DREAMS have come true for Aidan McLaren and Ellen Brown, who are looking forward to leading this year’s Musselburgh Festival as the 2023 Honest Lad and Honest Lass.

They were introduced to a waiting crowd at a ceremony outside the Brunton Hall last Friday.

While Aidan, 19, and Ellen, 22, were signing their agreement to make their election official, festivities began outside the Ladywell Way venue with live entertainment from Musselburgh & Penicuik Boys’ Brigade Pipe Band and Clark Community Choir.

More than 100 children were treated to ice cream while spectators waited on the official announcement of the new Honest Lad and Honest Lass which was made on the steps of the Brunton Hall.

The official party were joined by pupils from the senior leadership team at Musselburgh Grammar School to dance the eightsome reel in public this year, rather than privately around midnight at the election night dance.

East Lothian Courier: 28.04.2023. Election of Honest Lad and Lass, Musselburgh - Gordon Bell

The pipe band then led Aidan and Ellen in procession to the dance at the Store Club, with members of the public joining in behind, which was described by organisers, the Honest Toun’s Association (HTA), as “another fresh addition” which gave a “real community feel”.

This year, the Honest Lad and Honest Lass were chosen not by public vote, as is traditional, but via a new system.

For 2023, organisers the HTA decided to change the procedure, and the positions of Honest Lad and Honest Lass were instead decided by a selection panel of community representatives.

These included representatives from the 2016 Riding of the Marches; local youth organisations; primary and secondary schools; community councils including Wallyford and Whitecraig; churches; community police; working professionals and volunteers within the EH21 postcode.

HTA president Alistair Barclay said: “Our new process allows candidates to participate in the selection process outside of the public eye, which can be intimidating and unnerving.

“By making these changes, we’ve created a slicker process for our prospective candidates.”

Aidan and Ellen now assume their respective roles, taking part in festival duties from July 22 to 29, along with participating in common ridings, festival and gala events.

Attendants have previously been those candidates not elected Honest Lad and Honest Lass; this year, 2022’s Honest Lad and Honest Lass – Jack McFarlane and Amy Rooke (pictured below) – will support Aidan and Ellen as chief attendants.

East Lothian Courier: 28.04.2023. Election of Honest Lad and Lass, Musselburgh - Gordon Bell

The social occasions start right away, with Aidan attending Spurs Night this evening (Friday), where he will be formally introduced to past Honest Lads at the Masonic Lodge.

Ellen and Amy will be attending the election of the Lauder Cornet.

Aidan and Ellen will then be presenting trophies at the Musselburgh Sevens on Saturday.

Aidan, who was born in Musselburgh and recently moved to Wallyford, said that he was “delighted” to have been elected Honest Lad for 2023.

A former pupil of Stoneyhill Primary and Musselburgh Grammar Schools, he trained as a clinical support worker at Roodlands Hospital, now the East Lothian Community Hospital, in Haddington.

He now works as a bartender at The Three Sisters in Edinburgh and, in the near future, hopes to go on to university to become a paramedic.

He said: “I have always wanted to be an Honest Lad since a very young age, having attended lots of festival events over the years, from being in the parade with several different clubs and watching the horses galloping along the beach.

“Being the first Honest Lad elected by a selection panel is an honour.

“I was nervous for the interview just as much as I would have been for a public vote. However, I was quickly made to feel at ease by those on the selection panel, so to them I thank you.

“I would also like to take this time to thank those who have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to put on election night; it does not go unnoticed and I know this is just the beginning of all your hard work.

“In return, I aim to keep up the high standard of being Honest Lad and make you all proud.”

Aidan added that it was an “absolute pleasure” to be elected with Ellen, saying: “We have only known each other for a short while but I know we will get on great. We have had so many laughs together already.

“I am so excited to see what this year has in store for us.”

He said he also looked forward to representing Musselburgh at events in the Borders towns.

East Lothian Courier: Aidan McLaren and Ellen Brown - Honest Lad and Lass - Gordon Bell

Ellen said it was an “honour and privilege” to serve as Honest Lass.

She added: “I’d like to thank the selection panel for putting their faith in me and allowing me this incredible opportunity.

“The interview process was daunting and I can imagine the public vote would have made me feel just as nervous, if not more, but I was made to feel very welcome and at ease throughout.”

Born in Musselburgh, Ellen attended Campie Primary and Musselburgh Grammar Schools. She went to complete a course in personal training at Edinburgh College. She worked at Queen Margaret University, Musselburgh, for a number of years before recently making a move to British Gas.

Ellen said: “Becoming Honest Lass is something I have dreamt of since I was a little girl. The festival has been such a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember.”

She added that becoming Honest Lass was “a dream come true”.

Ellen said that the past Lads and Lasses had been “an inspiration” to her, adding: “I can’t wait to hopefully be the same for the younger generation.”

She said she was “delighted” to be elected alongside Aidan and was looking forward to “an amazing summer to remember”.

“Here’s to lifelong friendships,” she added.

Both Aidan and Ellen paid tribute to Jack and Amy, who, as chief attendants, will support them in their duties.

Aidan said: “We have big boots to fill but, with Jack and Amy’s guidance, I can tell we are going to live up to those standards and make a great wee team for the summer.”

The committee has introduced new events alongside the staple of festival favourites.

These include an art and poetry competition, which will close on June 17, with Aidan and Ellen presenting prizes to each school during their visit on June 22.

A karaoke competition will also be run from different venues across the EH21 postcode in the lead-up to festival week.