Messages from Jubilee Principals



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.



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.