“Can I welcome you all aboard the Hawick Common-Riding rollercoaster. I urge you all to have the time of your life. It’ll be exciting, over in a flash and it’ll leave you feeling sick when it’s all by.”
This was Cornet Michael Davidson’s advice to the hundreds of men who had packed into St Leonards Hut and for the many more townsfolk who had gathered outside.
And it was clear from his face that he had already strapped himself in and was approaching the summit in eager anticipation of an epic journey, where his emotions would loop-the-loop and he would head from one dizzy high to the next.
To get his hands on the Banner Blue, Cornet Davidson has waited six weeks’ worth of smokers, dinners and ride-outs; or since his unofficial appointment back in January; possibly even further back when he first followed behind Rory Culton in 1993; or simply since the day the 25-year-old was born.
At 6am last Thursday, that wait was finally over, when Master of Ceremonies Ex-Cornet John Hope handed him the unbussed colour at the Towerknowe.
And it was a moment he admitted he would cherish forever.
Struggling to speak after another rousing reception as the roars greeted his arrival to the second of three visits to the Hut, he said: “In those two seconds my lifetime’s ambition was fulfilled.
“Hundreds of people dream about what I’m doing, but not many get the chance to do it.
“The old saying is definitely true, ‘it’s better felt than telt’.
“When I glanced up at the Banner, my thoughts were firmly focused on the pride I’ve been given, to honour the deeds of our gallant predecessors at Hornshole in 1514.
“To be heading up the Nipknowes this morning with the Banner Blue cracking in the breeze, hearing the townsfolk cheering who had gathered on the Vertish was simply amazing.
“I was thinking to myself, it simply doesn’t get any better than this. But I’ve got a funny feeling over the next couple of days it probably will.”
The large queue for the Hut began to form not long after Thursday was born and by the time daylight arrived it was snaked right down towards the roadside.
The scene was set to welcome another Cornet. The icy chill in the air was replaced by a red-hot reception and the masses weren’t disappointed by the occasion.
As Ex-Acting Father Kenny McCartney quite rightly pointed out in his toast to ‘The Cornet’: “You are the right man, in the right place at the right time.”
He added: “We have a Cornet to be proud of. A Cornet fulfilling his ambitions. A Cornet who the townsfolk of Hawick have taken to their hearts.”
It was 11 years since Mr McCartney sat at that top table experiencing the feelings this year’s Acting Father, Grahame Nichol was enjoying.
And giving his toast to ‘The Acting Father’, Ex-Cornet Craig Niblo, who was best man at Grahame and wife Wendy’s wedding, said there was nobody better to take on the role.
“I can honestly say, I have still to see a better man on a young horse. Your knowledge and patience are second to none and these qualities you have shown in your performance over the past few weeks,” he said.
“When our Cornet handed you our ancient Banner this morning at the crossroads it was plain to see in your face that you were the proudest man in Hawick.”
He wasn’t exaggerating. Another whose childhood dreams were coming true, Grahame said: “I knew this morning I wasn’t the Cornet, but when my Cornet handed me our ancient Banner, I most certainly knew that I was the Fither and I have to tell you, it’s a most glorious feeling.
“When that very special moment took place at the crossroads all my boyhood feelings returned; excitement, anticipation and the all too familiar feeling of butterflies in your belly.
“Only natural feelings towards something you hold so very dear to your heart.”
With the sounds of singers Michael Aitken, Liam Berridge, Ian Nichol, Henry Douglas, Bernie Armstrong, Viv Sharp and Ronnie Tait – and Ian Landles on piano – resonating in the morning breeze, and the rum and milk flowing freely courtesy of the staff from the Office Bar, it was over to chairman John Hope to toast ‘Safe In’.
And as Cornet Davidson, his Right and Left Greg Easton and Jamie Richardson and Acting Father Grahame embarked on their memorable journey it was clear that everyone was well set for another Common-Riding to remember.