THOSE lucky enough to have tickets to the Colour-Bussing last Thursday night were treated to a special start to the Common-Riding that certainly stirred the blood.
The much-loved annual ceremony once again brought Hawick’s passion and history to life as townsfolk dressed in their best filled the town hall with an array of colour, and the Cornet’s supporters in high spirits crammed into the Lads’ Gallery.
And with some of Hawick’s finest performers, and a sterling chief guest speaker in Malcolm Murray, ex-Greens president and former captain of The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (Muirfield), it was a Colour-Bussing that was blessed.
The Drums and Fifes began proceedings by leading Provost Ron Smith and the robed magistrates to the stage. But then all eyes were on Cornet’s Lass Kirsteen Hill as she carried the Flag to the front of the hall for her most important duty of the Common-Riding, giving the occasion a touch of dignity and glamour in a stunning fuschia pink dress and hat. Accompanied by the Maids of Honour and assisted by the Right-Hand Lass and Left-Hand Lass, all looking equally resplendent, Kirsteen took centre stage as she confidently, and flawlessly, tied the blue and yellow ribbons to the top of the staff and presented it “well and truly bussed” to chairman Provost Smith.
Cornet’s Lass Kirsteen told the Hawick News she was thrilled with how her big moment had gone, stating: “I was excited and nervous, especially standing waiting to come out with the Flag. But I knew I had great support behind me, which put me more at ease.”
Cornet Michael Davidson added: “I was very proud of Kirsteen. I know she’d been very nervous about it all but she carried it out perfectly.”
And before presenting Kirsteen with her badge, Provost Smith also paid tribute to the 23-year-old, stating: “Throughout the past weeks you have impressed everyone with the manner in which you have carried out your tasks.”
The Provost then called upon the man of the moment – dressed in official uniform for the first time and having just received his crimson sash of office – to “ride the meiths and marches of Hawick according to ancient custom”, at the end ensuring he returns the Flag “unsullied and unstained”.
Once Cornet Davidson had promised that he would carry out his duty with the help of his mounted supporters, it was time for official Common-Riding singer Michael Aitken to lead a rousing rendition of Up Wi’ the Banner, which set the tone for the evening. Amateur Operatic Society stalwart Deborah Lyons was next to shine with Bonnie Teviotdale, before the stage belonged to chief guest Malcom Murray CBE – who after leaving Hawick High School, went on to become chief executive of the Scottish Life Assurance Company.
Invited to be chief guest by former Provost Zandra Elliot before she handed over the reins, the Edinburgh resident proved an excellent choice as he delivered a well thought-out and heartfelt address which outlined his life in Hawick, and the many associations which through the Common-Riding, Trades RFC, and people, ensure his heart remains in the town. Highlighting the Common-Riding, the former Callants Club president stated: “It’s an outstanding manifestation of local spirit, tradition and patriotism, qualities of the highest value in any society.”
And quoting author Nigel Tranter, he asserted: “He considered the Border Common-Ridings but Hawick’s in particular as the best examples of this spirit in the whole of the British Isles.”
As his speech built in passion and Mr Murray stressed the importance of Hawick retaining self-confidence and morale, alluding to the town’s famous knitwear industry he stated: “We have a well-educated workforce in an environment that is second to none, assets that have to be recognised eventually.”
And paying special tribute to his native land’s heritage, added: “Don’t ever apologise for placing too much emphasis on the past – on history – at this time of year.”
By the end of his address, quoting emotive words from the song Hawick, Mr Murray had captured the town’s unique Common-Riding spirit. And the baton was passed on to Royal Opera singer Elliot Goldie who sent spirits soaring higher, belting out The Banner Blue, before Joyce Tinlin held every gaze with The Fairest Spot O’ A’.
During an acknowledgement of those who have passed away in the past year, Provost Smith only paid tribute to former Senior Bailie Keith Richardson. But he gave a vote of thanks to Zandra Elliot, stating: “Zandra has been a tremendous provost of this town and defender of everything associated with Hawick.”
After his first Colour-Bussing, Provost Smith later stated: “I had been very nervous as I was well aware of the importance of the ceremony and how smoothly it had gone in the past, so I was quite delighted by the manner in which it took place. ”
Other business of the night included telegrams of well-wishes from Ex-Provost J. R. Scott, 1969 Cornet Bruce Wilson, Craig Charters, Lisa Martin and Neil Renwick in Australia, as well as Hutton, Bosch, Froudie and Tito, also down under. It was heard that a commemorative goblet had already been given to 50-year Lass Christine Dickey, but flowers were presented to 25-Year Lass Gael Nuttall and Acting Mother Jessie Wear, as well as 60-Year Lass Helen Aitken. By the time Iain ‘Scocha’ Scott led the packed hall in Up Wi Auld Hawick, and Gary Robson gained huge applause for his signature song Pawkie Paiterson, all that was left was for Michael Aitken to bring the evening to a fitting close with his inimitable Teribus. And as the town hall spilled onto the High Street to merge with the excited crowds ahead of the Cornet’s Walk and the Tying of the Ribbons, there was no doubt the Nicht Afore the Morn was in full swing.