Commonwealth Baton gets warm welcome in Lothians

Lorraine Kelly shares a joke with Sergeant David Beveridge. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Lorraine Kelly shares a joke with Sergeant David Beveridge. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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CROWDS thronged the streets to give a warm welcome to the Queen’s Baton as excitement ahead of the Commonwealth Games cranked up a notch.

People of all ages revelled in the chance to hold the historic baton as it weaved around the city after crossing the Border.

The official countdown to the Glasgow 2014 games started when triple Commonwealth gold medallist Daley Thompson passed the baton to Team Scotland athlete Eilidh Child at the border at Coldstream.

It arrived in a convoy at Heriot-Watt University to kick off the Edinburgh leg of proceedings, with around 1000 people gathering to cheer on the students and school children who had been chosen for the honour.

Currie Community High pupil Cameron Finlayson, who was nominated by his school for his dedication to swimming, was the first to take the baton. The 16-year-old – whose grandfather Richard later ran with the baton on Victoria Street – said: “It was amazing, great fun. It was a once-in-a-lifetime.”

The whistle-stop tour of the city on Saturday continued with the baton being taken on a tram from Murrayfield to Shandwick Place, where jeweller Michael Laing stepped off to walk towards the west end of Princes Street.

It was a particularly proud moment for the designer of the baton for the 1986 games in the Capital.

As the procession snaked along Lothian Road and down Bread Street to the Grassmarket, shop workers stood outside to cheer and even motorists got involved by tooting their horns.

Judy Arrowsmith, who celebrated her 70th birthday this weekend, was among the baton bearers on Lothian Road.

The former international netball player said: “It was wonderful. I thought it was going to be an honour, but it was also really moving. It’s a wonderful birthday present.”

Before its trip down the Royal Mile, the baton visited the Castle as a 21-gun salute was fired to mark the Queen’s official birthday.

The District Gunner, Sergeant David Beveridge, who fires the One o’Clock Gun, held the baton as the salute was fired by 105 Regiment Royal Artillery.

Sgt Beveridge carried the baton to the Castle drawbridge before passing it on to TV personality Lorraine Kelly.

She said: “I was really honoured to be asked. I was enjoying coming down the Mile. There were so many kids on the way, wanting to touch the baton.”

Many of tourists on the bustling Royal Mile seized the opportunity to get some pictures of the historic procession as Mrs Kelly passed on the baton to inspirational 87-year-old John Smith, who waved as he completed his stint in his kilt.

Next on the tour was the Parliament and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, before the relay arrived at Meadowbank Stadium, the home of the 1986 Commonwealth games.

Former Scotland rugby captain Gavin Hastings carried the baton on the last leg of the Royal Mile relay before officially launching the “school run”, which saw around 2000 children run from the Parliament to Meadowbank Stadium.

The venue was a hive of activity, as DJs played music and children tried out different sports on the grass pitch.

The baton then left the stadium, travelling along London Road and down Leith Walk to visit the Leith Festival.

It was driven by convoy to Portobello where a raft of entertainment lined the route, before being driven to Holyrood Park Road and then carried to the Royal Commonwealth Pool for a display by Team Scotland divers Grace Reid and James Heatly, the grandson of Commonwealth diving medallist Sir Peter Heatly. Celebrations continued into the evening at the Ross Bandstand in West Princes Street Gardens.

Yesterday, the relay moved on to West Lothian, with comedian Rhona Cameron getting proceedings under way in South Queensferry.

The baton was carried through Broxburn, East Whitburn and on to Linlithgow Palace.

Its journey culminated in Livingston, passing through Almondvale Boulevard skatepark.

Today it will travel through towns in Midlothian arriving at Dalkeith Country Park this evening.