Overall Winner: Braedyn McLeod, Wilton Primary School
1st Wilton: Carla Elliot
1st Denholm: Charlotte Robinson
1st Drumlanrig: Caden Szonesberg
Highly Commended: Nadia Wronska
1st Burnfoot: Ollie Robson
1st Trinity: Niamh Dickson
1st Stirches: Ruby Douglas
All Primary entries (excluding Primary 7):
1st Layla Nicholson, Wilton
Secondary School Winner – Jack Halliday, Hawick High School
Adult Winner – Jessie Growden
Overall Winner: Braedyn McLeod, Wilton Primary School
Oor Hawick Common Riding is a local festival celebrating the capture of an English flag in 1514 by the young men of Hawick at Hornshole.
This ancient custom of riding round the boundaries of our common land has became a well loved local tradition. These rituals represent many different things to the local folk of Hawick, including freedom, courage and community spirit.
And here’s what it means to mei, for I have been given the greatest honour of being the Cornet’s four legged companion.
My name is ‘Flodden’, named after the 1513 battle, in which lots of Borders men, including the majority of Hawick men, died protecting their home land. I have participated in many Common Ridings before, but since I was a young pony I have always dreamt of being the Cornet’s horse, and that time has finally come.
It was the morning of the first ride out and I was so excited. My pale brown hooves were covered in dirt and mud and I could feel the breeze in my long, black mane. I felt the Cornet’s heavy weight on my back and prepared myself for the ride of my life.
These ride outs continue every Tuesday and Saturday up until the first week of June, they are a big part of our yearly tradition, re-enacting the protection of our common land.
The ride outs are my personal favourite duty during the Common Riding because I love galloping through the fields, and hearing everyone’s cheers and chants.
Another iconic part of the Common-Riding is the Chases up the Nipknowes, which for us horses are great fun. It’s hard to describe the feeling when you’re the centre of attention, and you can see all of the children waving along with the adults cheering, I just love it!
After the Chases is the Riding of the Marches. A lot of people think it’s the finest part of our yearly tradition and I really enjoy it too. I get to lead everyone through our common land which is a very special feeling as I will soon never be able to guide everyone again.
The reason why this is a lot of people’s finest part of the Common Riding is mainly because it’s the final ride out, which is very sad for me and my fellow horses.
The Mair weekend is another very popular event, as local families drive to the Mair and have a big picnic.
Meanwhile lots of other horses and I canter round the race course, which we like to think of as a race to see who is the best and fastest horse. Just before the big race I looked either side of me and out of the corner of my eye I saw Champ, and let me tell you he was a real champ. He was a tall, black, majestic horse and always won everything but I knew I was going to make that change.
We all started off nice and easy, I just took a second to take in and enjoy the moment as well as everyone’s cheers. Then we all started to pick up the speed until is was just me and Champ at the front, and everyone else was far behind.
He was slightly ahead of me for a short while but when I saw that we didn’t have much to go, that was when I started sprinting so fast I thought the Cornet was going to fall off my back. It was neck and neck and Champ didn’t look like he had much energy left, I noticed him slowing down a bit, and before I knew it I was ahead of him! I was so excited and confident I was going to win, and I did! That was definitely one of my favourite moments of having the pleasure of being the Cornet’s horse.
Not long after, the Cornet was riding me to the town hall for the handing back of the flag. When I was listening to the Drums and Fifes play I looked up at him and he had a sad look on his face. I did the best I could to cheer him up and I think it might’ve worked.
Shortly after that I looked up at the balcony and watched as the Cornet shed a tear and kissed the flag. It was very sad but I just thought about how much of a great time I had, and how proud I was to be oor Cornet’s special sidekick and loyal friend.
The Big Eight
Lets go back in time to 2013 when my cousin Heather Amos was Cornets Lass and Chris Ritson was the Cornet. This was my favourite Common Riding by far! The rest of the Big Eight were as follows:
Acting Father – Stuart Hunter
Acting Mother – Julie Hunter
Right Hand Man – Ross Nichol
Right Hand Lass – Gillian Smith
Left Hand Man – Michael Davidson
Left Hand Lass – Kirsteen Hill
There were only four Saturday Rideouts in 2013, which I went to with my family. They were Bonchester, Roberton, Mosspaul and Denholm. My favourite one was Denholm because I loved seeing the Lasses coming in on a convertible car with its roof down. They were all really pretty in their dresses. At Denholm Rideout I gave Heather a picture of a Common Riding flag that I painted at nursery. She loved it and I was so happy.
On Kirkin’ Sunday my mum and dad got dressed up and went to St Cuthberts Church for the Kirkin’ of the Cornet. I met them afterwards to watch the Cornet walk along the town. Later we went down to Hornshole to watch Heather lay the wreath at the monument. Everyone had to stay really quiet as Heather carried out her Duties. Her dress was beautiful.
Common Riding Thursday
Common Riding Thursday was my absolute favourite day of the whole Common Riding of 2013 because it was my 5th Birthday. I was up early to see Chris chasing up the Nipknowes with the Common Riding flag. He must have felt very nervous but proud at the same time. When Chris and his party came to Wilton School he wished me a happy 5th birthday. I felt really happy that he remembered at such a busy time. After school I went to Heather’s house to see her and her Maids of Honour. They were all stunning in their lovely dresses and hats. Heather was wearing a beautiful blue dress and hat. I was fortunate enough to have my photo taken with Heather by Lesley Fraser. I will always treasure that. After that I went to the shows and then went to see Chris tying the ribbons onto the horse monument. I loved seeing everyone coming out of the colour bussing in their fancy outfits.
Common Riding Friday
On Common Riding Friday me and my family went to see the Cornet and his followers leave the Tower Knowe to go round Hawick on their procession. After that I watched them go up the Loan from my granny’s house. They went all the way up the Loan and then they done the chase and went to the hut. I went to the moor and waited for all the horses to go racing round the track. Chris came round the race track first, holding the flag and bursting with pride. He got a massive cheer! He was followed by the Right and Left Hand Man then the Acting Father and finally all of his mounted supporters from various towns across the Borders. Once all of the horses were in I went to speak to the Lasses in the paddock and watched Chris put the flag on the paddock roof. We went back to our gazebo and enjoyed a picnic with our family. At night time my mum took me to the viewing gallery at the town hall to watch the Common Riding Ball. We watched all the Hawick principals and principals from other towns doing the Grand March. Then later on we watched Hawick principals doing the cornets reel. Chris gave Heather his Cornet’s sash to wear while she was dancing the reel, I was so happy that I was allowed to stay up to see this.
Common Riding Saturday
On Common Riding Saturday we went up the park to watch the Wreath Laying at the war memorial. We then went up the moor to have another picnic. After the moor we went down to the Town Hall to watch the handing back of the flag and it was very emotional. We then went along to the Tower Knowe to watch the big eight dance the reel for the final time. They had really silly hats on and they looked like they were having a ball considering the Common Riding had sadly came to an end.
2013 will always be one of my favourite Common Ridings as it has given me so many happy memories that I will never forget and treasure forever!
Secondary School Winner – Jack Halliday, Hawick High School
A Cornets Horse
As the sun rose over the town that is Hawick, I watched as the grooms walked towards me. I was brushed, plaited and had ribbons tightly placed ready for a momentous day. As I was led down the ramp and under the bridge, I get more excited about the day ahead.
Getting closer, the singing becomes clearer and then, just out of the corner of my eye, I saw my Cornet – flag in hand – walking towards me. He mounts and has his flag placed in the holster.
I feel extreme pride surging through me as the big day begins.
Walking through the vennel my, head held high at the front of the cavalcade, I’m safely carrying the banner blue. The crowd cheers and roars, claps and squeals as we walk by. The noise is electrifying. With sheer pride I lead the procession round the town and up The Loan.
I’m waiting now, hot on my hoofs, it’s my turn next…
The roar of the crowd and sound of the cantering hoofs on the road as the Acting Fither leads the married men up the chase. My cornets holding me back saying “wait boy wait”.
A few seconds pass and off we go…
The reins are loosened and it’s my turn, “kick on son. Kick on,” my cornet whispers. The breeze between my ears, the cheers, the feeling. I’m ecstatic. The flag flaps in the air as we chase up the Nipnowes. We’ve made it. A clap from my cornet means I know I’ve done well…
Now the flag is carefully passed for the fither to look after up to St. Leanords. It is now secured in the fithers holster as we walk up to the Hut. It was just the eight of us (Hawick’s Big Four and their even bigger four legged friends) on the road walking up to S.t Leanords. We have now arrived.
The cornet gets out of the saddle and walks towards The Hut whilst I get a quick check over in the stables. Two hours pass by like a breeze and before I know it my Cornet is back in the saddle flag in hand.
Leading the cavalcade once more to mark the boundaries of Hawick I feel privileged to be carrying this historic banner. I know that I will be looking down on this day for years to come.
My cornet dismounts to cut the sod whilst the flag is passed to the Acting Fither. Fantastic, my Cornet done that job well!!! My Cornet gets back in the saddle, we’re on the move again. Approaching Pilmuir field I can see the open space. I’m getting more excited as my Cornet pulls me back “careful now,” he says.
I walk steadily through the gate. We’re off. I gallop as fast as I can up and round the field. The fresh air, the wind. This is the life! The sound of the pounding land behind me urges me on.
Now at the Mair gate I get the flag back. As I step on the track, I feel more eyes fall upon me. The time is here. We start at a careful trot, then to a canter, before a gallop. Flag flapping in my ears, we take the first turn and the cheers get louder. I can finally see what I’m hearing. A sea of folk at the rails, means I’m now at the home straight.
I gallop with extreme pride and honour. It’s my racecourse, only me and my Cornet for all to see. Yet, before I know it, it’s over. My cornet gradually pulls on the reins and I eventually come to a stop. After a short while, we walk back round the course where I’m met by the grooms.
I get placed in the holding field ready for a few cornets’ races and a well-deserved rest. I get fed and watered with a carrot thrown in there for good measure to make the time pass in a blink of an eye.
Before I know it, my cornet is back in the saddle ready to lead the followers back into the town. Now at the cobble pool we dip the flag. It’s ice cauld and I want out! Luckily it doesn’t take long and within a few minutes we are back out. Up the hill we’re met by the followers, round the corner joined by the Cornets band. There’s no sound like it.
I’m back home. Saddle off. Bedding down. What… A… Day!!
The spectacle of the Hawick Common Riding is truly something to behold, but the love for it is something else entirely.
As an English incomer to the Borthwick valley as a teenager in 2005, I found myself being educated in the Common Riding at Hawick High School. I learned the structure of the festival, the story behind it, and that this is VERY IMPORTANT. This, the biggest and first of the Scottish borders common ridings starts big, and gets bigger; the Tuesdays and the Saturdays were the only days of importance, the places I thought were just places became pilgrimages for the devout, and the daring.
If I had connected with horses, and the riding of them when I first tried as a child, I guess I would have been much more keen to participate, but being given the biggest, scariest horse in my first ever lesson, I had been put off for life years earlier.
It felt special, that I could walk from home in Craik Forest, and meet my friends on a Saturday at Philhope Brig, to hang around and see if we could find a horse to hold. It felt like an honour that the whole town would come all the way up here, almost all the way to my own home, to ‘beat the bounds’ and celebrate for celebration’s sake, have a picnic, watch the horses, enjoy the sunshine.
Between then and now, I’ve learnt more about the common riding, and I’ve developed a deep sense of separation between the celebration of being so lucky to live in that is truthfully the most beautiful place in the world, and the festival that has sparked embarrassment and contention on a national scale.
I’ve learnt about the 1996 Denholm rideout, and that 2 passionate, brave women fought in the courts for their right to ride. I’ve learnt about the personal and reputational costs in such a tight-knit community that happen when women exercise their lawful right to attend events, and when they dare to challenge tradition.
I learnt that despite backlash, despite physical and verbal attacks and bullying behaviour, that the spirit of Hawick and her Common Riding lives strong in the hearts of so many of her followers. This love for Hawick is stronger than all else.
Learning this over the last couple of years has given me so much hope for the women and the incomers to this town.
Parts of me find it hard to understand this passion, but then I pause, and remember holidays spent here; summer days in the Teviot, ice creams and bouncy castles in Wilton Lodge park. I think of lifelong friends made and how much the history of this town has inspired my work. I realise that I’m capable of feeling pure love for a place, too.
HCR 2020 may be the most equal it has ever been, and I applaud the efforts to make it happen while we are living in this strange new, distanced world. Not only barriers of geography have been lifted, but of income, and of social status, and others too, I’m sure.
I just ask that we remember this equality; and pay it forward to future generations of Teris, be they direct descendants of Saegifa and Rosfritha, or incomers, immigrants, holiday makers, foreigners, or even English(!).
I love this place, and, for transparency’s sake: I live in Galashiels, but my home will always be in the Borthwick valley.