Chuck’s unbridled love for all things Common-Riding

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MANY Common-Ridings ago, a young boy sat on a dyke in the Rosebank Haggis Ha’ area of Hawick. He cheered on the passing Cornet as well as the calvalcade of horsemen, and had thoughts that perhaps one day he might become a Cornet and carry the Flag that means so much to the town. Little did Charles Noel Whillans know that these thoughts were one day to become a reality.

For that young boy of yesteryear was to be a Cornet, a Silver Jubilee Cornet, and Golden Jubilee Cornet, and now a Cornet celebrating his 65th anniversary.

He is, of course, better known as Chuck Whillans, a name that has been etched in Hawick life in many ways.

From the Common-Riding scene to the business world, to strong family ties to rugby circles, Chuck as made his mark on the grey auld toon.

However, his involvement in the Common-Riding is legendary, and what Chuck doesn’t know about this historical part of Hawick life isn’t worth knowing.

Lookin back to his first thoughts on the Common-Riding as a youngster, Chuck told the Hawick News: “Since I was a laddie I have always loved the Common-Riding, and horses.

“My mother’s cousin, Tom Darling, was Cornet in 1900, and I always wanted to be Cornet.

“I followed the Cornet for the first time in 1938 when John Martin was Cornet, and it cost me two pounds, ten shillings for a horse called Tommy for the six weeks of the Common-Riding.

“That was a lot of money, and the thing was I didn’t have much. But it was money well spent.”

In 1948, Chuck’s dream being Cornet came true, and recalling his, he said: “I was absolutely thrilled when asked to be Cornet. Really, it’s difficult to put into words how I felt.

“Bert Scott and Charlie Bell were my Right and Left-Hand Men. They were both close friends of mine and I got marvellous support from them.

“My Acting Father was George Peden, the butcher. He was much more than an Acting Father, though, and was more like a real father.

“He took me under his wing and treated me as if I was his own son. I’ll never forget what George did for me. He was a great man.”

Chuck continued: “I loved every minute of being Cornet and had an absolutely fantastic time.

“Everything went so quickly, though, but I have plenty of memories.

“There was even grand weather for the Mair. You wouldn’t have thought this possible, though, as when I was tying the ribbons on after the Colour-Bussing on the Thursday night, it was freezing cold and hailstones began to fall.

“But on the Friday morning at the riding of the marches the sun came out, and it remained out for the rest of the Common-Riding.”

Chuck has loads of grand tales of his Common-Riding. Tales of a period of his life that will always remain with him.

Recalling one light-hearted story, Chuck said with a smile: “I went to Drumlanrig school as a boy, and had a teacher called Miss Little, who I thought was lovely.

“While going round the schools as Cornet on the Thursday morning of Common-Riding week, I went back to Drumlanrig, and met Miss Little, who gave me a welcoming kiss. I was thrilled because I never ever thought I would get a kiss from Miss Little.”

A Hawick man through and through, Chuck, who rode the marches along with other stalwarts during the Second World War when there were no official ride-outs, has been greatly involved in the Common-Riding since being Cornet.

He was Common-Riding master of ceremonies for many years, and has been president of both the Mosstroopers and Callants Clubs.

In 1967, he became Acting Father. His Cornet, George Peden, the son of George Peden senior, Chuck’s Acting Father.

Commenting on this, Chuck said: “It was a great honour to be an Acting Father. And the fact that I was Acting Father to young George Peden made it even more special.

“It’s quite amazing that I was Acting Father to the son of whom had been my Acting Father. Sometimes things are just meant to be.”

Apart from being an Acting Father, Chuck has been the actual father of a Cornet.

For in 1985 his son Ian wore the green jacket and carried the Banner Blue.

This was something that thrilled Chuck no end.

“It gave me a lot of pride having a son for Cornet, and Ian did me proud.

“I’m very proud of my other sons Alister and Donald as well, as they have shared by great passion for the Common-Riding, and my passion for horses.

“Nowadays, I have grandchildren involved in the Common-Riding, and that gives me a lot of pleasure.”

Another member of the Whillans family who Chuck holds in high regard to say the least is his wife Nan.

“Sheila MacDonald was my Cornet’s Lass but we were never married.

“Nan, however, has been involved with me in many Common-Ridings and I have had great support from her throughout the years. In fact, Nan has been just brilliant and I have a grand wife.”

Summing up a lifetime on the Common-Riding scene, Chuck said: “I love the Common-Riding and what it stands for.

“Through the Common-Riding I have came across some lovely people, made a lot of very good friends, and had some wonderful times. Times I wouldn’t change for the world.”

Chuck is a real Hawick man, and a Common-Riding man. Indeed, he is Hawick’s Mr Common-Riding.



6am: Muster in Backdamgate and ride by Towerdykeside to St Leonards.

8.15am: Remount and proceed to racecourse, then home by Crumhaughhill.

9am: Marshal at top of Loan, then ride by way of High Street and Wilton to dismiss at town hall.

6pm:Halberdiers and the Drum and Fife band set off from Kirk Wynd to signal the start of the Common-Riding.

7pm: Colour Bussing in town hall.

8.15pm: Proclamation from Burgh Cross.

8.20pm approx: Cornet ties ribbons on 1514 Memorial, followed by the Cornet’s Walk around the burgh. All followers and members of the public are invited to join the walk around the Burgh.


6am: Halberdiers and the Drum and Fife band set off from Kirk Wynd to “rouse the population”.

6.15am: Snuffin’ by the site of Auld Brig.

7am: Cornet’s Breakfast in Brydon’s Restaurant, 16 High Street.

8.20am: Cornet walks from town hall to Towerknowe with the Flag.

8.25am: Sing Old Song, in full, at front door of the Tower.

8.30am: Muster in Backdamgate (horses should be sent forward ready to ride from Towerdykeside).

8.45am: Procession round Wilton. Cornet and followers ride through archway and proceed via Sandbed to Wilton.

9am: Main procession from Central Square along High Street on way to Moor.

9.25am: Cornet’s Acting Father’s Chase, followed by the Cornet’s Chase. Upon reaching the top of the Nipknowes, the Cornet hand the Flat to the Acting Senior Magistrate (Cornet’s Acting Father), who then carries it to St Leonards.

9.40am: Arrive St Leonards. Cornet displays Flag in front of farmhouse, then enters the Hut for Curds and Cream Repast.

11am: Leave the Hut and proceed to the front of St Leondards Farmhouse for singing of Teribus. Riders to their horses.

11.15am: Cornet and equestrian supporters leave St Leonards to ride the outlying marches. Motor vehicles proceed direct to racecourse.

11.50am approx: Cutting of the Sod at the extremity of the marches. Acting Father then carries the Flag to Pilmuir.

Noon: Primary schools ‘Roond the Mair’ relay race for the 1514 Club American Cup.

12.15pm: Car boards lifted from racetrack.

12.30pm: Cornet and equestrian supporters arrive at racecourse. The Cornet leads the cavalcade past the winning post. No horse stopping ’til rising the hill. Cornet, Right and Left-Hand Men, Acting Father, ex-Cornets and ex-Acting Fathers only, ride into paddock and dismount. Cornet displays the Flag above the Committee Rooms. Cornet and Acting Father then receive their gifts of riding crops from the chief guest. (The cost of the presentation crops has been kindly donated by the Ancient Order of Mosstroopers and the 1514 Club).

12.50pm: Races begin with the Drew Martin Memorial Trophy race.

1pm: Saxhorn Band play at hon. provost’s tent.

4pm: Cornet and equestrian supporters leave the racecourse and proceed by way of Crumhaughhill, Loan, Cheviot Road and Bright Street to Myreslawgreen. Cornet, Right and Left-Hand Men and Acting Father only proceed to Coble Pool where the Cornet marks the boundary by dipping the Flag staff into the Teviot three times. Gallop back up to the head of Beaconsfield Terrace to join other riders.

4.45pm: Form up behind the Drum and Fife band and proceed via High Street, Cross Wynd to Millbank where the riders are dismissed. Cornet, Right and Left-Hand Men and Acting Father form up behind Drum and Fife band, hence to Mill Path where the Proclamation will be read followed by the singing of Teribus.

5pm: Proceed by way of Allars Crescent, Staney Brae and Cross Wynd to town hall where the Cornet displays the Flag.

6.30 for 7pm: Common-Riding Dinner in the town hall.

10.30pm: Common-Riding Ball in town hall begins with the Grand March.

11.30pm: Cornet’s Reel at Ball.


Sunrise: Visit the Mote. In accordance with ancient custom, the Principals sing Teribus on the summit. Return to Tower Knowe to dance the Reel, then dismiss.

9.30am: Muster in Backdamgate. Ride from Towerdykeside to Wilton Lodge. Cornet, Right and Left-Hand Men and Acting Father sing Teribus at the end of The Avenue. Proceed to museum. Cornet and Party then lay wreaths at the war memorial overseen by committee. Cornet and mounted supporters proceed via Princes Street and Dovemount to Central Square.

10am: Leave Central Square, proceed via High Street, Loan, Rosebank, Dukes Wood, Flex Farm, Wulliestruther and Pilmuir.

11am: Car boards lifted from racetrack.

11.15am: Cornet and equestrian supporters arrive at racecourse. The Cornet leads the cavalcade past the winning post. No horse stopping ’til rising the hill. Cornet, Right and Left-Hand Men, Acting Father and all mounted supporters ride into paddock and dismount. Cornet displays Flag above the Committee Rooms.

Noon: Races begin.

3pm approx: Immediately after last race and no later than 3pm, Cornet and equestrian supporters leave the racecourse and proceed by way of Crumhaughhill, Loan, High Street to town hall.

3.30pm: Cornet returns the Flag to hon. provost and council and it is displayed for the last time from the council chamber whilst the Saxhorn Band play Invocation. Dismiss horses.