the Lass in 2013.

Ryan admitted that he had been suffering badly with nerves before he made his speech but he said: “Once I started talking I was fine and I felt great once I had done it.

“There’s going to be a lot of highlights over the coming weeks and months but I think this Installation night will top the lot.” Ryan had had plenty of practice for the senior rideout and had already accomplished the Pencuik ride without mishap. “The rideout is going to be exciting and I’m hoping to stay strong on my noble steed,” he said.

Unfortunately his Lass was unable to join him in the rideout as she fell off her horse during training and broke her wrist.

“I’m really devastated but I’m not allowed to be on a horse,” said 18-year-old Rebecca, who was sporting a huge plaster cast on her right arm. “It means I’m going to have to follow the riders in a car.

“It’s not going to stop me taking part in any of the other tasks of the Lass and I am really looking forward to it all.” In her address, the Rev Lynsay Downs, of St Mungo’s Church in the village, said: “As a Sassenach myself I am glad that West Linton is such a peaceful place and we are not celebrating the outing of the English in some great battle.

“I am thankful that here in West Linton the benevolent society simply wanted to organise festivities that promote community spirit and help to create enjoyment and fun.” The Presenting Lady Sheila Black gave gifts to former Principals to mark their anniversaries - Susan Ewells (nee Dowers), the 1975 Lass; Jamie Black the Barony Herald of 1975; Robin and Liz Clark, the Whipman and Lass of 1985, who came from their home in New Zealand; and Bill and Anne Elliot, the Whipman and Lass of 1990.

Flower Girl Holly Thompson presented a bouquet to the Presenting Lady before Celia Hayton led a rousing rendition of the traditional Whipman song, the Gallant Linton Whipman.

The Whipman Lass presented the Fancy Dress prizes and after a short break it was time for the installation reel outside the marquee.

Crowds filled the narrow streets of the conservation village to watch the parade, led by the West Linton and District Band, as it made its way from the green and along Main Street.

The new Whipman and his predecessors were cheered as they passed by on horseback - the Lass followed close behind in a car.

The excited schoolchildren saluted spectators as they passed on the garishly-decorated floats.