IT is a long-held custom for Selkirk Royal Burgh Standard Bearers, on achieving the town’s highest honour, to receive gifts from well-wishers.
In the 46 years since his appointment as Selkirk Royal Burgh Standard Bearer, Ross Thomson gave back to his community the gifts of service, loyalty and a commitment to embody everything that is good about the Royal & Ancient Burgh. His sudden death on Monday, 29 November, has not only stunned the town of Selkirk, but the wider Border common riding and festival community.
Ross’s future brother-in-law, Ian Scott, encouraged him to become involved in Selkirk Common Riding. In due course this led to him being appointed an Attendant in 1970 and 1971, and Selkirk Royal Burgh Standard Bearer in 1975.
A highlight of his year in office came at the Ex-Standard Bearers Association’s annual dinner, when he sat next to former Prime Minister the Rt Hon. Lord Home, KT, while local MP David Steel was also at the top table.
In August, 1978, Ross was given the chance to represent Selkirk on a global stage as one of six Royal Burgh Standard Bearers chosen to cast Selkirk’s flag at that summer’s Edinburgh Military Tattoo – the only time the Royal Burgh flag has been cast outside the town. The five other Royal Burgh Standard Bearers were George Rodgerson, George Kinghorn, Alister Hogarth, George Wilson and James Heatlie. The seventh in the group was Merchant Company Standard Bearer Jack Cruickshank, who cast the Merchants’ flag.
The son of Nichol Thomson and his wife Jean (née Laidlaw), Ross was born in Selkirk’s Viewfield Hospital on 6 September, 1953.
He attended Philiphaugh Primary and Selkirk High School, and on leaving began work in the parts department of Thomas Fairgrieve’s garage in Galashiels, later moving to take on a similar role with Jim Brownlee at Selkirk’s Heatherlie Garage.
A special moment in Ross’s life came at a 1973 Bay City Rollers concert in the town’s Victoria Hall, which was where he and his future wife, Lynette Kemp, first met.
The couple were married in St Peter’s Church, Galashiels, on 24 April, 1976, and were blessed with three daughters – Lynsey (born 1977), Julie (1979) and Karen (1982).
After returning to Galashiels to work for Frews Ford, in the early 1980s Ross’s career took a new course when he became an insurance agent for the Prudential – a role he was to successfully fill for the next 15 years.
Following the sudden death of his brother-in-law Ian, Ross entered into partnership with his sister Elma in the Melrose newsagents business of J. & E. Scott until she retired in 2005. At this point he joined Keyline Builders Merchants at Newtown St Boswells in an administrative and retail role.
In 2011 he returned to Selkirk to take up a similar job with Henderson Grass Machinery in Dunsdale Road, retiring from that role in 2019.
Keen to continue working in the community, Ross was appointed as one of Scottish Borders Council’s passenger transport drivers, with a remit to undertake special school runs. In addition, during the pandemic he delivered meals to those pupils unable to attend school because of Covid restrictions.
As well as his Common Riding interests, Ross was a keen rugby follower and enjoyed travelling to Murrayfield to watch Scotland, and was an avid supporter of Selkirk.
He served on Selkirk Rugby Club’s committee for a number of years, holding the posts of assistant secretary and assistant treasurer.
Ross was a member of both Selkirk Bowling Club and Lindean Carpet Bowling Club, and also played regularly at the indoor rink at Tweedbank.
His lifelong friend George Wilson, Selkirk’s Royal Burgh Standard Bearer in 1974, said Ross was hugely popular amongst all the ex-Standard Bearers. “He was someone everyone respected, and is going to be a massive miss.
“I don’t think anyone ever had a bad word to say about Ross. He always talked sense and was a tremendous worker behind the scenes, preferring to stay out of the limelight and make sure things were done properly.”
Ross was instrumental in founding the Young Souters Association, set up to help the town’s youngsters learn to ride, and encourage their participation in Common Riding events.
One person to benefit from his input was Thomas Wilmott, an Attendant at the 2017 Common Riding and who now operates as a professional jockey. “I personally have so much to thank Ross for,” said Thomas. “Without a doubt if it hadn’t been for all his hard work, there wouldn’t be as many youngsters interested in getting involved with the Common Riding.
“He would organise barbecues for us at Broomhill, beach rides and many other activities. He was held in the highest regard by everyone, and it is heart-breaking he’s no longer with us.”
The Thomson family would like to thank all staff at the Borders General Hospital’s Intensive Therapy Unit for their incredible kindness and care.
Ross was on the NHS Organ Donor Register, and his family take comfort that some of his organs have helped give life to others in need of a transplant.
He is survived by his wife Lynette, daughters Lynsey, Julie and Karen, sons-in-law Ian, Ian and Douglas, and by grandchildren Faye, Daniel, Finlay, Ryan, Chloe and Cammy, to whom deepest condolences are extended.
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