Over the next six weeks, Cornet Gregor Hepburn will write his own chapter in the annals of Common-Riding lore as he joins a long list of men charged with the highest honour that can be bestowed on a young Hawick callant.
As June days draw nigh and Teries at home and abroad have one thing on their minds, our sense of history, time and place will once again take over as Gregor Hepburn’s every move is scrutinised in a manner normally reserved for Royalty and A-List celebrities.
The quiet veterinary student from the Teviot Valley will follow in the footsteps of the scores of green-clad Cornets who’ve gone before him and if Wednesday’s Picking Night is anything to go by, he’s certainly an excellent choice and more than up to the task in hand.
And as a huge turnout of the great, the good and the ordinary callants turned out in the town hall on Wednesday night, it was crystal clear that this was a young man more than capable of carrying out the taks he’s been charged with.
In his toast to the Cornet, Honorary Provost Stuart Marshall said: “As honorary provost, it is my great privilige and honour to be the first to publicly submit to you all this evening the toast to our Cornet for 2015.
“How fortunate we are in Hawick to have such fine young men who come forward year after year and by doing so they ensure continuity to that long line of Cornets ‘fower hunder and mair’.”
Mr Marshall added that Cornet Hepburn was an ideal choice: “Gentlemen, Cornet Gregor Hepburn needs very little introduction to any of us . . . after all . . . he is one of us . . . an ardent supporter of many Cornets . . . a staunch Common-Riding supporter all his life . . . a proud Mostrooper . . . a first-class horseman who was born into a family immersed in everything Hawick, but more importantly, a family that is steeped in our town and its traditions. Gentlemen . . . what a pedigree.”
He added: “Cornet you can proudly boast of becoming this town’s 312th Cornet and I have no doubt that in the coming weeks much praise will be heaped upon your young shoulders, and in June, at the end of that glorious weekend, I have no doubt that you will have flown Hawick’s Flag with the greatest of distinction.”
“Cornet Hepburn, may I on behalf of everyone in the town, wish you, your Lass Lois McCreadie, your Acting-Father Dick Lynn and his wife Lynne, all our sincere best wishes and on behalf of the townsfolk of Hawick it gives me great pleasure in presenting you with your badge of office and by doing so I hope that it will hold a lifetime of wonderful memories for you.
“Gentlemen, please be upstanding, because the toast I give you is the Cornet.”
And as is customary in the circumstances, the standing ovation afforded to Cornet Hepburn was nothing short of electric and an emotionally- charged few moments passed before some semblance of order was restored.
In reply to Honorary Provost Marshall’s toast, Cornet Hepburn, who will become a fully qualified vet today (Friday), said: “Thanks for the warm reception here tonight as Cornet 2015. It’s a bit surreal that you watch this for years as a laddie then find yourself standing here . . . I am sure I will cherish my badge for the rest of my life.”
He added: “This dream would not be possible without ‘Tank’, Chris, ‘Moose’ and Alan. I will be forever grateful for this opportunity and I will be glad to spend the summer with such great friends.”
He then paid tribute to his Lass, Lios McCreadie, saying: “Picking my Lass was an easy job, gentlemen, not only is she bonny but we also get along quite well. Not always a guarantee with women but I have the utmost confidence that she will do me, her family and the townsfolk of Hawick proud.”
And on his choice of Acting-Father, he added: “I am sure you will agree that Richie is the man for the job. We go way back to my early days on ponies out hunting with his wife Lynne and he has the daunting task of keeping me in line.”
The Cornet then paid a poignant tribute to his brother Adam who was tragically killed in a shooting accident in 2013: “Gentlemen, tonight is a night of mixed emotions. Adam would have loved to have been sitting in here with his ‘guid’ pals, or more likely, he would have been standing up here where I am now. I will do my very best to make him, you gentlemen and the townsfolk of Hawick proud.”
In his toast to the Common-Riding, 1514 Club president Alan Brown spoke of the excitment which has been building in his household since he was asked to make his speech and summed the evening up in the words of his good friend, the late George Harrow, by saying: “It never ends, it only sleeps for a few months and then in January it starts to rise once more like a phoenix from the ashes until once again it’s Picking Night.”
At this point the gathering enjoyed a nedley from the Drums and Fifes, before Jack Tait toasted the Acting-Father, who, in turn, replied, saying: “Tonight the atmosphere at Northouse was overwhelming. Gregor, you have no idea of my pride and honour that you have chosen me to be your Acting-Father and I will carry out my duties to the high standards set by those who have gone before me.”
Stuart Coltherd toasted ‘The Family’ and recieved a suitable reply from the Cornet’s father, Ian Hepburn, who spoke of his son’s two lifetime ambitions to become a vet and to be Hawick Cornet: “Both achievements make us extremely proud of him but can I say that if it was not for the support and friendship shown by many of you in here tonight over the last two years I am not convinced that these two accolades would have been attained.”
Ex-Cornet Ross Nichol toasted the Right and Left-Hand Men which was replied to by Chris Ritson and Ross Gibson.
Official song-singer Michael Aitken closed the official side of things with a rousing rendition of Teribus, with Cornet’s Up with Ian Landles at the piano. Other entertainers included Craig McCredie ‘Chugger’ Brown, Iain ‘Scocha’ Scott, Iain ‘Hightower’ Scott, Henry Douglas, Graeme Tinlin, Ronnie Tait, Ian Nichol and Doug Telfer.
So, as the memories of another Picking Night fade, generations of Teries will be rooting for a young man whose life has been changed forever.