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'What a perfect day this has been. I felt really proud and embarrassed all at the same time because it's the community which has done all the hard work to improve the area. This is their day, not mine'

JUST a perfect day was how thousands of East Ayrshire residents described their experience as the Queen's Baton Relay made its way through 10 towns in the blistering sunshine yesterday.

On this magnificent Day Eight of the journey through Scotland, there were no big celebrities carrying the Baton through the crowded streets - just local heroes being celebrated for their amazing achievements and community spirit.

All 98 bearers got a heroe's welcome with loud roars and cheers of support and bagpipes playing as they carried the Baton through their local towns and East Ayrshire's very own rock 'n' roll biker Provost Jim Todd summed it up nicely: "These people, young and old, are our celebrities and this is our way of thanking them."

In the words of singer songwriter Lou Reed, Todd added: "It's just a perfect day, the sun is shining and everyone is having a great time. Today the Baton belongs to the local people and the excitement is tangible.

"Who needs celebrities when you've got local heroes - and we are proud of every single one of them. It is also a way of thanking them for everything they have done for our community and all they've achieved."

The celebrations began at 8.10am in the old market town of Dalmellington when the first Baton-bearer Alan Brown carried it along Ayr Road and through the High Street.

He was chosen for the honour because he has dedicated many years to teaching taekwondo to children and adults from all backgrounds as well as fundraising and volunteering as a coach for local football teams.

Community bearer of the day was Tom Campbell, a truly inspirational man, who was a co-founder and athletics coach and runner for Cumnock and District Athletic Club.

In 1994 he suffered a brain aneurism while running a race and had three strokes, which put him in a coma for four days.

Campbell now has brain damage and is in a wheelchair but his love of athletics still continues.

The Queen's Relay coincided with many of the local gala days as it made its journey through old mining towns and villages steeped in history in the heart of Robert Burns country.

From Dalmellington, the Baton moved on to the historic former coal-mining town of New Cumnock where Chelsea Keane, a schools physical activities volunteer, was one of the key Baton-bearers.

Keane said: "I feel proud and privileged to be given this opportunity and excited to be part of it."

Moving on to the neighbouring town of Cumnock where Bert Hopson, 56, of the Kilmarnock Mountaineering Club, was first to carry the Baton as it left from Glaisnock Road at 10.20am.

Hopson said: "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I was so proud to be part of it. It is an amazing experience."

As the bagpipes played in the background, Lauren Wyllie, 14, who was nominated as Baton-bearer by her teachers and fellow pupils at Hillside School for special needs children, was watched by her proud parents.

She has been wheelchair-bound all her life after she had a tumour removed from her spine but her parents Eillen and James say she's always smiling and she was singing all the way through the Baton ceremony.

Her mum Eillen, who pushed her through the town in her wheelchair carrying the Baton, said: "It was very emotional for all of us and we are so proud of Lauren. She was jumping with joy and was just really happy. It really has been a perfect day."

The atmosphere was electric and the local children, including Erin Nohar and Paighton Tabor, both five, got the chance to hold the Baton before it set off on its travels again.

Erin's mum Louise Nohar, 23, said: "This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the Baton in our own town. We wouldn't have missed it for the world. It's all the kids have been talking about and they've been making posters about it. We are definitely going to Glasgow to see it arrive."

Cumnock is also the home town of Labour Party founder, James Keir Hardie, and William Wallace is said to have spent time there.

From this historic town, the Baton headed for Auchinleck, arriving at 11.30am, and one of the star bearers was teenager Martin McLelland who has been an East Ayrshire Council volunteer from the age of 13.

He volunteers all across the local authority, including community clubs, Early Grounds 4 Play, Playtimes events and he even supports the older community in local sheltered housing accommodation units.

He was awarded the EAC Young Volunteer of the Year Award for having such a positive impact on the lives of young people. Without stopping it then moved on to the home of Robert Burns - Mauchline - which still celebrates the local bard with its Burns Monument in the heart of the town.

One of Mauchline's star Batonbearers was Gillian Johnstone, 16, who has been blind, dyslexic and hearing-impaired for most of her life, and has fought against the odds to be a success in athletics.

She secured a place with the Scottish Disability Sport national squad last year, and also won the East Ayrshire Disabled Sports Person of the Year Award.

At the Sainsbury's 2013 UK School Games, Johnstone was only one of four Scottish disabled athletes to be selected for the Scotland Athletics team.

Another two Mauchline Baton-barers were fundraiser and volunteer Laura Robertson and Kilmarnock Harriers star Scott Martin who helps to coach young athletes.

Scott said: "I am massively honoured personally, but more so for my club, friends, family, the local community, and especially my wee Mum who I know was looking forward to the day every bit as much as myself."

When it reached Galston at 12.35pm, we met up with 74-year-old Baton-bearer Frank Dawson, a grandfather who has worked tirelessly for the community as chairman of the local tenants' and residents' federation. He said: "What a perfect day this has been. I felt really proud and embarrassed all at the same time because it's the community which has done all the hard work to improve the area. This is their day, not mine."

The arrival of the Baton in Stewarton at 2.10pm coincided with the Gala Day and crowning of the Corsehill Queen Jennifer Pryce. Stewarton's heroes - Betty Bennett, 89, and 17-year-old Kelsey Caldow - were celebrated with cheers and applause as they made their way through the town.

Supergran Bennett was honoured with an MBE in 2012 for raising thousands for charity and dedicating her life to helping others.

Betty and her late sister Nancy Fleming were partners in the famous Brodie Sisters entertainment act.

Caldow is a council volunteer who delivers health and well-being speeches and presentations and was a finalist in the Health Category of the Young Scot Awards last year.

Another Baton-bearer was dedicated athlete Natasha Allen who volunteers at a local residential home and always is the life and soul of activities.

She also helps younger generations by volunteering at explorer camps and meetings.

After 34 minutes in the town, the Baton travelled through Kilmaurs and Crosshouse before landing at Ayrshire Athletics Arena in Kilmarnock at 5.30pm and then moving on to Kilmarnock town centre, culminating in a massive street carnival.

Among the Kilmarnock Batonbearers was 87-year-old Peter Lee who runs half-marathons after surviving a triple bypass.

He raises money for charities, primarily the British Heart Foundation and is a volunteer for Chest, Heart and Stroke charity.

Susan Russell, a founder and stalwart of Young Kilmarnock - a community sports organisation based in Kilmarnock - also carried the Baton.

She gives so much of her spare time to assist coaches, fundraise and raise the profile of the organisation. On average, well in excess of 200 children attend each week for football coaching, with ages ranging from four to 16 years old.

The last bearer to arrive in Kilmarnock at 6.45pm was Peter Kirkbride, 26, a British weightlifter who won a silver medal in weightlifting at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and was selected to represent Britain at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

The packed Commonwealth Carnival celebration in Kilmarnock town centre ended with a bang as thousands lined the streets to enjoy the entertainment well into the night.

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