Of all the monuments of Hawick’s past that gallant equestrian statue in the High Street is the one which stirs Hawick’s heart, situated opposite our seventeen71company shop, for this commemorates the victory of a band of youths of Hawick over English soldiers at Hornshole in 1514.
When the alarm came to the town that the English were at Hornshole there were no men to go out to battle. All of them had fallen at Flodden the year before. So the callants – the youths of Hawick – sallied out, routed the English at Hornshole and came back with a banner wrested from the enemy. Scotland’s heart was still bleeding over the tragic defeat at Flodden, so the little victory at Hornshole seemed a bright blaze in the dark skies of mourning Scotland.
So the statue stands as a year-long reminder of Hawick’s great annual festival of Common Riding. It’s the week when Hawick celebrates their tradition, the busy town relaxes, shops and factories close.
The Riding possibly has pagan origins, for the war song which reverberates through Hawick’s streets is Teribus ye Tyr ye Odin, the ancient invocation “May Thor and Odin have us in his keeping”!
It is, of course, certain that the festival is linked with that custom of examining the marches in the days when Hawick bailies, armed with pistols and supported by a large contingent of townsfolk carrying clubs, staves, spears and scythes to aid them in any argument that might arise with proprietors, rode out to make sure that there had been no encroachment on common land by neighbouring landowners.
Then in 1514 came the unforgettable exploits of the callants and, in commemoration of this deed, the standard-bearer and flag were introduced into the Common Riding ceremony.
So the custom of electing a Cornet - a young, unmarried townsman – to carry the flag, is carried out every year.