Our customs and institutions the staple diet at Callants Club dinner

"HISTORY matters – to some it matters too much and they find themselves being trapped by their past, unable to make the best of the present, unable to appreciate the potential of the future."

Thought-provoking sentiments indeed from Major Noel Wright, the guest speaker at last Friday night's Callants Club dinner. Well known to many in the company through his five years with the Hawick Salvation Army Corps during the nineties, Mr Wright expressed more than a little apprehension at the prospect of joining the likes of the Earl of Minto, the Duke of Buccleuch and Field Marshall Earl Haig as a specially invited guest of the club.

However, some 20 inspirational minutes later, Mr Wright had more than earned his place in the long and illustrious list of dinner guests.

"The challenge to a club such as yours is to ensure that your past is not forgotten," continued Mr Wright. "And that it is expressed in relevant ways that seek to good of all within the community. In that challenge you each have a part to play as does everyone who makes up the community that is Hawick."

Mr Wright's had been an oration befitting of such a renowned occasion and one which garnered warm praise from club president Ian Landles who enthused: "You don't get much better than that."

High praise from the president, himself a speaker of great repute who also told members of his particular satisfaction at being at the helm of the Callants Club exactly 100 years after the "legendary" JED Murray.

As always – the company, among whom was club stalwart Bill Huggan, of New Jersey, USA, who has jetted in for the last nine dinners – enjoyed some top-notch performances from entertainers of the highest order.

And none more so than the inimitable Bert Armstrong with his now customary rendition of The Hawick Calllant. Also hitting the high notes during the early part of the evening, Craig Neilson and Henry Douglas sang Bonnie Teviotdale and A Bottle of Beer respectively.

A poignant performance of The Exile's Return, penned by president Landles' late father William and recited by Dougie Telfer, was warmly

applauded, as was Tom Redpath, who delivered Will H. Ogilvie's The Barefoot Maid.

Proposing the toast to 'Border Art and Literature', Iain H. Scott delivered an informative and well received speech, during which he paid homage to many of his literary heroes including James Hogg, whose "toonty fower verses o' pure genius" are the anthemic Teribus. Iain, an Archaeological Society stalwart, continued by paying his own personal tributes to luminaries such as James Thomson, who wrote Up Wi the Banner; pianist Addie Ingles, "a giant in aw hings, except his unasumin' size"; and man o' mony pairts James Murray.

Fiercely proud of his Hawick roots, a pride which is matched only by his encyclopedic knowledge of the town, Iain finished off by urging Teries to "sing yer hert oot in spirit if no in voice in praise o' yer ain auld toon".

The first-class entertainment continued apace when Ex-Cornet Philip Murray favoured the company with a top-notch rendition of Will H. Ogilvie's The Raiders.

Diamond Jubilee Cornet Chuck Whillans, affectionately known to many as 'Mr Common-Riding', then took diners on a nostaligic journey back to 1948 and his time carrying the Banner Blue. And paying a heartfelt tribute to his Acting Father that year, George Peden, Chuck told the company: "He was like a real father to me. He took me under his wing and we became great friends."

A musical interlude with a difference followed as the Callants Club's newest honorary member, the Rev. Lindsay Thomson, playing the violin, and pianist Ian Seeley joined forces for a toe-tapping medley of Common-Riding favourites including Bonnie Teviotdale and I Like Auld Hawick The Best.

The spotlight again then fell on the works of Will H. Ogilvie, when the popular figure of club past-president Bob Muir offered up Ho! For The Blades of Harden. Bob's delivery was, as usual, first rate.

Given his burgeoning reputation in the town as an accomplished singer, song writer, musician and author, the Callants Club was hoping for something special from Alan Brydon in his toast to 'Oor Ain Auld Toon'. However, the ensuing address exceeded all expectations with Alan in top form, and his superbly crafted composition of masterly poetry rightly earned him a thundering ovation.

"If truth be telt, it's no talent or stature, that makes a guid Hawick man, it's a' doon ti nature," suggested Alan. "For oo were a' blessed wi the great fortune, O' bein' born, or been raised, in oor ain auld toon."

After Iain H. Scott had favoured the company with club president Landles' own Auld Hawick Ma Border Hame, the spotlight fell on Provost Zandra Elliot, and her eagerly anticipated 'State of the Nation' speech.

At her eloquent best with a full and frank assessment of the town's current plight, Mrs Elliot talked of the "long and hard road ahead" for Hawick as the economic recession continued to bite. "It is up to each and every one of us to work together," she said. "Because if we all work together, nothing is impossible."

And in time-honoured fashion, the provost also revealed the identity of this year's Common-Riding chief guest. "Our guest is a Hawick man. He's a doctor and a consultant who has put down roots in 21 different countries . . . But he has never lost his love for his native soil.

"Gentleman, I have no doubt that in Dr George Thorburn we have a man who possesses all the necessary attributes to be a popular and apposite chief guest at our 2009 Common-Riding."

The familiar strains of Up Wi Auld Hawick then reverberated around the hall as Ex-Cornet Ian Nichol hit the high notes with a stirring performance which saw members swaying from side to side during the rousing chorus.

It was now time for the effervescent Davie Chapman to take centre stage. And the Scocha frontman struck a real chord with an emotive address on 'Our Common-Riding and our Cornets'.

Immersed in a' things Hawick from a tender age and a West Ender to boot, he recalled with great affection some of his earliest Common-Riding memories. "The sun was always shining, the atmosphere always happy and there was that smell you only get during that week in June – fresh cut grass, beer and horse lumps!"

Talking with great pride, Davie also conveyed some of his more recent Common-Riding memories: "I have also had the privilege and honour of having my two daughters being asked to be Maids of Honour," he continued. "And I can honestly say that I was moved to tears on both occasions. To see both my girls follow The Banner Blue was something else."

Replying to Davie's emotionally-charged toast, Cornet Ben Graham reminded the company as to why he'd been such a hugely popular figure at the helm of last year's celebrations with a first-class speech – his public speaking being just one of his many endearing qualities. "I firmly believe the Common-Riding is a time that brings family and friends together," said the Cornet. And continuing in the same humble vein, he added: "One of the best things about my year in office was seeing what it meant to my family and friends."

Entertainers during the closing stages of what was the 86th staging of the dinner included official Common-Riding song singer Michael Aitken, who capped a memorable night for president Landles with a rendition of the latter's newly-written song Hornshole, while Alan Brydon and Viv Sharp, both left the company in no doubt as to the passion and pride they share in the grey auld toon with rousing renditions of Bonnie Banner Blue and I Like Auld Hawick The Best respectively.

As the night drew to a close, the Callants Club had, once again, "dined together annually" safe in the knowledge that the ancient customs and institutions of the town of Hawick and its history and traditions had been preserved.