Saturday's tour of Melrose's historic places begins in the Square under the shadow of the Mercat Cross, at one time the hub of all community life and activity. Sadly none of the original Cross now remains on site, The main part once stood at the main gate to the Abbey, which was located at the top of present-day Abbey Street. The Cross was moved to its present position in more recent times, and the finial was replaced with a unicorn holding a shield bearing the Royal Arms of Scotland in 1645. It is understood that the base of the Cross, although now much the oldest part, has been rebuilt several times, and the shaft (the last part of the original Cross) and the finial, due to the ravages of time and weather, were renewed in 1988 and 1990 respectively.
All-too-rarely now, the `marriage ball' is kicked-off from the Cross by newlywed brides, the only remaining, albeit tenuous link with the ancient Fastern's E'en Ba' game, held annually in the town until abolished by the Town Council in 1901.
Before the days of tarmacadam, the Square was unsurfaced, providing a natural venue for the annual sheep-market, which was reputedly a lively and prosperous event. The drove-roads brought flocks into Melrose from all directions, and the event doubtless provided many a culprit to stand in the `jougs' which were held by the staple still to be seen in the shaft of the Cross.
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