IF THE cornerstones of Hawick society are properly set, properly bedded and properly maintained – then the town, its structure and its future are secure.
This was the message at the Callants Club annual dinner in the Mansfield Park function suite last Friday night when around 200 members and guests attended.
Proposing a thought-provoking toast to Oor Ain Auld Toon, Future Hawick chairman Derick Tait said the town had four cornerstones: industry, sport, tradition and history, and sense of community.
“Our industry may not be what it was in the boom time of the fifties and sixties when our town was the biggest dollar-earning town in the United Kingdom – but what Hawick still has is a skilled workforce which produces a quality product, a skilled workforce which takes pride in its product, and a skilled workforce which shows great loyalty,” he said.
“But what would give Hawick’s industrial arm greater strength would be the coming together of local manufacturers, our engineers, our builders and joiners, and our shopkeepers to form a strong Hawick business lobby . . . Such a group would have a strong voice, it would be listened to and I am sure it would be a powerful tool to help our councillors further the aims and ambitions of the much-maligned Hawick Development Group.”
Mr Tait said the sporting cornerstone had been a bit wobbly of late but that he was confident fortunes were being restored through investment in youngsters; and alluding to the town’s history and tradition, he said it was one of the more secure cornerstones and asserted that strong family ties and bonds had ensured Hawick‘s history and traditions were maintained and passed down from generation to generation, helping to shape the town today.
The fourth conerstone, the sense of community, was an embodiment of the other three and perhaps the strongest, continued Mr Tait, who also highlighted the extent to which people became involved in activities and the myriad of clubs, societies and organisations open to townsfolk.
“As for identifying with the town, we unite to take great pride in our history, we unite to take great pride in our sporting achievements, and we unite to take great pride in our history and traditions. Proudly we can glance at the record before us in the certain knowledge that our four cornerstones are secure,” added Mr Tait.
In reply, Provost Ron Smith delivered his ‘State of the Nation’ speech, in which he covered three topics: Crime, local politics and the business economy.
He began by expressing his shock at several criminal acts that had taken place over the last 12 months, including two murders and the mugging of an elderly lady. “Our town was shown in an unusually bad light,” said Mr Smith. “But perhaps we should take comfort from the high-profile reporting of these incidents. They made news because they are uncommon in Hawick.”
On the political front, the provost shone the spotlight on townsfolk for playing their part in saving the closure-threatened leisure centre, and also praised his fellow councillors for their efforts in safeguarding the town’s common good fund.“It is possible to change things if we all pull together,” he said.
Focusing on the business economy, Mr Smith was heartened that several mills were doing well, and noted advertistments for knitwear workers in the local press.
He touched on Lockie’s shop and plans for a similar operation at Johnstons, both of which were reliant on tourists who “must be attracted to the town”. In this respect, Mr Smith thanked the Welcome Hosts for their “tremendous service”.
Looking to the future, the provost said he had faith that the local business economy would “move forward positively, carried on by individuals who have the best interests of the town at heart”.
Mr Smith then revealed the identity of this year’s chief guest at the Common-Riding – Douglas Scott, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of British Columbia.
The Callants’ principal guest was Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore MP, who said there had been much talk over the last decade or so about globalisation, but he didn’t think this was news to Hawick.
“Globalisation, in earlier phases, created the wealth of the town. It’s created its challenges, too, but still offers great opportunities for the great industries of the town.Lambswool and cashmere exported the world over even to this day.
“I was looking back at the history the club produced just a few years ago, and it wasn’t just the ‘Banana War’ that was an issue for international trade wars, but going back to the late 19th century and mid-20th century, the Americans always seemed to have it in for us. But we’ve survived and the industry has adapted.”
He went on: “There have been tough times, but what always impresses me about the textile trade, and all the supporting sectors around it , is the optimism, the sheer bloody determination to succeed, to make things work. I think that’s as true today as it’s ever been.”
Ex-Acting Father, Malcolm Grant, proposed the toast to Our Common-Riding and Our Cornets, and talked with great passion of the “precious blue and gold strands of each Common-Riding and its Cornets which are inextricably woven into the tapestry of our lives”.
He went on: “With all that life throws at you, the Common-Riding has the ability to trigger the memory and tug at the heart strings, stripping away the more mundane concerns which tend to bog us down, putting what is important in clear perspective: your life, your family, and your heritage.
“The Common-Riding for those outside of Hawick is an occasion to wonder at, and as welcome guests, it’s a weekend to enjoy,” added Mr Grant. “However, for Teries it’s far more than that. It’s an integral part of who we are and where we come from, to be guarded proudly deep within our hearts.”
Replying, Cornet Michael Davidson said Common-Riding 2011 was without doubt the highlight of his life and an experience which would never be equalled. “It’s the dream of many, but the privilege of few,” he said.
“To carry out the duties of Hawick Cornet with the support of the townsfolk, to take charge of the town’s most prized possession, the Banner Blue, was a very humbling and exciting experience.
“What we have in this town is simply the best and we must ensure that it remains that way. And we must continuously celebrate and commemorate our customs and traditions, keeping them safe from any unwelcome interference.”
Other toasts were: Border Art and Literature, Dr Doug Rolland; and The Chairman, Dr Charlie Oliver.
Under the genial chairmanship of Gerald Adams the company enjoyed a splendid evening, with Debbie Brown and her staff providing an excellent meal. The Rev. Lindsay Thompson said Grace.
And Bobby Froud’s bar team kept everyone suitably refreshed throughout the night.
Those who entertained the company with song or recitation were: Bert Armstrong, Davie Chapman, Doug Telfer, David Nuttall, Ronnie Nichol, Iain Scott, Kenny McCartney, Gordon Jackson, Ian Landles, Bernie Armstrong and Ian Nichol. The pianist was Ian Seeley.
The memorable evening concluded with a spirited rendering of Teribus, led by ex-Cornet Philip Murray and ‘Cornets up.’