Hawick Common Riding

Mitch’s university mate Mike and his girlfriend Céline recently moved up to Scotland to work on the horse bloodstocks. His location was a small Lowland town called Hawick. As Mike put it, in Hawick, there isn’t all that much to do, apart from one time of the year and that is the Common Riding Festival.

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The Common Riding is the largest of the riding festivals in the Scotland Borders and dates back to a time that English raids used to pillage the small common villages. In 1514, a group of young men went out and skirmished with the raiding party, defeating them and capturing their flag. This was the 500th Anniversary of the day they gave it to the English.

Leading on from that is a long tradition of festivities and the election of a ‘Cornet’ and a ‘Cornets’ Lass’, young representatives of the village honoured with the formalities around the occasion the main one being a large ride out of hundreds of horsemen around the local villages. Historically an all male affair, now women are more and more involved in the festivities with only a few exclusive events.

Our travel up was via train to Carlisle and a late bus to Hawick. Mike met us down outside one of the three main pubs, got our bags and settled us right into the festivities. A couple of their friends Stace and Imogen were also up and had been the night before. Imo apparently had a wee run in opening a door to a man urinating on it.

After a few Tetleys and Rum n’ Milks (the local drink), we were oot and aboot in the local bars, meeting a few of the locals. The accent was really difficult to understand. Really difficult. They spoke some for of English that went like this;

“Awrite, fit loch gonnae? Aam frae haur in Hooick an’ am havin’ a wee trooble rememberin’ whaur ah pit mah cuddie. Mah lassie is blooter’d in th’ back ay th’ pub an’ ah need tae gie ‘er it.”

We just nodded, smiled and managed to get by. It was a bit bewildering, because they could understand us and found it perplexing we thought they were speaking a foreign language. They did understand however to put on the All Blacks match on the following morning and because it was against “the old foe” the Englishs, they were all for it!

The Saturday saw us brave the cold rain at the local racetrack, which had a big marquee up and a band playing. The days events involved betting on local horses and local riders, a bit of an amateur event. Including a few miniature pony races for the kids.

As the weather didn’t help us much, we regrouped after sleeping off a small hangover and went out again in Hawick to see the Cornet and his Lass dancing in the street and the locals seeing off another group of horses. There were horses of all shapes and sizes (riders too).

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Another night to practice our language and another night with rum and milk. Hawick didn’t let it dampen their spirits. Mike and Céline were amazing hosts and we felt privileged to have such great hosts. Céline even let us steal her pictures which you see in this blog!

Leaving home the next day, we got a tour of the local “mound”, basically a lot of land piled up where a small wooden fort used to sit and defend a few of the locals. Over time the fort fell away, but the dirt remains, much like some of the traditions of the Scottish Borderlands…

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