From the rivers Teviot and Slitrig to the Vertish Hill and 1514 monument, Hawick has many long-standing attributes, and also just as synonymous with the town is Rob Brydon, the Hawick cornet of 50 years ago.
A man who is as much part of Hawick life and cemented in the town’s ways and history, as the categories already mentioned.
Immensely proud to be a Teri and immensely proud to have been a Cornet, Rob is indeed what Hawick is all about.
The ‘News’ has taken a trip with him back to the Common-Riding of half-a-century ago when he wore the green jacket and carried the Banner Blue.
And it was a journey that brought back a flood of memories, golden moments and a barrow load of laughs, as old times were rekindled.
Sparking off his tales, Rob said: “I was born with Common-Riding blood in me. My father Bill was Cornet in 1935 and my mother Jean was his Lass. As a young boy I dreamed of being a Cornet and I’m very fortunate that this dream came true.
“The first time I followed the Cornet on horseback was in 1953 when Jimmy Turnbull was the Cornet. I was 15 and had just left the school to start work as an apprentice joiner in the family joinery business in Drumlanrig Square. It was a big thing for me to follow the Cornet and I remember how thrilled I was.”
This was to be the beginning of many years in the saddle for Rob. Prior to being elected Cornet, he rode regularly. Rob, however, missed out on two years of the Common-Riding due to his National Service with the KOSB battalion.
On coming out of the army, he made a return to the Common-Riding scene in 1963. The Cornet being John Hope.
A year later Rob was the Cornet.
Reflecting on how it all began for him on his Picking Night, Rob said: “The build-up to waiting for that special knock on the door was immense. I knew what was coming but it still put the fear of god into me.
“However, when the knock came and Halberdier Bill Allan was outside to hand me a letter of notification from the Provost Council inviting me to be the Hawick Cornet, everything changed. Next thing I knew I was outside my house in Drumlanrig Square being cheered by what seemed like hundreds of bairns. And that was it, I knew I really was the Hawick Cornet.”
Rob had Brian Patterson and John Hope as his Right and Left-Hand men, Sheila Deans as his Lass, and Addie and Jessie Inglis as his Acting Father and Mother.
“I was very fortunate to have the right people around me,” said Rob. “Brian and John were just brilliant and gave me a lot of help and advice. Sheila, my Lass, was just marvellous as she gave great support as well as doing her Lass duties with great charm. And I couldn’t have asked for a better Acting Father and Mother than Addie and Jessie.”
However, Rob revealed that on the first ride-out to Bonchester his Acting Father did a brief vanishing act.
“We had just left the Backdamgate and were turning into the High Street when someone shouted that we had lost the Acting Father. I thought that was impossible as only a minute earlier Addie had been just behind me. However, it was right enough, Addie had disappeared. His horse had bolted up the arcade next to the Odeon Cinema and wouldn’t come out. After a bit of manoeuvering, Addie managed to get the horse on the move and he made it to Bonchester and back.”
The ride-outs were all blessed with good weather until the last ride to Denholm. Explaining matters, Rob said: “Just as we were crossing the Station Road bridge the rain suddenly came on and there was thunder and lightning as well. Making matters worse was there was a train on the Station rail bridge hooting away. It was sheer bedlam. Horses began to run up and down Commercial Road as well as Mansfield Road. You couldn’t have scripted it. It was just madness. Order was eventually restored though when the storm calmed down.”
Freak weather conditions also caused havoc on the Thursday night of the Common-Riding. “There was absolutely torrential rain as the Cornet’s walk round the town was starting after the tying of the ribbons on the Horse monument,” recalled Rob.
“Brian, John and myself managed to get two umbrellas between us but this was not much good as we were still getting soaked. A woman in the crowd then gave me a brolly and I thought this was great, an umbrella all to myself. When I put it up, though, it had a great big hole in it and I ended up getting even wetter than the other two and my green jacket was really drenched. I needed it for the Friday, so I took it to Martins the Bakers to hang it beside the ovens to dry. It got dried but I don’t think it was ever the same size again!”
In his reign as Cornet, Rob had countless memorable moments. The ride-outs, the visit to the schools to ask if the children could have time off for the Common- Riding, the Huts, the Colour-Bussing, the two days at the Mair, and much more. Rob remembers all this with great affection.
There is something etched in his memory more than anything else, though. Something very special, of which he said: “Carrying the Flag, especially for the first time at the Thursday Morning Chase is the greatest feeling in the world. There is just you, the horse and the Flag. It’s what everything is about as it means such a lot. Words cannot really describe the feeling of it all and it’s something I will never forget.”
Concluding his jaunt down memory lane, Rob added: “When I was the Cornet, Hawick had a railway station, there were three hotels on the High Street, as well as three gents’ tailor shops. There were also two cinemas in the town and the mills were busy. A lot of this has now all gone.
“But, although my Right-Hand Man and great friend John Hope reckons I have been reincarnated, I am still here. What’s more I am a Golden Jubilee Cornet. I can’t really believe this and it’s something that never entered my head when I was Cornet 50 years ago.
“I’ve had a great time in the build up to this Common-Riding as I’ve been invited to many functions. Folk keep coming up to me, shaking my hand, patting me on the back and I really appreciate this. I count myself fortunate to be a Hawick man and even more fortunate to have had the privilege of being a Cornet as it meant a great deal to me. It doesn’t seem like 50 years ago, though.”
Fifty years it may be Rob but the memories live on.