Historic Hawick battlefield about to be taken over by town fund

Hawick Cornet Euan Reilly and his lass, Lisa McLean, at Hornshole during this years common riding.
Hawick Cornet Euan Reilly and his lass, Lisa McLean, at Hornshole during this years common riding.
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The historic Hornshole battleground is now a step closer to coming under the stewardship of Hawick’s common good fund – despite one elected member describing the plan as “a load of twaddle”.

The Battle of Hornshole in 1514 saw youths from Hawick soundly defeat an English raiding party near the town.

Occurring just a year after the Battle of Flodden, it plays a central role in the town’s common riding celebrations.

The skirmish is also commemorated in the centre of Hawick by an iconic monument featuring a horse and rider.

Last year, in a bid to secure the future of the historic site, Hawick and Denholm councillors Watson McAteer and Stuart Marshall launched a drive for ownership of the land to be transferred to the town’s common good fund.

The trustees of the fund subsequently agreed to such a move.

Now it’s hoped that, subject to issues over the cost of the transfer, it will be formalised early in the new year.

However, the plan has raised the hackles of Hawick and Hermitage independent councillor David Paterson as he believes maintenance of the site would prove an unecessary financial burden for the town, comparing it to the opening of a “massively-expensive can of worms”.

Despite that criticism, Mr McAteer is eager to push ahead to secure the skirmish’s site as an asset to the town.

He said: “We are working with the owner to secure transfer of ownership to the Hawick common good fund.

“This has arisen after it was discovered that her grandfather Edward Palmer-Douglas, the owner of the Cavers estate, had gifted the site to Hawick in 1901 for the erection of a monument.

“However, the site was never officially transferred, and efforts are now being made to correct this.

“This is a revered site for Hawick folk and marks as near as possible the site where Hawick youths routed English raiders in 1514, the year after Flooden, and secured their flag, so this is a very important project that is slowly progressing.

“Hawick common good trustees have agreed to take ownership, although there are issues concerned with reasonable costs that we hope will be satisfied.

“One councillor says we are wasting our time with this and that Hornshole will be a burden. Fortunately, the other five do not agree, and the transfer now looks to be a couple of months away.”

Mr Paterson is something of a lone voice among the six elected representatives for Hawick, all of whom are, to varying degrees, supportive of the move.

Fellow Hawick and Hermitage councillor Ron Smith, member for Hawick and Hermitage, has given the plan a reserved endorsement.

He said: “I went along with the proposal. I do not necessarily see a need for the common good fund or Scottish Borders Council to take formal ownership and would oppose it if there was to be a purchase cost. Things seem to have worked well enough for decades.

“I have, however, said from the beginning of this proposal that the benefit of Scottish Borders Council taking ownership might be that an element of control and supervision might then be possible. That, you might imagine, may bring its own problems.”

During the battle of Hornshole, the pennon carried by the raiders was captured and taken as a trophy by the victors, and today, Hawick’s coat of arms bears a pennon inscribed with 1514, the year of the victory.