THE newest of the town’s Common-Riding gatherings proved no amateur last Friday when 115 of Hawick’s Bright-Eyed Daughters enjoyed a night of speech, song and celebration.
Since being formed in 2008 the association has gone from strength to strength, and as Mansfield Park clubrooms filled with members of all ages and all ilks, it seemed founders Judith Murray and Lesley Fraser may join a long list of Teries responsible for the town’s many cherished clubs.
With the second annual dinner effortlessly chaired by fellow member and well-respected Common-Riding singer Joyce Tinlin, and Cornet’s Lass, her Right and Left, and Acting Mother proud special guests, it certainly proved a recipe for success. And after an excellent meal served by Debbie Brown, the packed room was treated to a memorable toast by worthy guest speaker, Madge Elliot MBE.
“It’s questionable if I am right standing here, talking to an audience of Hawick’s bright-eyed daughters, a phrase that suggests youth, beauty, and the sheer joy of living”, she began. “But I do have a story to tell, a story I am willing to share if you are willing to listen.”
And there was no doubt that a silent room was all ears, as they listened to tales of the town, seen through the eyes of one of the most proud and inspiring Bright-Eyed Daughters of them all. It was a story which began in June 1928, when Madge was born in Drumlanrig Square. And giving an insight into a very different era, Madge spoke of flitting house in a horse and cart, of mill ‘shut-oots’ in the 30s, when money was short and her family’s staple diet of poached rabbitand salmon, and when there were only two shops in Drumlanrig Place. She said: “Round the corner and up the Loan we had Lizzie Cavers’ chip shop. If any home in the west end run out of milk, a visit was paid to Granny Cavers with your jug and she gave you a measure from the big urn, costing tuppence.”
Having never forgotten families, names and places, Madge also spoke of the Common-Riding, and before the outbreak of war when she counted 24 horses returning from Mosspaul, then describing war-time when thousands of troops were billeted to the town. She added: “No street lights, ‘ee juist boogled’ until your eyes adjusted. And the girls in Hawick had ‘a ball’ – dances galore with no shortage of partners.”
Madge also shared a little known fact that in 1946 a copy of the Hawick Flag was made in Pringle’s wareroom and sent to the KOSBs serving in Europe – which now hangs in St Mary’s church, embroidered with all the places they fought their way through. And after alluding to the town’s famous knitwear industry and her pride in its reputation, Madge said: “I’ve lived a long life amongst friendly folk in this wee toon.”
Highlighting the many hills Hawick is “cuddled” by, she continued: “What is life if full of care, you have no time to stand and stare.” And reaching the end of a speech which had the company enthralled and laughing, there were countless tears in the eyes as 82-year old Madge passionately asserted: “My goodness we have been anointed. Look, think and appreciate what we have, in and aroond Oor Ain Auld Toon.”
Throughout the evening, soloists Debbie Lyons and Caroline Wilkinson, accompanied by Rosalyn Walker, ensured Common-Riding spirits remained high, while Lesley Fraser impressed with a word-perfect recital of Hawick Lasses 1514.
After the presentation of specially-embroidered rugs for the female principals at The Hut, donated by Teviot Equine Design, Cornet’s Lass Kirsteen Hill thanked the committee for their hard work in organising a “memorable” night. Acting Mother Wendy Nichol also congratulated the association on its “sterling work” involving the Common-Riding and other projects.
And as the well-organised and hugely successful evening came to an end, there was no doubt eyes were shining that little bit brighter.