Huge applause for Chief Guest Henry

HENRY Douglas received a standing ovation when he was revealed as this year’s Chief Guest at Hawick Common-Riding, writes Sarah Williamson.

The news was announced in time-honoured tradition during the Provost’s State of the Nation address last Friday night, and when Stuart Marshall finally disclosed the name of his chosen Chief Guest for this year’s special 2014 celebrations, the entire room took to its feet in appreciation.

And for Mr Douglas – ex-Acting Father, renowned local singer and former president of all three of the town’s Common-Riding clubs – it was the first of what he says will be numerous special moments this year.

“I was so taken aback by the reaction,” he told the ‘Hawick News’, “but I am very excited about the whole event and I’m looking forward to it tremendously”.

Provost Marshall, after pretending he had considered a political figure or member the oyal household for the role, stated that it had to be “someone who knows our customs, our traditions, a Borderer with distinguished history”.

And in Mr Douglas, who was Acting Father to Cornet Derek Inglis in 1978 and the Official Song Singer at the Common-Riding from 1985-2000, there is hardly anyone else better qualified.

Provost Marshall stated: “I felt there was no better person to be my Chief Guest this year, and this decision was reflected at the Callants’ Club Dinner when he received a standing ovation that lasted several minutes.

“Henry will be fantastic in the role and I can’t wait to hear his address at the Colour-Bussing.”

A thrilled Mr Douglas told the ‘Hawick News’: “I am extremely honoured to have been asked to be Chief Guest. It is a wonderful honour and a privilege to accept the invitation. I have a wee bit trepidation, but I am very excited to take an active part in this year’s proceedings.”

And ever humble, the Bonchester farmer added: “I was approached in August and it was a huge surprise. I was really taken aback, but more than happy to accept.”

Mr Douglas, who first followed Cornet Jackie Wright in 1952, says he already has a few ideas for the main address at the Colour-Bussing, and eagerly anticipates the main Friday celebrations. But daughter Jill, who has also been a chief guest at Hawick Common-Riding, has already given her dad some advice.

“Jill has told me just to enjoy it,” he said. Mr Douglas’s invitation to be chief guest completes another double for the family, as both he and Jill have also each delivered the Redeswire address. And this year will be even more special for the Douglases, with son John celebrating 25 years since he was Cornet.

Provost Marshall, who also highlighted that Mr Douglas raised over £120,000 for the restoration of Bonchester Village Hall and more than £22,000 for a spinal bed in the BGH, added: “I invited Henry Douglas to become the Chief Guest for many reasons, but mainly because he has made an immense contribution to our Common-Riding spanning many decades.

“And with a family tree that can be traced back to 1699 at Cavers, he is without doubt a true Borderer who has farmed in our region since 1946.

“Henry is a man who knows the history of our Common-Riding and its traditions extremely well, and I know that townsfolk will make him extremely welcome.”