HAWICK’s enduring and romantic link with horses is to be exploited in an ambitious initiative aimed at boosting tourism for years to come.
When the project is up and running, 400 “horses” will be sited in and around the town – ranging from small metal plaques and stickers attached to buildings and shop windows to the kind of large installations associated with Angel of the North sculptor Anthony Gormley.
These representations will form part of an elaborate town trail which organisers hope will make Hawick synonymous with the equine creatures whose key role in the town’s culture and heritage is manifested annually at the Common Riding. “Just as Wigtown has become known as Scotland’s book town in the international tourism market, we want Hawick to be known and famed worldwide as the town of the horse, or the 400 horses to be precise,” enthused jeweller and clockmaker Hamish Smith of the Hawick Welcome Initiative.
Mr Smith joined forces with Graham Ford and Gerry Monaghan, of the Hawick Summer Festival, and Keith Johnston of the Friends of Wilton Lodge Park , to share their groundbreaking vision with members of Hawick Community Council.
The project will, literally, evoke the spirit of The Mosstroopers Song and its famous
refrain of “Fowr hunder horsemen…”
The idea was spawned earlier this year by Messrs Smith and Ford. “I’d been watching television and there was some story about a town in England
crawling with tourists with a town crier bellowing out all that was good about the place,” explained Mr Smith.
“I, like many others, have shared a frustration that, by and large, people only discover Hawick by accident and, when they do, they love it. We don’t have a town crier but we do have Keith ‘Chugger’ Brown and I just imagined him belting out that song as we unveil our own 400 horses. What a news story that would make!
“Graham thought it would be a good idea to launch it at the Summer Festival which celebrates its 30th anniversary in August next year, so we want to have a pilot project up and running by then.
“Both Graham and Gerry are right behind it and so is Keith because the more people who come to the town, the more will be able to enjoy the delights of the new, improved Wilton Lodge Park.”
Following the briefing, the community council has registered its willingness to get involved and has noted the “potential economic advantages” of the initiative.
Mr Ford told us: “The aim of the Summer Festival was to attract tourists in the summer and this new project should bring people here all year round and help regenerate the High Street. Hawick has lots to offer people, but we need to offer them a reason to come.”
Mr Smith said it was proposed that leaflets, outlining the location of the “horses”, would be issued at the tourist information centre. Visitors completing the trail would enter a regular prize draw with a grand prize draw held annually.
“It’s very early days yet and we propose to hold a public meeting in January to get feedback from Hawick folk and then move quickly to submit an application for Heritage Lottery funding,” said Mr Smith.
“When you think about it, the horse is an obvious symbol for a town which so cherishes its 1514 Memorial, is surrounded by fine racing stables, produces top trainers and jockeys and has, of course, the best Common-Riding in the world.”