Messages from Jubilee Principals



It’s hard to believe that 25 years have passed since I was lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to be Hawick Cornet, 25 years since I got asked “That Question”, the question which since my earliest memories of the Common Riding had been so important.

Thurs 11th January 1996 is a night I’ll never forget, it began like most other nights, however the events which would have unfolded by the end of that night would change my life and the lives of my lass Julie and both our families forever.

Like many others I was aware that the talk around town about who was going to be Cornet for that year had began in earnest with everyone eagerly awaiting the town’s worst kept secret to become common knowledge. I had been out and about that night and arrived home somewhere around half eight to find Ex Cornet Rory Culton sitting in my living room.

Like a rabbit caught in the headlights I sat down to be asked by Rory “That Question”.

The answer was easy to find, there was no hesitation, no time needed to think, nobody I needed to run the deliberations past, I knew that those closest to me would support me at every step and hoofbeat……..Aye was the response.

And with that simple three letter word my life had changed forever.

Being asked to be Cornet was a huge honour for myself but it was also a huge honour for Julie who would be my lass, and for both our families.

At a time when mobile phones were the status symbol of choice for yuppies and high flyers, I had news to deliver and it would be delivered that night by shank’s pony.

First port o call was Julie’s house, by the time a got there the whole place was in darkness, there was work the next day, A knocked on the door and the usual reply of “who the hells at the door at this time of night” was short-lived after the reason for the late night call was revealed, their reaction was priceless and something which will stay we me forever, Julie joined me and we made our way from there quickly around town as there was proud sisters to inform before they found out on the street the next day.

As a lad I thought I knew what the Common Riding was a about, what all went on but I was soon to learn there was much more to it than I had ever imagined. The learning curve was steep and I needed to climb it quickly.

It is almost impossible to put into words just exactly what being Cornet means.

The experiences it provides are things that nothing else will ever come close to.

To be given the privilege to represent the young Callants from the town is not to be underestimated, to be entrusted to look after the Banner Blue a massive responsibility, to ride right behind the Drums and Fifes with the Flag is an experience unrivalled by any other, to chase up the Nipknowes with that same Flag flapping in your ear and then be welcomed into a packed hut as the Cornet a thrill beyond comparison, to gallop round the moor on Friday Common Riding with the Flag an honour to cherish, for Julie to be given the opportunity to buss the ancient banner a glorious moment bursting with pride for herself and her parents.

It would be wrong to assign mere words to these occasions, the feelings and emotions connected to them are beyond words, it is better felt than telt as the saying goes.

Julie and I will remember the summer of 1996 with happiness and gratitude at being given the opportunity to represent Hawick. The support we received from everyone was humbling but none more so than the support from our families, without whom, we couldn’t have done it. The times we spent that year with Lee & Angela, Robbie & Loris and Graeme & Sandra are special memories. Thanks to them for the opportunity, their support and for making it a wonderful experience.

An abiding memory is after handing back the flag on the Saturday, ma fither, Bert grabbed me in a cuddle unlike any other. The pride and love felt in that emotional hug said more than words ever could, I still get goose bumps when I remember it today.

I owe the Common Riding so much, it has given me some great opportunities in life and left me with memories to cherish deeply, no just as Cornet, but of many other great days spent with friends and family. Much of whom I am today is because of the Common Riding.

It would be reasonable to assume that the commitment needed when accepting the role as Cornet lasts for three years but in my mind that would be wrong. To me when a young Callant accepts office as Cornet he should also accept that it requires a lifelong commitment, it is a responsibility of us all to ensure that our Common Riding can continue to thrive, that long after we are gone, future generations are still gathering each Common Riding time with family and friends to commemorate and celebrate.

Julie and I would like to wish everyone good health in these trying times, more familiar days are not far off, lets enjoy them when Hawick Common Riding resumes in full, until next year Cheers.



Well, I can’t believe it is now half a century since I was asked to be Cornet’s Lass to the Late Ex-Cornet Drew Martin in 1971. It was a great honour to take on the role which I was very happy to fulfil to the best of my ability.

At the time, I was somewhat apprehensive and naive as to what the role involved as my family were not “Common Riding orientated” and always went away somewhere at the Common Riding Holiday. However, that soon changed! I was lucky to have my Right and Left Hand Lasses, Vivienne Young and Valerie Franklin, who by then were experienced principals and were able to give me lots of advice. My Acting Mother, the Late Sheila McTaggart was also a great source of encouragement and comfort to me.


Having said that my family were not Common Riding people, I have to say that my aunt Sheila McDonald (now Snowie) was Cornet’s Lass to the Late Ex-Cornet Charles (Chuck) Whillans in 1948 and I was born on Chase Night that year, my first visitors at The Haig Maternity Hospital being The Cornet and Cornet’s Lass, Chuck and Sheila. By chance, my birthday fell on Chase Night the year I was Cornet’s Lass and will do again on what would have been Chase Night this year. Yes, you’ve all worked it out, I will be 73.

I have some wonderful memories of Common Riding 1971 from Election Night on 5th May right through to The Handing Back of The Flag Ceremony on 12th June. The weather was kind to us for the weeks leading up to the actual Common Riding weekend and then on Common Riding Friday the Heavens opened and we had torrential rain all day. That is a story in itself! I understand that it was the wettest Common Riding on record. However, it did not spoil our spirits and all the ceremonial activities were carried out with big smiles and dignity.

There were for me, many highlights of Common Riding 1971. Making lots of new friends, Bussing the Colour, visiting the schools and attending The Ball are all high on the list. The nerves prior to handing the Banner Blue to Provost Atkinson without stabbing him or anyone en-route, the excitement on the faces of the school children, especially at the school where I was teaching at the time and having to leave The Ball on the stroke of midnight like Cinderella all added up to making it a wonderful experience I will never forget.

I feel so sorry for Hawick and the people of Hawick that the annual Common Riding has been cancelled for the second consecutive year due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, I’m sure everyone will enjoy the Virtual Common Riding planned and I would like to say a big Thank You to all those who have worked so hard making it possible.

Take care and stay safe everyone.  Happy Virtual Common Riding and see you all at the real one in 2022.


I was delighted and honoured when Drew Martin invited me to be his Acting Father in 1971. I of course knew him and his family well as his father Ex Cornet John Martin (1938) was my Acting Father when I was Cornet in 1954. My wife Shiela was also delighted as she was a keen supported of the Common Riding which also played a part in us getting engaged and married in 1957!!

I had been well versed as to what was expected of me by Drew’s father who always determined to see that our ceremonies should be carried out in meticulous fashion!

As an “8” we all knew each other well and all enjoyed our time together and we did after some of the social of our time in office.

If there is one thing, I vividly remember it was the weather om Common Riding Friday – it could not have been worse – it poured continuously all day – it must be the worst in living memory. Green Coats and breaches all had to be dried out overnight in Martin the Bakers ovens so they were dry for the Saturday. The Green Coats for the ball were borrowed from Ex Cornets.

On a personal note, I was born on the Sunday after the Common Riding – I was 21 years old on Common Riding day in 1954 as Cornet and I was reminded it was my birthday on Common Riding day as Acting Father and 50 years on it falls on Common Riding Friday 11th June when “all the eights are 88”!!

I do hope everyone has so far enjoyed the Virtual events (I have) and well done to the organisers. Wherever you are enjoy yourselves. Best wishes to you all. “Safe Oot Safe In”



Our 70-Year Cornets Lass for 2021 is Helen Aitken, née Allan, who now stays in Cromer, New South Wales, Australia. Helen played a key role in supporting George in making the 1951 Common Riding – the best o’ a’.

George and Helen Aitken in 1952

After moving to “the land down under”, both George and Helen frequently returned to the grey auld toon when June days drew nigh. In 2001, celebrating their golden jubilee, Foot and Mouth was not to dampen celebrations as the couple made the long trip home. With no officials elected that year, Helen had the great honour of laying the wreath at Hornshole on Kirkin’ Sunday.

Sadly, a few years later in 2006, when once again, back with their ain folk, George passed away on the Monday of Common Riding week. A huge loss for Hawick.

Albeit on the other side of the world, Helen still has a huge interest in Hawick and our Common Riding. We, along with the townsfolk, would like to wish Helen and her family a very happy 70th jubilee and hope that this years Virtual Common Riding brings back many happy memories of their time in Hawick and the Common Riding of 1951.