History revisited at Hornshole as Big Return takes centre stage

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It has been four years in the making and the talk of the town for months, but yesterday’s impressive ‘Big Return’ surpassed all expectations.

Anyone fortunate enough to witness the final instalment of Hawick’s Vision 2014 project at Hornshole was treated to not only a meticulously planned and well-executed event that featured more than 1,300 local children, fire breathers, drummers, songs and a gripping battle reenactment – but also a surprising range of emotions, that included excitement, pride and tears.

Local historian Ian Landles, a committee member on the steering group since it was launched in 2009, told the Hawick News: “I couldn’t visualise it before but it was phenomenal, absolutely magic. The effort that has been made by almost every parent in Hawick to make costumes is superb, and today we are Queen o’ a’ the Borders again. Only Hawick could do this.”

Yesterday’s celebration of Hawick’s unique history and the 500th anniversary of the battle began with the young people of Teviot and Liddesdale gathering at the PSA pitch in preparation for the walk to Hornshole. A specially composed and rehearsed ‘Call and Response’ war cry was used to set the groups off and rouse their spirits, and when they arrived from three separate directions just after 11.30am to settle into large ‘camps’ around the field, it was clear that the Vision 2014 finale was certainly grand.

And no-one was more delighted that May 15, 2014 had finally arrived, than chairperson Janice Chapman. She told the Hawick News: “It is great to get to the point where we are actually doing it. All the sleepless nights are over, and there has been great excitement today. There is a tremendous buzz and I’m delighted. This is a very special day for Hawick.”

In the minutes before the eagerly anticipated clash between the young Hawick Callants and Hexham Raiders, each camp sang and repeated the impressive Call and Response, and the sound of drums echoed round the field as a Drumlanrig group and Burnfoot group prepared everyone for the battle with skilful rhythmic playing.

But then a hush fell as the Hexham raiders appeared, the eerie vision of the group of volunteers and members of Les Amis D’Onno and The Clansmen making their way down the field – followed by Ex-Cornet John Hope with the Flag and horses led by Sally Niven – punctuated with a single drum beat.

But as the Englishmen set up camp for the night, all eyes fell on the group of local youths (S2 and S3 pupils from Hawick High School) along with the Cornet and Principals, as they crept up and embarked on a fight scene that echoed one of the most significant events in Hawick’s history. And when Cornet Ross Gibson finally waved the captured flag for the crowds to see, hundreds of members of the public watching from the top of the field joined in the loud resounding cheer that rang out. And the celebrations continued with the performance of the specially created war dance entitled the ‘Hawick-a’, before Cornet Gibson rode forward and led the field in Teribus.

Mr Landles commented: “It was absolutely amazing, real hairs standing on the back of the neck stuff.”

Wilton pupil Kayleigh Messer, 11, summed up the childrens’ emotions by stating: “I was really excited this morning to be able to take part in such a big event, and be with my friends.”

And an equally thrilled Provost Stuart Marshall commented: “To see 1,300 school kids coming over the hill in the period costume was fantastic. The atmosphere was even better than I imagined, and who knows what lies under our feet as this is played out today. Credit to everyone that has pulled this together.”

Indeed at the event’s conclusion when the Cornet, and his Right and Left-Hand Men, rode away from the hallowed spot and were silhouetted against the skyline with the Flag, almost 2,000 people were left in no doubt that they had just seen something special.