Last weekend’s Common-Riding celebrations will go down in history as the most significant ever to be held in this lifetime.
It had been months, years, five centuries in the making, and as thousands joined in the historic celebrations, once again Hawick proved why it is Queen o’ a’ the Borders.
It was the year that saw record-breaking cavalcades, packed dinnersand Huts, the restoration of the 1514 Memorial, the schools’ Big Return, the unveiling of a new bronze statue, a new Hornshole monument, new Common-Riding Flag, Cornets board, museum window, and exhibitions.
It was the year when the town paid tribute to the young callants of 500 years ago like never before, and anyone who took part in any of the cherished traditions, played their part in a Common-Riding that left every visitor wishing they had been born a Teri.
In Cornet Ross Gibson, the town had a dignified, thoughtful, enthusiastic and popular true-hearted hero who proved the perfect incumbent – who since Picking Night has worn an infectious smile on his face, and his heart on his sleeve.
And along with Right-Hand Man Chris Ritson, Left-Hand Man Ross Nichol and Acting Father Alan Gray, townsfolk have rallied in huge numbers to lend their support to a 2014 dream team.
Common-Riding Committee chairman and Provost Stuart Marshall, whose tireless work and love for Hawick also helped to ensure the celebrations were a fitting tribute, told the Hawick News: “The whole weekend was just an unforgettable experience, and the Cornet and the rest of the Big Eight were absolutely tremendous. Our chief guest Henry Douglas and his wife Aileen were also fantastic.”
And sunshine last Friday was just the icing on top of a unique five weeks, of which Provost Marshall commented: “Our town has really come alive and I can’t thank the townsfolk enough for the support that they have shown.”
Such backing has humbled each of the popular Big Eight as they’ve strived to, and succeeded in, doing their very best for the town they love.
Cornet Gibson stated: “To townsfolk, visitors and exiles, thank you for the unbelievable support over the last few weeks. Everyone has made this experience so special for us all, and I will never forget that.”
And this sentiment is shared by equally deserving Principal Alan Gray, who has beamed with pride throughout. “This has been a life-changing experience,” he said. “I will always remember the massive support, and people’s kindness, which is very humbling.”
Cornet’s Lass Michelle Paxton won the hearts of Teries young and old as she conducted herself with class and good cheer, while ActingMother Jane Gray has shone with pride and never been without a smile.
And in Right-hand Lass Heather Amos, along with Left-Hand Lass Gillian Smith, the town’s worthy braw and fair incumbents were certainly complete.
Speaking fondly of the Big Eight, the Cornet said: “I can’t thank them all enough. They are all great company, and Chris and Ross placed a huge amount of belief in me, working hard to make sure that all went to plan. Gillian and Heather were both brilliant to Michelle and Jane, and Alan and Jane have been first class support. No-one deserved it more than them. And Michelle has been brilliant, I can’t thank her enough.”
Fither Alan added: “I think all Acting Fathers and Mothers will say thesame, but we could not have wished to do it with a better bunch of people, they are now friends for life.”
And such praise for the Principals and the whole Common-Riding has been voiced by chief guest and Ex-Acting Father Henry Douglas. “It has been an absolutely tremendous experience and the hospitality we received from everyone was second to none. We never seemed to have a minute, but there are so many highlights.”
He added: “There were massive crowds everywhere, which I couldn’t believe. We have had a wonderful time and I will be forever grateful to the provost for giving me the opportunity.”
For Cornet Ross, highlights of his opportunity of a lifetime began on
Picking Night when he received his badge of office, and they continued in the Huts, when he grasped the Banner Blue for the first time, watched it bussed by Lass Michelle, and led unprecedented celebrations on the Friday. The 24-year old, who revelled in so many great moments, added: “I will also always remember the huge cheer the four of us got at the Handing Back when were on the balcony. It has all been a huge honour and privilege.”
And by his side throughout, Cornet’s Lass Michelle says she, too, has enjoyed every minute. “I’ll always remember how amazing it was and how great the people of Hawick are. The whole experience has been so special,” she stated.
Lending a guiding hand to both, Alan Gray has proved himself a born Acting Father, and he, too, says the memories just abound. “From the visits to the hospitals and homes, to the schools, the Thursday night Chase, the Mair on the Friday and the amount of people on it, it has all been indescribable,” he stated.
And Acting Mother Jane has also proved a special choice, relishing every second of the honour bestowed upon her. She stated: “It has meant a lot to us to be involved in this year’s Common-Riding; any year is special, but to be involved in this 500th year has been extra special, a truly magical experience and one we have made lifetime friends and memories from.”
For Left-Hand Man Ross Nichol, the big weekend brought the curtaindown on a hugely successful three years in office. And he revealed: “There are too many best bits to tell, but being able to carry out my duties this year with two of my best friends, the Cornet and Right-Hand Man, has been very special,” he said.
And also alluding to something in the air which was different this quincentenary year, the Left-Hand Man commented: “Obviously being part of the Big Four any year is special, but this year, celebrating 500 years since victory at Hornshole, definitely had anextra buzz about it.”
Looking back over his three years, he added: “Now as it’s all over, it’s hard to think where the time has gone, but I’ve enjoyed every minute and I’m very honoured to have been given this opportunity. I’d like to thank the townsfolk of Hawick for all their continued support and for making this journey so memorable for me.”
And also bowing out with an equal amount of precious recollections and
pride, is Left-Hand Lass Gillian Smith. She told the Hawick News: “It’s been a great experience and I’ve met so many lovely people. When I look back I reflect on a job completed with loads of happy memories. The 500th year has been bigger and better than ever, and something I am very proud to have been a part of.”
So as the dust settles on another Common-Riding and Cornet Gibson’s triumphant tenure, to the thousands of Teries who took part in the quincentenary celebrations, there can be no doubt that it truly was the best of a’.
And Cornet Gibson summed it up by adding: “Being the Cornet would have been just as big an honour whatever year it was, but it truly has been a dream come true. I’ve had the time of my life.”