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return to the ridings

Every year, towns and villages across the Borders mark the tradition of Common Riding, with this year's celebrations, called Return to the Ridings, marking the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Hornshole.

The battle, which took place in 1514, marked a major victory for the Scottish forces, which were locked in a struggle with the English for control of the Border. The Battle of Flodden, which had taken place the previous year, saw the English devastate the Scots army. During that terrible defeat, many of the men from the town of Hawick were killed.

At the battle of Hornshole, however, the men of Hawick managed to push back the imposing English force, beating the army and stealing their banner.

Each area in the Borders celebrates the Common Riding differently, with the shortest proceedings lasting two days and the longest lasting two weeks. The first Common Riding of the season takes place in Hawick, followed by (among others) West Linton, Selkirk, Peebles, Melrose, Galashiels, Jedburgh, Duns, Kelso, Musselburgh, Langholm, Lauder and Coldsteam.

The event, which dates back to 1703, has taken place every year since then, except during wartime and in 2001, following an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.

Douglas Turnbull has been involved with several of the Ridings. "My earliest memory is watching Cornet Ronald Gibson lead the Friday morning procession - this would be 1970, I'd be four years old.

"It is the ambition of every Teri (native of Hawick) to be Hawick Cornet. When I'd saved up I was able to hire a pony and follow Cornet David Brown in 1979. I couldn't afford lessons and a pony so I learned on the ride-outs. You get lots of advice and help. The ride-outs are a precursor to the main event, where the Cornet leads a cavalcade to nearby villages during May."

"To commemorate the 500th anniversary the horse (a memorial statue which stands in the centre of Hawick) has been completely refurbished, stripping it back and repainting it so it is now as it was in 1914. There is a re-enactment of the events at Hornshole, and a new Common Riding statue is being unveiled ."

One of the main themes of the Ridings is the idea of bringing back people to the town. "Each year exiles are welcomed back with a civic reception on the Wednesday immediately prior to the Common Riding. People with connections to Hawick will be returning from the following countries for this year's common riding event - USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Dubai, Qatar, Germany and Mongolia, as well as England, Wales and Ireland."

Hawick Common Riding takes places on June 6. See hawickcommonriding.com

CAMERON McINNES

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