Common-Riding cheer for auld yins as Big Eight make their day

Cornet Gibson and Lass Michelle meet Betty Howarth and Jake Short at St Andrew's.
Cornet Gibson and Lass Michelle meet Betty Howarth and Jake Short at St Andrew's.

Common-Ridings of yesteryear shone brightly in the minds of some of the town’s oldest Teries last Tuesday, when the Cornet’s party paid a visit to the homes and hospitals.

Happy memories and the odd tear were sparked by the annual tour which gives those no longer able to get out and enjoy the celebrations, their own special slice of its sights and sounds – and a resplendent Big Eight proved not only a credit to the town, but also the perfect tonic to those less fortunate.

Organised by the 1514 Club in conjunction with the Callants Club, the special day boasted a total of seven venues and began in the traditional way at St Andrew’s Nursing Home with residents treated to a song or two – this year provided by Evelyn Armstrong, Iain ‘Hightower’ Scott and Robert Scott – before the Drums and Fifes led in the guests who residents had been waiting expectantly for. With the main room decorated and everyone dressed in their best, staff nurse Wendy Kelly said: “There has been a great atmosphere all morning, everyone has been really excited and up since 6am, choosing blue and yellow clothes, it is a real highlight.”

All eyes were on the Principals as they mingled with ease around the room, and thrilled resident Betty Howarth, and respite resident Jake Short, presented Cornet Ross Gibson and his Lass Michell Paxton, with gifts. But with a busy schedule ahead of them, it was quickly time for the Cornet to follow the singers, and Drums and Fifes, on to West Port.

With the dementia patients gathered inside the decorated room, a happy atmosphere was lifted even higher with the Big Eight treating everyone to a rendition of ‘Up Wi Auld Hawick’, before the Principals lent their friendly natures to ensure they shared precious moments with each of them. And for 85-year-old Common-Riding fan Netta Wallace, it was a joyous few minutes. “I have loved seeing them,” she told the Hawick News. Graeme Arnott, health care support worker, added: “This means a lot to our patients, they really look forward to it.”

Next door, patients from the Community Hospital and Day Hospital had also gathered, ensuring that accidents and illness would not stop them toasting the Cornet. Shuggy Dickson, who has been hospitalised for six weeks, told the Hawick News: “This is absolutely brilliant, and if this doesn’t make anybody feel better, nothing will.”

Then just a stone’s throw away at Deanfield, the importance of the Big Eight visiting the elderly was further plain to see, where a packed room welcomed their special visitors with some tears, but mostly beaming smiles. And with the best band in the world and several songs making old eyes fill up, for one resident it was especially poignant. Ninety-one-year-old Ex-Cornet’s Lass Greta Reid, the first after the war, told the Hawick News: “I had a magnificent Common-Riding in 1946. It is so nice to see them all today.”

The visit was also special for Acting Father Alan Gray, who knelt to enjoy a special chat with his great-auntie, Cathy Tearney.

Susan Thomson, support worker, added: “This is the residents’ Common-Riding, and it bring back memories. There has been a real buzz.”

With the standard of singing as high as the Cornet’s Party’s genuine warmth, at St Margaret’s a rendition of ‘Up Wi Auld Hawick’ proved that despite less able minds and bodies, Teries never forget the cherished words to songs. Emotions were running high in the packed room as the sentiment of the occasion touched both residents and Principals, but then Common-Riding spirits were sent soaring with the annual first dance of the reel, which with the Lasses’ shoes kicked off, ensured everyone was smiling.

Resident Greta Pow told the Hawick News: “I have thoroughly enjoyed the visit, and love the singing.”

After some kind words from Cornet Gibson, it was time for Buccleuch House to roll out the red carpet, where despite several hours on their feet, the official party once again ensured all residents felt special. All eyes were on the singers and the Big Eight as they filled the small room with Common-Riding atmosphere. And after presenting a gift to the Cornet’s Lass, 100-year old resident May Powell stated: “They are so smartly dressed and look lovely.”

Outlining just how significant their short visit is to a nursing home, St Margaret’s and Buccleuch manager Shona McHutchison explained: “All the residents have been really excited and they love seeing the Principals as it gives them a real lift. They will talk about this for the rest of the week.”

Under the guidance of the 1514 Club ex-president Davie Brand, the day came to a fitting close with the final stop at Teviot Court, where smartly-dressed residents sat at tables, waiting patiently on the man of the moment. And once the Big Eight had been clapped in, 98-year old Mary Scott voiced the sentiments of all, stating: “Carry all our good wishes with you for the days to come and I’m sure that is going to be the best of a’.”

And certainly for all of the town’s older and unwell patients, there was no doubt it was a day which had been just that.

Cornet Gibson added: “I found the visits really hard at times, but it was great seeing them join in with the songs and having a good time; that was their Common-Riding.”