Tam's Tall Tales

- Celebrations in the Borders

Borders Common Ridings and Festivals principals with Standard Banners
- Graphic by Rob Gray

Commmon Riding Traditions
June is the month when several Border towns recreate the days when town's boundaries were marked by people riding the perimeter on a specific day. The tradition dates back to the 13th and 14th centuries, during the continual land border wars both with England and against other locsl clans. The graphic on the right, by Walter Baxter, via Wikimedia Commons, shows the Royal Burgh Flag on Peat Hill during the Selkirk Common Riding. This lead rider, one of four attendants to the Selkirk Standard Bearer, is proceeding along the north side of Peat Law.

Long after they ceased to be essential, the ridings continued in commemoration of local legend, history and tradition. The Hawick Common-Riding is the first of these Borders festivals.

It celebrates both the capture of an English Flag in 1514 by the youth of Hawick at a place called Hornshole and the ancient custom of riding the marches or boundaries of the common land.

The procession is led by the Cornet who is elected on the recommendation of the two predecessors. Hawick has maintained the tradition without breaks (wars excepted) since 1703.

The graphic on the left by Walter Baxter via Wikimedia Commons, shows the Selkirk Common Riding and the followers of the Selkirk Standard Bearer and his attendants rounding a hawthorn tree before crossing the Long Philip Burn and then proceeding on their way up to the Three Brethren during the Riding of the Marches (boundaries). For more information on the Common Riding, see Common Riding on Wikipedia.

Around a dozen towns in the Scottish Borders still hold an annual "Common Riding" each with its own variation on the theme. Galashiels, for example celebrates the election of its Braw Lad and Braw Lass, who are supported by the quaintly named supports - the Bearer of the Sod and the Bearer of the Red Roses.

Fiona Deacon from Selkirk made history in 2014 by being the first female standard bearer at that town's Common Riding. Selkirk's event has 300-400 riders, said to be one of the largest regular cavalcade of horses and riders in Europe.

Please give me whatever feedback comes to mind via tamfromrampant@gmail.com.

Tam O'Ranter
June 2014

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