CHRIS Ritson will go down in history as a sunshine Cornet who never stopped smiling.
The 23-year-old has borne a trademark grin for the entire five weeks, in which he has embodied the pride and honour of a job he seemed born to do.
Since Picking Night, the popular forestry worker has led the town’s celebrations with a natural pride and joy that has proved infectious, and whether at one of the many dinners, functions, concerts or just chatting, Cornet Ritson has endeared himself to Teries both young and old.
Provost Stuart Marshall stated: “I have never heard so often the words ‘fantastic’, ‘superb’, and ‘magnificent’, being used to describe our Cornet. Cornet Chris Ritson has done our town proud and has flown Hawick’s Flag with such distinction.”
Indeed this year’s man-of-the-moment led large cavalcades that defied the recession every week, each ride-out except one being blessed with good weather and popular picnics – although the Cornet’s smile throughout the rain and fog for Roberton ensured even that day was a success.
And last weekend with the sun shining right from the Early Morning Chase, up until the Handing Back of the Flag, it seemed that everyone was smiling as they rejoiced in special Principals, weather and celebrations.
Cornet Ritson stated: “It’s been absolutely amazing, better than expected and definitely better ‘felt than telt’. Getting my hands on the Banner Blue on Thursday was an incredible feeling, but the weekend is so full of memories; galloping up the Nipknowes was unbelievable, as was going round the Mair with crowds of passionate Teries cheering me on. The amount of support on horseback and foot has been overwhelming.”
This sentiment is shared by an equally popular and proud Acting Father Stuart Hunter, inset, who has also beamed throughout – and ridden everywhere with one hand in the air cheering. “It has been unbelievable from the word go, I will never forget any of it”, he said.
And looking back on a momentous week which boasted huge crowds everywhere they went, he stated: “From Wednesday at the Overseas Night right through, was just magic. Getting the Banner Blue at the crossroads to the Hut and the children’s faces at the schools, to coming through the vennel on the Friday and the streets lined with proud Hawick folk, I’ve got memories that will last forever.”
Experiencing Hawick’s proud customs for the very first time was Common-Riding chief guest Lord James Joicey, and they have certainly also made their mark on the Flodden land owner. “My wife and I enjoyed literally every single moment of our time in Hawick. The atmosphere and the weather certainly played their part, but we were struck by the immense hard work of the Hawick Common-Riding Committee, the warmth of welcome, and the depth and importance of the tradition maintained year on year, especially through the songs.”
And paying special tribute to Hawick’s more than worthy successor and the rest of a hugely acclaimed Big Eight, Lord Joicey added: “They performed their duties with a wonderful combination of dignity, enthusiasm, pride and good spirits; they are a real credit to the town.”
In Cornet’s Lass Heather Amos, Hawick has certainly boasted a Bright-Eyed Daughter whose friendliness, style and respect for the role has shone throughout. Voicing the same sentiment expressed by many, she told the Hawick News: “I can’t believe it’s all over, everything happened so fast.”
She went on: “For me, everything from Picking Night until the Handing Back of the Flag, was a highlight.”
And by her side lending a guiding hand, bright smile and with a gentle dignity, has been Acting Mother Julie Hunter. “We have had a ball and last week’s weather was just the icing on the cake,” she stated.
“No words can really sum it up, but we are so grateful to Chris and Heather for giving us this opportunity of a lifetime.”
Paying a similar touching tribute and showing the warmth that has endeared her to all, the Cornet’s Lass added: “This year has definitely been the best year of my life and I owe it all to my Cornet. If it wasn’t for him, I would never have had this opportunity and for that I will be forever grateful.”
Such appreciation of each other and the Common-Riding has certainly ensured true friendship amongst the Big Eight and a faultless term of office, whilst creating a special bond they will share forever. Acting Father Hunter admitted: “We’ve made loads of good friends from other towns, but especially the Big Eight, they are lifelong.”
Right-Hand Man Ross Nichol and his Lass Gillian Smith proved worthy mentors, whilst Left-Hand Man Michael Davidson and his Lass Kirsteen Hill relished their final year. With last week proving the crowning glory in three hugely successful years, the Left-Hand Man said: “It was great after two years of rain up the Mair to finally get some sunshine. I’d like to thank those who gave me the opportunity to be Cornet, it’s been incredible.”
As Cornet Ritson now reflects on having achieved a childhood ambition, and taking his own special place alongside a long line of incumbents, he added: “Watching my Lass Heather tying the ribbons on the Flag is a memory I will always have, and singing The Old Song outside Drumlanrig Tower, the list just goes on. It went by in a flash, so I now want to sit back and take it all in. There are so many memories I will treasure for the rest of my life.”
And as the dust settles on another Common-Riding which was truly the best of a’, Common-Riding Committee chairman and Provost Marshall concluded: “To have presided over such a perfect Common-Riding was a great honour. We’ve had superb support from townsfolk, and a truly magnificent young hero as our Cornet.”