With May now upon us and the current Covid19 pandemic affecting everyone’s lives we have time to reflect on what should have been the start of the 2020 Common Riding and the great pleasure this historical event brings to all Hawick folk.
The Wednesday after the first Tuesday of May each year is a special date in the Teri Calendar. It’s the time when Hawick’s worst kept secret is finally confirmed and is the day that a young Hawick man is elected to be our Cornet.
As Honorary Provost of Hawick it is the date that also signals the start of the Honorary Provost’s Council’s ceremonial duties for the year with our ancient robes being worn with great pride as this moving and poignant election ceremony unfolds.
The drama and theatre takes place within Hawick’s Council Chambers where paintings of Provost’s of yesteryear adorn the walls in a unique and highly cherished setting. The invitation list is a veritable who’s who of former Honorary Provost’s, the current Bailies and Honorary Provost Council members together with a few select personal guests.
At the stoke of 7pm the Honorary Provost welcomes everyone and then moves to the formal and single item agenda of the evening, the election of a Cornet.
The Honorary Provost reads a letter received from the previous two years Cornet’s nominating a respected and highly qualified young Hawick man to fill the role as Cornet for the forthcoming year. After agreement from the Honorary Provost Council the Halberdier, accompanied by the Drum and Fife band, is tasked with delivering the letter of invitation to the nominated young man.
The tension builds as the Halberdier subsequently returns to the Chambers with a letter of reply addressed to the Honorary Provost, Bailies and members of the Provost Council. After reading aloud the much-anticipated response the Honorary Provost is able to announce, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen we have a Cornet’, a statement greeted with great cheer and rejoicing.
Shortly thereafter and following the sound of the Saxhorn Band as they enter the High Street, anticipation grows while awaiting the imminent arrival to the Chambers of our Cornet accompanied by his right and left being led by the Saxhorn band. On entering the Chambers, the Master of Ceremonies makes the formal introduction of the Cornet to the assembled guests with the Honorary Provost introducing each of the Council members. The opportunity is also taken to congratulate the appointment of the Cornet’s Lass and the Acting Father and Mother wishing them all well for an exciting year ahead.
With the ceremonial formalities completed the evening concludes in the Provost’s room with a toast to the newly elected Cornet.
The Honorary Provost thereafter attends the Cornets congratulatory smoker where he has the great honour of presenting the Cornet with his badge of office.
The entire ceremony is completed with great dignity and with much pride in our town and marks what will become a lasting memory for all of the principals who will be representing our town in the year and years ahead.
As Honorary Provost of Hawick it is a tremendous privilege to be afforded this unique opportunity and I certainly feel very proud of the role that the Honorary Provost’s Council play in making Hawick Common Riding unique and so enjoyed by Hawick folk wherever they might be. The Coronavirus has taken a terrible toll on our community but it will not stop us remembering and celebrating our rich history and we all look forward to 2021 when that May election night will once again witness another young Hawick man continuing a journey towards our destiny.
Honorary Provost Watson McAteer