Exiles’ Reception

Kathleen, Helen and Anne Aitken
Kathleen, Helen and Anne Aitken

MUDGEERABA in Australia, Phoenixville in America, Nunavut in Canada, and Coventry in England – four places in different parts of the world which were all united last week.

For whether an ocean been crossed by a plane, or miles been clocked up on a motorway, the travellers had come. The destination – Hawick. The occasion – Hawick Common-Riding. Exiles from far and wide had returned home.

Bill and Mary Tyson

Bill and Mary Tyson

And this was seen to the full at a reception for exiled Teries at the town hall. A reception, during which exiles renewed friendships and bonded together, as well as being vastly entertained by a wealth of local talent in the form of music, song and verse.

The ever-popular Hawick Saxhorn Band got the proceedings off to a high-flying start with a medley of Hawick tunes, and from here, matters went on to reach even greater heights.

Provost Ron Smith officially launched the evening in giving a warm welcome to exiles and guests.

In what turned out to be a very well-researched speech, the provost firstly spoke of how the exiles would have their own memories of the grey auld toon, and of the changes they would see.

George and Sena Riddell with sister-in-law Mary Riddell

George and Sena Riddell with sister-in-law Mary Riddell

He then went on to talk about Hawick itself, stating that although the town had its problems, it still had a lot going for it. The redevelopment of Commercial Road, which included a new Sainsbury’s supermarket, and the fact that local knitwear firms had been advertising for workers and were wanting young people for jobs, being just some of the positive topics that were touched upon.

On concluding his address, Provost Smith introduced Cornet Michael Davidson, his Lass Kirsteen Hill, and their full Party to the hall, before handing the reins over to compere Oliver Angus.

And he couldn’t have handed them to a safer pair of hands, as Oliver, after singing the praises of the charming and beautiful Maids of Honour, who were in full attendance, helped make the night the big hit it was in his very own humorous, flowing style. First of all asking the exiles to stand up as he introduced them, before presenting the performing artistes.

And what wonderful entertainment these artistes provided. With Ann Witherington on piano, there was a sea of talent on view – namely Ian Landles, Evelyn Armstrong, Sally Thomas, Michael Aitken, Alan Brydon, Joyce Tinlin, Bernie Armstrong, Douglas Telfer, Graeme Tinlin, Iain H. Scott, Lois Niblo, Robert Scott, Joyce Tinlin and Ronnie Tait – all of whom simply swept the audience away.

Among the many exiles who had made the trip home was Mary Tyson (nee Tait), who was accompanied by her American husband Bill.

Reflecting on matters, Mary told the Hawick News: “I was brought up in the west end of Hawick and went to Buccleuch Primary School and Hawick High.

“My first job was in the office in John Laing’s, but in 1960 I went off to Bermuda to work in a law office. I then went on to Aden where I met my husband-to-be Bill, and I came back to get married in the Old Parish Church in 1969.

“We’ve returned to Hawick several times since, and Bill loves the town as much as I do, and knows the Common-Riding songs well.

“There is a big family of Taits in Hawick and it’s always great to see them and get together. It’s great to come back for the Common-Riding as well and come to things like the exiles’ reception. It’s a very special night and it brings a tear to my eye.”

Attending the reception from Australia was Helen Aitken and her daughters Anne and Kathleen.

Along with her late husband George, who was Cornet in 1951, Helen, Anne and Kathleen emigrated to Australia in 1966.

They have come back to Hawick on numerous occasions since, but this time around it was a special homecoming as Helen had been the Cornet’s Lass of 60 years ago.

Recalling this period, she said: “I remember every minute of that Common-Riding. It was a wonderful honour to be Cornet’s Lass, and George was very proud and greatly honoured to be Cornet. Memories of that Common-Riding will never leave.

“My daughters and myself love coming home to Hawick, but it has meant even more to us this year.”

Also back to Teridom from Australia was Brian Wilson, who was accompanied by his daughter Kate.

Brian left Hawick for a new life down under in 1969 and told us: “I have two sisters, Helen and Marion, in Hawick, and it’s great to come back and visit them.

“Hawick has changed a lot since I left all those years ago, but I get a lot of comfort in seeing the buildings on the High Street as they have maintained their character.

“The main highlight of my visit so far was taking in The Big Sing at Mansfield Park, as it was absolutely marvellous.”

George Riddell and his wife Sena have also made the trip back to their home town from Australia, and George commented: “I worked in Braemar before I left for Australia in 1972. It was a real busy mill and it’s hard to take in that there’s no such place now. Hawick has changed a lot, but the people haven’t, they are still as friendly as ever. Sena and I both love coming back to meet folk and family, especially at the Common-Riding.”

During the evening, community councillors John Hope and Lorraine Wilson presented the Cornet and his Lass with gifts.

And following an excellent vote of thanks from Councillor Stuart Marshall, the evening was brought to a close with Teribus by the The Big Four.