Over the years I have interviewed several Silver and Golden jubilee Cornets and, to a man, they all have one thing in common. And that’s passion, and lots of it.
There can be little doubt that the passage of time dims and clouds memories, but you don’t need to spend long in the company of those elected to carry the Banner Blue to realise that some things are never forgotten and will always hold a special place in their hearts.
And John Douglas, this year’s Silver Jubilee Cornet, is no different: “To be honest, I don’t feel any different than I did when I was Cornet twenty five years ago. I don’t feel any older.”
This might have something to do with the fresh Howahill air and the outdoor work but the above mentioned passage of time has been kind to John in a physical sense too as, less hair aside, he appears to have aged less than most.
John was 24-years-old when he was picked to be Hawick Cornet and alongside his Lass 23-year-old Gaye Dyer, Right Hand Man Stuart Farish, Left Hand Man Elliot Turnbull and Acting-Father and Mother Robert and Anna Pringle, they made a popular team.
And he had a good Common-Riding pedigree, not only was his father Henry the then official song singer, he’d also been Acting-Father to Cornet Derek Inglis in 1978.
When asked about his fondest, strongest and most abiding memory of 1989, John Douglas spent a moment or two in though before replying: “The Friday and everything about it from the procession to the Chase and the hut and the Moor, The whole sense of history, belonging and everyone getting together, it’s always been special. I’ve always loved the Friday of the Common-Riding, and since I started following behind Haig Hinton in 1976, I haven’t missed one.”
And this year he’s missed very little: “I have been to every ride out so far and will ride to everything apart from the week day chases which I had intended to do but work got in the way, I’ll be there on the Tursday morning, Friday and the Saturday. I have enjoyed everything about this year so far, especially riding to Mosspaul with my nephews Ben and Jack Chelley, that was special. I really do think this year’s Cornet has been a great choice. He has made a fantastic job. I have thought for a few years now that Ross Gibson would make a great Cornet and he is.”
However, one thing he did miss out on as a young callant was the chance to bag a Mosstroopers badge following his first ever ride to Mosspaul.
Telling the story with a smile on his face, John said: “I did the ride out in 1976 when I was 11, but I never ever got my badge. My father didn’t realise that you had to put your name down to get one. All the other juniors got badges but I didn’t.”
Adding her memories, John’s then Lass and now wife, Gaye, who was originally from Falkirk but came to the area when she was 5-years-old said: “For me the Colour Bussing is something I will never forget. I was extremely nervous and to be honest once the ceremony was over I was a bit relieved. I had also been worried about how folk would take to us because we both went to school in Jedburgh but everyone was fantastic. It really was a special time and so were the two years that followed, more relaxed and less demanding but really enjoyable.” And the couple, who have three daughters, Emma, who is 22, 19-year-old Katie and Libby, 12, both say they’ve been touched by the goodwill from well-wishers and invites they’ve received for various functions.
“It’s been good”, said John, who added: “A bit hectic again but we have been having a great time. I am looking forward to the Friday, the dinner and my part in the Cutting the Sod but I’ll also enjoy meeting and having a drink with folk you don’t see as often as you’d like to and some of them once yearly on Hawick Mair. That, to me, is always special.