The eagerly anticipated Colour-Bussing proved once again exactly why tickets for the last Thursday’s event are like gold dust, as those Teries lucky enough to have a seat enjoyed a memorable start to the Common-Riding.
With a full-to-bursting town hall boasting a sea of colour, the crowd, all dressed in their best, filled the venue with excited chatter, while the stage was packed with numerous special guests and dignitaries, and songs rang out from the lads’ gallery.
The scene was certainly set for the timeless ceremony which acts as a vital and cherished start to the Common-Riding, and as townsfolk were upstanding to receive Provost Stuart Marshall and the Bailies, dressed in their robes behind the Drums and Fifes, there was no denying the special and unique atmosphere had gripped the audience.
The spotlight then fell on Cornet’s Lass Lois McCredie when she appeared at the back of the hall with the unbussed Flag resting on her shoulder, looking stunning in a cobalt blue dress and hat. All eyes were on the dignified Lass, followed by the immaculately dressed Right and Left and Maids of Honour. And with Acting Mother Lynne Gilchrist, whose dark blue dress also wowed, looking on from the front row of the stage, the Cornet’s Lass climbed the stairs to take her place in local history books.
After deftly tying the blue and gold ribbons onto the staff, the elegant Lass confidently informed the provost in time-honoured fashion that the ancient Banner was “well and truly bussed”.
Lois told the Hawick News afterwards: “My heart was racing before I walked up the stairs into the hall but it went as well as I had hoped. I was felt really proud.”
Indeed pride was the main emotion which filled the stage as Cornet Gregor Hepburn received his crimson sash of office, and appearing as though he felt the full weight of the honour being bestowed upon him, the 23-year-old pledged to return the Flag “unsullied and unstained” to three loud cheers.
And the popular provost, after welcoming fellow Teries, honoured guests, exiles back among their “ain folk” and the audiences both outside and in the Tower Mill auditorium, added: “It is a great honour for me to be standing before you all this evening for a second term, and I sincerely hope I can repay the confidence placed upon me.”
Mr Marshall then paid his respects to those lost to the Common-Riding in the past year, namely Greta Reid who was Cornet’s Lass to Cornet Charlie Bell in 1946; Myra McLeod who was Cornet’s Lass in 1958 to Cornet Joe Nuttall, and former Callants Club president David Nuttall. And the hall was saddened to learn that only that day, former Halberdier Jim Anderson, more commonly known as ‘Dimmer’, had also passed away.
Official song-singer Michael Aitken then took to the floor to get the next stage of proceedings underway with a rousing Up Wi the Banner, before Joyce Tinlin’s The Fairest Spot o’ a’ underlined why the Colour-Bussing is so special.
The stage then belonged to the chief guest, Trinity Minister, Rev. Michael Scouler, a former army chaplain who received an MBE for his work during a deployment to Lockerbie in the aftermath of the air disaster.
And the popular minister spoke of the “huge honour” it was for himself, his family and Trinity church to be standing there as the Common-Riding chief guest, before delivering an extremely intelligent and thought-provoking speech which centred around ‘spirit’, what it means in Hawick and how it manifests itself in Teries and in the welcome he has felt.
And after describing Hawick’s resilience in the face of adversity and how his impressions of the town changed upon arrival five years ago, he stated: “You folk, in some cases might not regard yourselves as “spiritual” people. But you are. Of course you came to witness a lovely dignified ritual – but even more than that, you came to make a connection with others. To be a part of a community; to sit in solidarity and remind yourself of who you are, what you are. And you do that with others.”
The Minister, who toured in Belize and the First Gulf War, went on to give examples of spirit in sport and war, as well as in Hawick’s singers and historians. He added: “It takes something special to get men to sing – outside of football grounds. Hawick has men singing all the time. I’ve heard opinions about their talent, but never about the passion, the spirit they bring.”
And as a proud adopted Teri, Rev. Scouler, whose wife Katherine teaches at the high school, stated that he was proof that Hawick’s spirit binds people together, stating: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
He concluded: “I stand before you tonight humbly, but as living proof of the power of the spirit; a stranger whose hand has been well and truly clasped, and a sceptic who was given the breath of faith.”
And such faith was loudly applauded by an appreciative audience who had witnessed a passionate speech.
The spirit of the Common-Riding was definitely to the fore when Alan Brydon delivered his hugely popular modern anthem, The Bonnie Banner Blue, the audience keenly joining in. Then Golden Jubilee Cornet Robert Pringle expressed his delight at being presented with a “wonderful” walking stick to mark his special 50th year. Next to entertain were Joyce Tinlin and Debbie Lyons who performed a seamless duet of Auld Hawick My Dreams, before one of Hawick’s “most popular sons”, Ex-Cornet Ian Nichol, as described by the provost, was in fine voice with Up wi Auld Hawick, with pianist Ann Witherington continuing a note-perfect evening.
Provost Marshall read cards of good wishes from Wallis Gracie and Andrew McLean in Australia, Chay Blyth, the 25-year Jethart Callant Rory Stewart and former Hawick Provost J. R. Scott from Orkney. Then Iain ‘High Tower’ Scott, who dedicates most nights to concerts at this time of year, ensured the blue and gold touch paper was well and truly alight with the much-loved Hawick.
And by the time Michael Aitken led the hall in Teribus, it was clear that spirits were sky-high and the Nicht Afore the Morn had firmly taken hold. Provost Marshall commented: “The entire evening was a great success and this was mainly down to a great chief guest and top-drawer entertainers – you couldn’t help but feel proud to belong to Hawick.”