THERE were excellent speakers and excellent entertainers. Excellent order and an excellent atmosphere. And as you may have already started to guess, the Ancient Order of Mosstroopers' annual dinner in the town hall on Friday night turned out to be an excellent occasion.
On the eve of the first of the Mosspaul rides-out, the club's 83rd dinner was indeed a massive success. Like the splendid meal provided by Brydon's Bakery and Restaurant, the event was a real appetising affair and this feast of entertainment left one and all truly satisfied. In truth, one couldn't have asked for more.
Chairman for the evening was club president Tom Holmes who excelled in all that he did from start to finish. Guest of honour was Cornet Ben Graham, while also on parade were an abundance of top-notch speakers and guests. And for good measure, the Fifes and Drums band starred as well with a melody of tunes during the early part of the evening.
In his opening address and prior to toasting the Cornet, president Holmes welcomed guests and members before congratulating this year's Right and Left-Hand Men Graham Robertson and Craig Reid for their inspired choice of Ben as Cornet. Mr Holmes also praised Ben for his choice of having Megan Gracie as his Lass and Kevin Crowford as his Acting-Father.
The president then went on to speak of Ben himself before concluding by talking about the following day's ride to Mosspaul, about which he said: "Tomorrow night just before eight o'clock when you hear the first beat of the big drum and you follow the Saxhorn Band down to the Tower Knowe, pinch yourself Cornet, for it is really happening."
The Cornet was then presented with a gift on behalf of the Mosstroopers Club after which he received a standing ovation.
In reply, Ben told a packed town hall how much he was loving being Cornet and how fortunate he had been in having had such good weather, as well as excellent turn-outs of riders and supporters.
The Cornet went on to add that he couldn't wait for the first Chase which was only six days away and for the Common-Riding weekend which was the big picture.
Ben also highlighted the great support he had received from some of his closest friends who were backing him all the way by following the Cornet for the first time, and how much this meant to him.
Apart from thanking the Mosstroopers Club for its gift, the Cornet also thanked the farmers for the use of their fields and land, as well as the police for their cooperation.
Hawick man Drew Penman, who now resides in Kelso, proposed the toast to 'The Mosstroopers'. Although a Mosstrooper, Drew freely admitted he was not the greatest of horsemen. His toast, however, flowed as fast and freely as a thoroughbred on the gallops. Besides being humorous, Drew's speech was also informative and thought-provoking.
Reflecting on Mosspaul, Drew said: "The Mosstroopers of the 20th and 21st centuries have an unbreakable link with the institution that is the Mosspaul Hotel. The site of Mosspaul has been occupied for centuries. In medieval times there was a monastery dedicated to St Paul, hence the name Mosspaul: the moss or ground of St Paul.
"At one time a coaching inn in the 1700s, it became a private house in the late 1800s before being destroyed by a fire. It lay derelict before being rebuilt in 1900 by Hawick men as a hotel. And the very first ride-out on horses was on May 23, 1903 – 105 years ago to the day."
"Few details are available," quipped Drew. "But Jackie Robertson tells me it was a fantastic day out, although Bob Muir did say that the ride was a little short for his taste!
"A century later we should be thankful that that band of Hawick men in 1900 had the foresight to rebuild the inn.
"Those Millennium men, just like Kevin Costner in 'Field of Dreams', may have heard voices in their head saying 'Build it and they will come.' Well gentlemen, as the townspeople of Hawick will testify in their thousands tomorrow, they will come."
Dr Doug Rolland proposed the toast to 'The Guests', and what a tonic he turned out to be. Very much an adopted Hawick man, Doug told some amusing stories as well as having a word to say about each guest. His toast was just what the doctor ordered.
Replying for the guests, former Langholm Cornet David McVittie had the hall bursting with laughter.
The big man from the Muckle Toon was a huge hit with his good-humoured tales, all in his best Langholm tongue.
Committee man Ian Scott proposed a toast to 'The Acting-Father' Kevin Crowford in a highly efficient and smooth manner.
In part of what was a very well received reply, Kevin said: "No amount of word could adequately describe the feeling and emotions that I am experiencing at this moment in time.
"The feeling of utter pride as I stand before you at the top table on the eve of this ancient ride to Mosspaul is a wonderful thing.
"It's hard to believe that tomorrow we head for Mosspaul and I know that this will be the start of the most exciting two weeks I will ever encounter."
Peter Marchbanks then gave his toast to 'The Right and Left-Hand Men', and Left-Hand man Craig Reid replied in fine style.
Vice-chairman Barry Wood brought the evening to a close with with a well-presented toast to 'The President' Tom Holmes, in which he stated that Tom was carrying out his duties as president with pride and passion and doing a wonderful job.
RETIRED high school music teacher Ian Seeley was named as the seventh recipient of the Mosstrooper of the Year award and received the coveted Guy Armstrong Shield from Mosstroopers president Tom Holmes.
Formerly of St Andrews, but now very much a Hawick man, Ian is a well known and highly respected figure in the town and very much involved in Common-Riding activities.
Apart from being pianist at countless events, Ian has also penned several Hawick songs.
Extremely proud to be a Mosstrooper, Ian was given a great reception when he collected his award.
THE NIGHT'S ENTERTAINERS
'Hail to the Banner'
'The Border Queen'
'Bonnie Banner Blue'
'The Mosstroopers' Song'
'The Queen o' the Auld Scottish Border'
'The Soft Lowland Tongue'
Ex-Cornet Ian Nichol
'Up Wi' Auld Hawick'
'And We Ride'
Ian Seeley and Drew Gibb