FREELANCE artist Gordon Muir described the annual trip to Mosspaul as like riding through some of the great paintings.
Giving his toast to the Mosstroopers at the club’s dinner in the town hall last Friday night, the former Trinity and high school pupil waxed lyrical about the glorious scenery, compelling atmosphere and unrivalled camaraderie experienced on the ride-out.
Himself a proud owner of the Mosstroopers badge since following Cornet Philip Murray back in 1972, Mr Muir was certainly well placed to comment.
A student of the Central School of Art, London College of Printing, the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and Print Studio in Tokyo, it was right here where his passion was nurtured.
And he admitted, in the journey to Mosspaul every year, sometimes twice, there was no shortage of inspiration.
He said: “One of the moments at Mosspaul I like the most is breasting the hill at Linhope to see the shimmering sight of camped followers waiting expectantly in the distance. Our ain folk, young and old. Hundreds of families, coming together for this extraordinary shared experience.
“And the thrilling sight of horsemen on the skyline is equally important for those waiting. A response which I’m sure has remained unchanged for centuries.
“As a youngster, I was lucky enough to come under the wing of Tom Scott and Willie Johnstone, the latter teaching me basic composition, how to catch the colour coming off a hill, the constantly changing light. So for me the journey to Mosspaul is like riding in some of the paintings. From the back of a horse our glorious Borders landscape can be seen at its best. From the wide angled spectacle of ‘fower hundred horsemen in yeh streekit line’, to the close up combination of men and beast in perfect harmony. To me, it’s all pure art.
“The compelling choreography of man and beast, the balance and rhythm of great riders on the best of horses, is like a ballet.”
Under the guidance of president Terry Scott, the choreography for what was the 86th annual dinner was seamless. From the moment the evening meal was served by Brydon’s Bakery and Restaurant, through the speakers, singers and entertainers – the Drums and Fifes, Henry Douglas, Michael Aitken, Viv Sharp, Cammy Rudkin, Graeme Tinlin, Keith ‘Chugger’ Brown, Iain Scott, John Tait and Ian Nichol – and with refreshments readily available from the staff of Jock Reids, it was another event truly worthy of the occasion.
Among the sell-out gathering were some potential new members to the club, preparing to mount their horses and make their way over the rugged Border countryside for the first time.
And Mr Muir said they, like the many hundreds who had gone before them, would be warmly welcomed into the club.
“I love this old town and its Common-Riding as much as anyone in this room, but for me personally the extended family of the Mosstroopers is where it all comes together.
“The unique combination of people, the songs and poems, the glorious landscape and of course the riding,” he said.
“The older I get, the more I realise just how important families are, both our immediate ones and the various extended families who we all live our lives with in one way or another. The shared experience of doing something we all love binds us together. It makes us strong. The Mosstroopers helps us generate that sense of extended family, which other places have either lost or have never even had. You just can’t buy that,” he added.
While Mr Scott is the leader of that family this year, in his role as president, arguably its most prominent member is 25-year-old Michael Davison.
And, in his Toast to the Cornet, Mr Scott said there were few better to take on the lofty position.
He said: “There’s a lot of talk these days of role models. Someone kids can aspire to. In a world where the role models seem to be overpaid footballers, pop stars or reality tv wanabees, our Cornet and his Lass, along with his Right and Left and their Lasses, are great examples for the youth of Hawick.”
After receiving a gift from the Club, Cornet Davidson, who was the 100th Cornet to be invited to Mosspaul, reflected on the last few weeks and spoke of his excitement as the Big Pictur drew ever closer.
“For me tonight, the two Mosspaul ride-outs signal the turning point in our Common-Riding. Up to now we’ve enjoyed six ride-outs, seven if you include the bairn’s one, and many other dinners, smokers and concerts. The support we have received over the past three or four weeks has been exceptional and is very much appreciated by us all. Seeing so many Teries, young and old, out on the streets while leaving and returning to the town from the ride-outs is very humbling and reassuring and I thank everyone for that,” he said.
“But Mosspaul for me and many others is the unofficial start of the Common-Riding. And with only two weeks left until that magical weekend in June I’m sure the excitement and atmosphere will crank up a notch over this weekend.”
So often one of the singing fraternity at Common-Riding events, Iain ‘Opera’ Scott was charged with the task of toasting the guests, while Edinburgh Captain Steven McGill, who was about to embark on his fifth ride to Mosspaul, gave a humorous reply.
The toast to the Acting Father was delivered by Ex-Cornet Rory Culton, who grew up at ‘Leaburn’ with this year’s ‘Fither’ Grahame Nichol.
And while he had plenty words of wisdom for new Mosstroopers, Grahame, who is a member of the committee, admitted the emotions experienced by most wouldn’t even come close to his own and Michael’s.
He said: “What you will experience out among those hills, money just can’t buy.”
Turning to his Cornet, he added: “I know when the Pipe Band strikes up as we go into Mosspaul, and then the Saxhorn Band when we come back into the town, there won’t be two prouder people on this planet than you and me.”
Committee man Jim Davidson toasted the Right and Left and Jamie Richardson replied. While Alan Brydon, who got the evening started in saying grace, brought proceedings to a close with a thoroughly deserved toast to the Chairman.