“Moss-paul, the name that’s known throughout the country and further afield. It’s the renowned ride for toughness. When you make it there and back you’ve achieved something special.”
Andrew Johnson’s opening remarks in his toast to The Mosstroopers had encapsulated the very essence of the annual pilgrimage. His words ensuring the Ancient Order’s 90th annual dinner in the town hall last Friday night provided the perfect precursor to the latest instalment of the historic ride the following day.
He continued: “We hear that Redeswire, the Benty and Flodden are fantastic rides, but, to me, Mosspaul is the pinnacle.” And emphasising his point, Andrew went on: “At our annual dinner in 1985, Olympic medalist Ian Stark stated that Mosspaul was one of the toughest things he’d ever done on horseback.”
Alluding to the enduring psyche of the Ancient Order’s forebears, Andrew added: “The Mosstrooping spirit has seen Hawick survive over the years. We’ve lost the railway, mills, the auction mart. We’ve had fire, flood and we’ve been accused of living in the dark ages, but we have something that other towns don’t have. And that’s a sense of community, a sense of belonging, and the Common-Riding is at its heart.”
“We’re immensely proud of our Mosstrooping history, but I’m sure if auld Wat o’ Harden and his Mosstrooping men were looking down on us, they would be equally proud of us that we’ve kept the community and embraced the Common-Riding and their legacy.”
With club president John Tait at the helm, the company enjoyed a meal courtesy of Nick Powolny’s catering team and were kept well watered thanks to bar staff from Jock Reid’s.
A top-class bill of entertainment got under way with the Drums and Fifes, and also included Ex-Acting Father Henry Douglas, Iain ‘Hightower’ Scott, Bernie Armstrong, Charlie Marshall, Keith ‘Chugger’ Brown, Robert Scott, Doug Telfer, Tam Amos, Andrew Boles, Ex-Cornet Philip Murray, Left-Hand Man Chris Ritson, Doug Riddell and Ronnie Tait. The pianist was Drew Gibb.
Toasting The Cornet earlier in the evening, president Tait said Gregor Hepburn was a great choice as this year’s man-of-the-moment and that the manner in which he had carried out his duties was second to none.
He added: “Cornet, could I on behalf of the Mosstroopers and everyone present, once again say what a great job you are doing and you will undoubtedly be a great ambassador around the different towns [during the various festivals]. You are a true gentleman and that is personified by how you have a minute for everybody.”
As a token of his year in office, the Cornet was presented with a clock.
And the 23-year-old, who first followed in 2003 in Greg McLeod’s big year, said that Mosspaul had always been his favourite ride-out, and that he’d ridden to the hallowed spot in some capactity every year since on both the Saturday and Tuesday. “I just can’t quite get enough of it,” he enthused.
“The Mosstroopers club was the one thing that had me hooked. You just had to get into it. And it plays a massive role in attracting the young lads into picking up the reins and getting that sacred badge.”
The Cornet also highlighted the junior ride which had taken place the previous evening and was supported by an “incredible” amount of youngsters. “There’s no need to worry about the future of the Common-Riding, as going by last night [Thursday], we’ll be fine,” he said.
And paying a warm tribute to his Acting Father, Richie Lynn, the Cornet added: “We’re having a ball and you’re definitely the man for the job.”
A further presentation of a barometer was made to Golden Jubilee Cornet Robert Pringle, while Fither Lynn received a clock.
The toast to The Guests was given in hilarious fashion by Langholm’s David McVittie who cracked several jokes at chairman Tait’s expense, while Mr Tait’s father, Ronnie, was also the target of Mr McVittie’s razor-sharp wit. Concluding on a more sincere note, Mr McVittie, who earned his Mosstroopers badge in 1996, talked in glowing terms of the ride itself: “You will find a companionship that is equal to the scenery and a brotherhood rarely found in today’s world,” he said.
In reply, Provost Stuart Marshall, the Mosstroopers president in 2001, said he was “extremely honoured” to have been invited to speak at the dinner, and went on to recall the “tough decisions” that had to be made in his year of office when the Common-Riding was cancelled due to the foot-and-mouth epidemic. In particular, the Mosstroopers committee insisting back then that the “show must go on” and the decision was taken to stage the club’s annual dinner, even though there was no Cornet as guest of honour. “We were treated to a tremendous night of song and story,” said the provost. The club also forged ahead with the annual pilgrimage to Mosspaul, explained Mr Marshall. “About 70 of us had a brilliant sing-song and buffet, before burying a time capsule and unveiling a cairn to mark the spot.”
The provost also praised president Tait and his family who had been “tremendous and loyal supporters of the Common-Riding for many years”.
The toast to the Acting Father was delivered by Mosstroopers committeeman Keith Lawson, and Fither Richie Lynn replied, making special mention of the “emotions” he anticipated feeling on the Mosspaul ride, while admitting he wanted things to “slow down” so he could savour his special year all the more.
Mosstroopers committeeman Doug Riddell toasted the Right and Left, and Ex-Cornet Chris Ritson replied, before another enjoyable evening was brought to a close with the toast to The Chairman from vice-president David Oliver, and the singing of Teribus by Philip Murray with Cornets Up.