The Common Ridings

Origins of the ridings

EVERY year, between June and August, Hawick and several other Borders towns celebrate their history and traditions from the dim and distant past with magnificent rideouts involving hundreds of horses, known as the Common Ridings.   The Common Ridings can be traced back to the 13th and 14th centuries when the border lands of Scotland were in constant upheaval during the long wars with England.   These skirmishes were not just against the English, but were also connected with the tribal custom of plunder and cattle thieving, known as reiving (the ancient word for robbing) that was commonplace amongst the major Borders families.  In such lawless times, townspeople would ride their boundaries, or ‘marches’, to protect their common lands and prevent encroachment by neighbouring landlords.  Long after they ceased to be essential, the ridings continue in commemoration of local legend, history and tradition.   Whether or not you are into horse riding we  highly recommend you attending one of these events and admire the participants.

These days the Common Ridings still adhere to the same series of ancient customs and pre-arranged communal activities laid down centuries ago, but now have a contemporary polish.  I strongly recommend you have a look at the various links in this section, and whether you visit JedburghSelkirk or Duns (there are 11 Common Ridings to choose from) you will be fascinated by these cavalcades that are almost entirely unknown outside the Scottish Borders.

Further Info

Community spirit is symbolised by the Burgh Flag or Standard, which in a colourful ceremony is ‘bussed’ where ribbons are tied to the staff by the principal lass, recalling the days when a knight’s lady attached her ribbon to his lance before battle. The principal men are elected annually and honoured with such titles as Standard Bearer (Selkirk), Cornet (Hawick), Callant (Jedburgh), Braw Lad (Galashiels), Reiver (Duns), Whipman (West Linton), Melrosian (Melrose), Coldstreamer (Coldstream) and Kelso Laddie. On horseback they lead their followers in the festivities. Old songs and tunes are played, banners waved and local pride expressed.

In some towns the festivities extend over anything up to two weeks, with a programme of ceremonies, rideouts, entertainment and traditional sports. In others, the action is focused over one or two days during the summer months.

THE Hawick Common-Riding is the first of the Border festivals and 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.     Here are the dates for the Hawick  2012 rideouts.

And here is the rest:

Dates for common ridings and festivals 2012

3- 10th June – Hawick Common Riding                           Colour Bussin 7th June , Common Riding  Friday 8th June West Linton Whipman
10-15thJune Selkirk Common Riding                              Common Riding Friday15th
17-24th June Peebles Beltane                                             Festival Day Saturday 23rd
17-24th June Melrose Festival                                           Crowning Thursday 21st/ Day Saturday 23rd June
22-30th June Galashiels Braw Lads Gathering             Braw Lad’s Day Saturday 30th June
Jethart Callants Festival                                                         Festival day 13th July,
1-7th July Duns Summer Festival
15-21st July Kelso Civic Week                                             Colour Bussin Wednesday 18th July
29th July-4th August Lauder Common Riding            Common Riding Saturday 4th
6th-12th August Coldstream Civic Week                         Flodden Thurday 9th
8-16th June Yetholm Festival
7-14th July Eyemouth Herring Queen
27th July Langholm Common Riding
9th July Earlston Civic Week

22-28th July Musselburgh Festival                                    Sashing Wednesday 25th July / Day 28th

12-21st July Innerleithen St Ronans Game                     Cleakin Friday 20th July