The phrase that the sun shines on the righteous was never more true than last Friday when Hawick’s precious celebrations basked in soaring temperatures, and unprecedented glory.
The quincentenary anniversary of the battle of Hornshole was always going to be special, in the place to which no other ‘can wi’ oor toon compare’. However, as last Friday’s cherished customs and ceremonies were played out under blue skies, and with record-breaking crowds and supporters turning out to cheer on an exemplerary Cornet and Big Eight, it seemed like God himself was also a Teri.
When Cornet Ross Gibson led the phenomenal sight of more than 400 horses out behind the motorcade and Drums and Fifes in glorious sunshine at 8.45am, townsfolk knew that this year’s hugely anticipated event was off to momentous start. And the success of the day just kept soaring, along with the mercury, as St Leonard’s witnessed one of the most special and packed Huts in its history, and thousands of Teries headed for the Wester Heather. People had been arriving to get their ‘spot’ since 6.30am, and for the first time in decades, cars were parked on the main hill.
And for a thrilled Cornet, it was all more than a dream come true. “Someone was definitely looking after us on Friday after the rain we had had. I was so chuffed when I opened the curtains on Friday morning.”
And alluding to leading the record-breaking number of riders, which exceeded all expectations, he added: “I never realised how many there were until we made our way round by Williestruther, and the horses were still coming out the field at St Leonards, it was amazing to see. And to be at the front was just fantastic.”
And it was also a day in which the highlights kept coming for worthy Acting Father Alan Gray, who says receiving the Flag at the top of the Nipknowes had fulfilled his “ambition and dream”. He added: “The amount of people round the town, the noise when we walked in the Hut and the sheer emotion when Henry Douglas sung, are things I will never forget.”
But Common-Riding fever reached its peak and every Teri felt complete, when the hallowed banner and the Cornet finally arrived on a sun-splashed Moor, and huge crowds packed around the railings gave them a thunderous welcome.
The man of the moment, whose joy was plain to see, commented: “I couldn’t believe how big the crowds were, and coming round the bottom bend onto the straight and seeing everyone, is something I will always remember.”
And equally ecstatic was Fither Gray who added: “The crowds that watched us go round the racecourse, the amount of people on the Mair, the 400 and more horses, it was all amazing.”
And even for Left-Hand Man Ross Nichol, arriving to the unique atmosphere and rows of cars and gazebos, was a sight that took his breath away. The departing Principal added: “The scenes on the Mair were unbelievable.”
Common-Riding Committee chairman Stuart Marshall added: “I will never forget the look on the Cornet’s face as he galloped up the Nipknowes, you knew then what it all meant to him. Along with his lovely Lass and Acting Mother and Fither, the Big Four were magnificent.”
This was echoed by Cornet’s Lass Michelle Paxton, who relished every second, stating: “It was a special moment to see Ross with the Flag, knowing how much it meant to him, I was so happy fo him.”
Indeed, summing up a day which was packed full of remarkable sights and emotions, Acting Mother Jane Gray added: “In the car when I turned round I saw a beautiful sight – blue skies, the Cornet, Alan, the Right and Left, along with the Flag, together with over 400 horses behind them; I will never forget it.”