TRIBUTES have flowed in following the recent death of Alaric Bonthron, described as “a true son and great supporter” of Musselburgh.

Mr Bonthron made history as the Turf Cutter in the 1995 Riding of the Marches – an ancient boundary-marking ceremony held every 21 years – and became one of the driving forces behind the successful 2016 event.

He died very suddenly and unexpectedly on August 22 at the Western General Hospital at the age of 73.

Mr Bonthron was born in Musselburgh, where he was well-known for running the family milk business. He married Ann Henry, who was also from Musselburgh, at St Andrew’s High Church. The couple went on to have three children and were married for 52 years.

A former president of the Honest Toun’s Association, Mr Bonthron was a staunch supporter of Musselburgh Festival, which he rode in as boy, winning the medal as the youngest rider. He also served as captain of the Crusaders Riding Club and was a keen member of Musselburgh Rugby Football Club.

Alastair Knowles, Town Champion at the 1995 Riding of the Marches, said: “Alaric was selected to be the Turf Cutter for the 1995 Riding of the Marches due to his long and unstinting service to the town through various Musselburgh organisations, not least of which was the Honest Toun’s Association and the Musselburgh Festival, with which he was associated from boyhood until the day he passed away.

“Alaric was a great supporter of all things Musselburgh. He was proud, humbled and privileged to have been the Turf Cutter and, as with all that he undertook, he put his heart and soul into it.

“He knew that with the privilege of that appointment would come a responsibility to the future Riding and he readily became one of the principal driving forces behind the 2016 celebrations. A member of the early steering committee, he became a member of the board of directors when Musselburgh Riding of the Marches 2016 Ltd was raised and took on the chairmanship of the procession committee, one of the most high-profile and important elements of the week. The spectacular results of his labour were clear for all to see.

“A true son of the town, his contribution to its many traditions will be sorely missed.”

Iain Clark, the 2016 Turf Cutter, said: “Alaric was a true gentleman and fantastic ambassador for all that is good about Musselburgh. His legacy to the town will never be forgotten and was embedded in history last year with his leadership and commitment in delivering the biggest Riding of the Marches procession ever.

“It was an honour and a privilege to know him, be part of his life and to follow in his footsteps as Turf Cutter. Being presented with the Turf Cutter’s spade is now even more special for me as it was Alaric, as Turf Cutter from 1995, whose traditional role it was to have my spade made and presented to me by the Burgh. It bears his family name and I am extremely proud to have had the pleasure of calling him my friend.”

Neil Wilson, president of the Honest Toun’s Association and the Town Champion 2016, said: “On behalf of the Musselburgh Festival can I say how sad and shocked we all were to hear of Alaric’s death. He was a great supporter of the festival, playing key roles in his time.

“Personally Alaric was the representative to knock on my door 24 years ago to ask me to stand as Honest Lad. Alaric was a key player in the Riding of the Marches and a great support to all the principals. He led the procession committee and produced a memorable day.”

John Caldwell, Honorary Provost at last year’s Riding of the Marches, said: “Alaric was a well-respected member of this community who will be sadly missed. I had the pleasure of working alongside Alaric as directors in the 2016 Riding of the Marches. He had the enormous responsibility of organising the procession which was held on the Saturday. This was a mammoth task which he undertook, with the final outcome being well received and talked about.”

Robin Veitch, president Musselburgh RFC, said: “Alaric gave great service to Musselburgh RFC over many years as a committee member and supporter. As an honorary vice president he was always ready to provide advice and guidance to the younger members of the club.

“He rarely missed a game at Stoneyhill or his regular Thursday meetings with his friends in the clubhouse. He was especially proud when his son Alistair became captain of the club. His presence at Stoneyhill will be greatly missed by all.”

Mr Bonthron is survived by Ann, their children Alaric, Alison and Alistair, daughters-in-law Nicky and Julie, and six grandchildren. A celebration of his life was held earlier this month at St Andrew’s High Church in Musselburgh which was followed by a family cremation. A collection for Cancer Research UK raised £1,100.