Hawick Cornet Ross Gibson says it felt like time was standing still when he was waiting for the Halberdier to knock on his door on Wednesday night.
As the air around Weensland filled with the first strains of the beloved Drums and Fifes, excited bairns, and chatter, inside 6 Heronhill Bank, a packed house anxiously awaited the arrival of the lifechanging letter from the Provost.
And after a lifetime of wishing he could be the Hawick Cornet, when 24-year old Ross was finally able to open the door and accept the official invitation to become this year’s incumbent, his wait was finally over.
He told the Hawick News: “It felt like it was a really long wait once everyone was in the house. It felt like it was taking forever for the Halberdier to reach my door, and at that point I was nervous.”
But he added: “Becoming Cornet is something I have always wanted to do, so I am over the moon.”
And the inclement weather did nothing to dampen the spirits outside his front door, with Cornet Gibson adding: “I couldn’t believe the amount of people outside my house, it was brilliant so many people turned out.”
Ross, an electrician with Scottish Borders Housing Association (SBHA), has been an avid follower of the Common-Riding since he first saddled up behind Cornet Greg McLeod in 2003, and in the same year gained his Mosstroopers badge. His mount for this year is his own horse George, a 13-year-old 16.2hh chesnut gelding.
The former Trinity and Hawick High School pupil is also passionate about rugby, having turned out for the PSA, YM and Hawick. And he also represented the Borders U16s, U17s and U18s and Scotland U17s and U18s.
Ross is the only son of Andrew and Rhona Gibson, and has a sister Laura, 21. And both he and his family have wished everyone a tremendous Common-Riding, Ross stating that he is honoured to follow the long line of Cornets before him.
By his side throughout proceedings will be his Lass Michelle Paxton, who lives in Lothian Street. And the 28-year old is more than qualifed for the role, as the eldest daughter of Graeme and Sandra Paxton, who were Acting Father and Mother to Alan Wear and Julie Hodgins in 1996. Even university exams for the now qualified dental hygienist therapist couldn’t stop Michelle, a former Trinity pupil, from attending the celebrations last year. Hard-working Michelle qualified with a BSc, with Distinction, in Oral Health Science and now works for the NHS alongside her sister Becky, a dental nurse, at Hawick Dental Centre. She also works at weekends as a barmaid in Coopers Bar, and among her hobbies are walking her dog Noel and going to Hibernian games.
Michelle is honoured to be the Cornet’s Lass and hopes she will make her family and friends proud. And she cannot wait to see Ross carry the Banner Blue.
Such excitement is also filling the Liddesdale Road household of Alan and Jane Gray, this year’s proud Acting Father and Mother. The pair have been married for 13 years and have three children, Rebecca, 10, Carly, 8, and Oliver, 3, who are all also Common-Riding-daft and equally thrilled about this special year. Alan, a clerk of works with SBHA and retained firefighter, told the Hawick News: “No words can describe how I feel to have been chosen as the Acting Father, it is a dream come true and we are absolutely delighted.”
The Acting Father was born in Hawick in 1969 and attended Wilton School and Hawick High School. He first followed Cornet David Brown in 1979, gaining his Mosstroopers badge the same year, and has been a keen supporter ever since.
Alan had a long career in rugby that included playing for the PSA, Trades and Hawick, and was selected for Scotland U18s and U19s. He was involved in league and cup-winning sides for Hawick, and was captain on the sevens circuit. Alan also rode in the 1996 Tradesmen’s Handicap.
Acting Mother Jane is immensely proud to be able to fill such special shoes. The Borders College lecturer, who qualified as a beauty therapist and owned a salon, before gaining a Bachelor of Arts degree, is also a busy mum and loves the Common-Riding, and says she is delighted to have been chosen to be part of Ross and Michelle’s special year.
All of the Big Eight are poised to play their role to help ensure this year is the best of a’, and Cornet Gibson summed up the sentiments of each by adding: “I can’t wait for it all to start.”