‘MUD in your eye’ is a saying traditionally used in a toast to bring luck and happiness.
But for one Musselburgh toddler, the expression came literally true when he was struck with a flying clod of earth in 1974 – an incident he believes has brought him a lifetime of luck.
Neil Wilson was cradled in his mother’s arms during the Riding of the Marches that year, when he was hit in the eye during the ancient ceremony.
Now more than 40 years later he has been appointed Town Champion for this year’s event, which only happens once every 21 years.
And though the childhood experience reduced him to tears at the time, the 43-year-old believes it may have even helped him secure the rare honour.
Greengrocer Neil said: “I cried at the time but maybe it was a sign. I believe things happen for a reason. I have been lucky in my life.
I cried at the time but maybe it was a sign. I believe things happen for a reason.Neil Wilson
“I am healthy and my family are healthy. I was chosen as the Honest Lad in 1993, an honour connected with the Marches.
“I was a participant in the Marches in 1995. And now I am one of just 16 Town Champions recorded in the history of the event. I’m also president of the Honest Toun Association [which organises the Marches].
“So it was certainly lucky for me and I feel honoured and surprised, shocked and humbled, by the appointment.”
Neil, who is due to take over as president of the local Rotary Club, was voted in for this latest honour after being nominated for his work in the community.
Back in 1974, Neil was presented with the sod of turf by the then Turf Cutter George Innes, and the two have since become good friends.
As Town Champion he will be clad in full armour, with a historic role to protect the Turf Cutter as he marks the town boundaries.
“I suppose that’s quite ironic given what happened in 1974,” Neil said.
Neil’s mother Isa still laughs about the incident, which was covered by the Evening News 42 years ago in an article dated July 24, 1974.
The Riding of the Marches is one of the most ancient ceremonies in the UK, thought to date back to the 5th Century but first recorded in 1682.
The ceremonial aspect of the week-long event – which runs between July 24 until July 30 – also includes a huge procession, a pageant, an exhibition, a civic ball and a concert with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, as well as various sporting events, and entertainment. The week will conclude with a spectacular Lumiere at the mouth of the River Esk and a huge fireworks display. The party will ride out and stop at 12 boundary stations around the town to cut a sod of turf and proclaim “it’s a’ oor ain!” [it’s our own].