BERWICK RIDING THE BOUNDS
The Berwick Ride-out dates back to 1438 when today’s border between Scotland and England was fixed. The ceremony is always on the Saturday of the May Day Holiday weekend; in 2021 that will be on Saturday 1st May. The ‘Stirrup Cup’ is served in the Barrack Square at 10 o’clock and having seen them off at 1030, you may like to visit the excellent Kings Own Scottish Borderers Museum in the same square. The procession is led by the ‘Chief Marshal’, who can be a man or a woman. Riders then head out to the country and at about 12.30 there are trotting races at Canty’s Bridge (parking is available in the field nearby). The cavalcade arrives back at The Guildhall at about 4 pm. and the Chief Marshal returns the Flag to the Mayor.
More detail at https://berwickridersassociation.co.uk/
COLDSTREAM CIVIC WEEK
The ceremonies, inaugurated in 1952, normally begin with the introduction on Monday of 'The Coldstreamer', the principal figure in the celebrations, and will run throughout the week.
Flodden on the Thursday is the longest and largest of the four ride-outs with more than 300 riders taking part. Wreaths are laid at the Flodden Cross and there is a short service in memory of the fallen accompanied by a piper. Following this, there's an oration and a sod is cut, to be carried back to the Tweed Green in Coldstream where a moving ceremony takes place at about 5.45 pm to commemorate the actions of Abbess Hoppringle. (More about her in our Flodden Trail).
Between 50-100 horses will also join the shorter routes to Norham (Monday), Birgham (Wednesday) and Leitholm (Friday). Coldstream High Street is the best place to see the horses leave the town at 10.30 am on Flodden Day or else be on Branxton Hill by 12 noon to see the cavalcade gallop up Flodden Hill.
For more detail see https://www.coldstreamcivicweek.com
THE DUNS REIVERS WEEK
The Duns Reivers Week is traditionally the second week in July. The principal here is ‘The Reiver’ and on Monday night, the Burgh Flag is handed to him for safekeeping. The next evening at 6 pm he leads his mounted followers from the Market Square to the summit of Duns Law for a short service; here in 1639 General Leslie’s covenanting army encamped to oppose Charles I who was preparing to cross the River Tweed and enforce a form of religion which the Scots found unacceptable.
The final ceremonies on Saturday include the Riding of the Parish Bounds with the 'Reivers’ Breakfast' in the Black Bull at 6.30am (booking is essential). The ride to Whitchester sets off from the Market Square at 9 am. In the evening the Carnival Parade assembles at 6 pm in the Market Square and is followed by the closing ceremony and presentation of trophies.
THE GALASHIELS BRAW LADS GATHERING
The term ‘Braw Lad’ came from the Robert Burns poem 'Braw Lads o’ Galla Water'. The Gathering is held on the Saturday nearest June 30th. The ‘Braw Lad’ receives the burgh flag at 8 o’clock and leads the mounted cavalcade to Netherdale for the ceremony at the ‘Raid Stane’. When they arrive, each Lass presents her Braw Lad with a sprig of Sour Plum from the surrounding trees. This is in commemoration of an affray in 1337, when a band of English soldiers were routed by the men of Gala when they were eating the sour plums. At 9 o’clock the Braw Lad is fording the Tweed en route to Abbotsford (good views from Tweed Bridge). There’s a dismounted event at 10.30 am at Old Town Cross at Church Street and the mounted cavalcade then make their way around the town from 1130.
On the Monday and Wednesday preceding Braw Lads Day there are ride outs to Lindean and Torwoodlee; in both cases the cavalcade normally leaves Netherdale car park at 6 pm. Recommended viewpoints: 9.00am – Fording the River Tweed at Abbotsford – viewing either at the side of the river or above on the Tweed Bridge. 10.30 am – Old Town Cross at Church Street, 11.30am – Mounted cavalcade make their way around the town.
HAWICK COMMON RIDING
They say Hawick Common Riding is 'better felt than telt'. Common Riding Friday is the First Friday after the first Monday in June, so in 2021 this will be Friday 11 June. From mid May, the Hawick Cornet leads a ride out each Tuesday and Saturday to the surrounding villages and farms. There can be as many as 200 horses in the cavalcade that passes the Tower Mill on Hawick High Street, normally setting off in the early afternoon, returning about 8 pm. For detailed timings enquire locally or see https://www.hawickcommonriding.com/ride-outs.html
The Hawick Common-Riding also celebrates the capture of an English Flag in 1514 by the youth of Hawick at Hornshole, two miles down the Teviot, where a monument commemorates the event. The names of every Hawick ‘cornet’ since 1703 are recorded on boards displayed beneath Drumlanrig’s Tower just off the High Street.
Events on Common Riding Friday start at 6 am., when the halberdiers and Drum and Fife band march through the town to ‘rouse the population’. There is a procession through the town at 8.30 and after riding the outlying Marches there is a race meeting at ‘The Mair’.
THE JETHART CALLANT'S FESTIVAL
2021 will be the 75th anniversary of the Jethart Callants Festival which falls in early July. There are ride outs throughout the preceding fortnight led by the Jethart Callant. Riders traditionally gather at Back Bongate; timings vary.
At 0845 on Festival Day (Friday), the Callant’s cavalcade, preceded by the band, arrives at the platform in Abbey Place where the Provost pins a rosette to the Jethart Flag borne by the Callant. They then ride out to Ferniehurst Castle, seat of clan Kerr, and after some poetry, speeches and ceremony, the cavalcade heads back to the Capon Tree, a hollow oak, one of the last survivors of the ancient Jed Forest, where the President of the Callants Club pins a sprig from the tree to the Callant’s sash (the name is from the Capuchin monks who sheltered there as they travelled to Jedburgh Abbey). At 2.30 pm the Callant is at the War Memorial and “The Flowers of the Forest” is played by an unseen piper. As the sound of this moving lament fades away, the Callant lays a wreath.
More at http://www.jethartcallantsfestival.com/
KELSO CIVIC WEEK
This week of festivities is held in late July.
On the Wednesday of Civic Week the Kelso Laddie is installed at a ceremony in the Market Square which concludes with the Kelso Laddie‘s Reel. Two days later the Laddie is installed as Kelso Whipman commemorating the Old Whipman‘s Society of Ploughmen, once active in the town.
Earlier in the week there are three other ride outs, to Heiton, Stichill and Floors Castle; these normally leave Woodside Park in the late afternoon. Following the ringing of the Curfew Bell on the Friday, the ‘Whipman’s Ride’ heads out to Sprouston and equestrian sports at Friars Haugh.
The main ride out is to Yetholm on the second Saturday of the festival, leaving the Town Square at 8.30 am. There are speeches and the laying of a wreath at Yetholm War Memorial, and then the Laddie leads his followers back to Kelso Square at 4.30 pm where the Laddie is presented with his Blue Bonne
For more detail see http://www.kelsocivicweek.co.uk
LANGHOLM COMMON RIDING
Langholm Common Riding always takes place on the last Friday of July, so in 2021 that will be Friday 30th. This is a one day affair and as in other Border towns, it’s an early start. The flute band parades the town at 5 am.
In 1759 it was laid down by the Court of Session that the boundaries of the communal possessions should be clearly defined. The cornet, is appointed to go out each year to repair the boundary marks and report any encroachments. Four quaint emblems are carried in the procession.
- A barley bannock and salted herring fastened to a wooden platter
- A spade, used as it is for cutting sods at different points of the Common.
- A gigantic Scottish thistle.
- The floral crown.
The cavalcade goes round the town then back to the market place for the ‘Fair Crying’ and there’s a spectacular gallop from the market place up the Kirk Wynd. Then they process up to the Kiln Green and back into the market place where the ‘second fair’ proper is cried by the fair crier standing on the back of a horse. The cavalcade then goes across the river Ewes to the Castleholm, where the high point of the evening is the 'Cornet's Chase', a gallop round the racecourse. At 9.30 pm as the cornet hands back the flag in front of the town hall.
Our Ettrick Trail includes a little of the 'Crying o' Langholm Fair':
"And last of a' we to the Moss do steer,
Tae see gif a' oor Mairches they be clear;
And when unto the Castle Craigs we come,
I'll cry the Langholm Fair and then we'll beat the drum"
LAUDER COMMON RIDING
The Lauder Common Riding is in early August but the ceremonies start in May when the Lauder Cornet and the Galashiels ‘Braw Lad’, together with their supporters, meet at the Threepwood Crossroads, about half way between the two towns, normally on the last Friday in May.
References to the festival date back to the 1600s, but following a few issues with drunkenness, injury and disorder, it was discontinued in the mid 1800s, being reinstated in 1911. Originally it had a religious basis, related to the ceremonial blessing of the lands, crops and affairs of the burgh. The Burgesses and Town Council rode round their territory, following largely the same route that is followed today. Stones were carried in the pockets of the riders to be deposited at various cairns or landmarks on the route – a tradition still upheld by the Cornet today when he adds a stone to the last remaining original cairn, now known as the Burgess Cairn, high above the road from Lauder to Stow.
The Riders Arrive at the Lauder War Memorial at about 11.30 am and there is a concluding ceremony at the Town Hall at midday. Festivities continue through the evening and there is a Grand March at 9.00 pm. The best viewing area will be the town centre. Alternatively, take the B6362 [Stow Road] to the ‘Waterin’ Stane’ at the top of the hill. For more see https://www.laudercommonriding.com
MELROSE FESTIVAL WEEK
The Melrose Festival Week is normally the third week of June. 'The Melrosian' is the central figure here and the ride out is on the Monday, leaving Greenyards at 6 pm. For the best view, be in the Market Square at about 6 pm. The riders ford the River Tweed at about 7.00 pm – a great spectacle – returning to the town at about 9.30 pm.
At 7 pm on the Thursday you can see the Crowning of the Festival Queen in Melrose Abbey and on Saturday a procession sets off from the Market Square at 9 o’clock to visit local landmarks and celebrate their history. The Melrose & District Pipes and Drums normally play in the market Square that evening.
PEEBLES BELTANE WEEK
Peebles Riding of the Marches is associated with the town's Beltane Week and will take place Sun 20 to Sat 26 June 2021. To celebrate Queen Victoria‘s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 the burgh revived the old ceremony of riding the marches, linking it with the Beltane Fair (Beltane signifies the fire of Bell or Baal and originates from the pagan Celtic festival).
The Riding of the Marches follows the installation of the Cornet on Wednesday evening and culminates with a ceremony at Neidpath Castle; the evening ends with the dancing of the Cornet‘s Reel in the High Street. After an early morning ride out on Saturday, Festival Day includes the crowning of the Beltane Queen (a primary school pupil), followed by a grand procession around the town.
For more see http://beltane.peebles-theroyalburgh.info/
THE SELKIRK COMMON RIDING
Selkirk Common Riding is on the second Friday after the first Monday in June, and so in 2021 will be on 18 June. The principal here is known as the Standard Bearer. At least 400 years old, the ceremony stems back to the time of the “Burleymen” - Burgh Law men who had the task of ensuring no one was encroaching on the town‘s common lands.
Then in 1513, 80 men from Selkirk followed James IV into battle at Flodden. Only one, Fletcher, survived to return, weary and wounded but bearing a captured English flag which he raised aloft and then cast to the ground. Fletcher’s story came to be associated with the Common Riding, with the Standard Bearer as the central figure and the casting of the colours the main ceremony.
A 7 am the cavalcade marches to the Green then fords the Ettrick Water at 7.30am. It will reach Linglie Glen at 7.45am and the summit of the Three Brethren at 8.45am. They return to the Market Place at 11 am. for the solemn casting of the colours. In the afternoon there is a horse racing meeting at Gala Rig.
The Common Riding or ‘Riding of the Marches’ stems from the historic need to mark the boundaries of a town’s common land.
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Done on horseback by the leading young men of the town, the custom, once widespread in both Scotland and England, is still celebrated every year in the Scottish Borders.
Each Common Riding event is different, respecting the town’s traditions and monuments; each is a colourful festival with the townspeople endorsing their identity in a well-established ceremonial programme. Each involves a spectacular cavalcade of formally dressed horsemen heading out from the town and returning later to great celebrations.