Soldiers from the 1st Battalion of the King’s Own Scottish Borders are inspected by the Duke of Buccleuch at Hawick’s Volunteer Park in June 1989 when the Regiment was conferred with the Freedom of Roxburgh District. A short time later the soldiers exercised the regiment’s new right to parade with bayonets fixed, drums beating and colours flying along a crowded Hawick High Street.
The regiment’s Colonel in Chief, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, was unable to attend the freedom ceremony but the Colonel of the Regiment Brigadier Bob Riddle was there. Also present was the battalion’s Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Clive Fairweather, who died last month. The parade was under the command of Major Bob Andrew and the men were drawn from A and B companies of the battalion.
The granting of the freedom was part of celebrations to mark the 300th anniversary of the regiment being founded in Edinburgh. District council chairman Gideon Yellowlees from Jedburgh described the occasion as happy but solemn. The Freedom Scroll was read by council Chief Executive Ken Crammond which proclaimed the long history of loyal and devoted services given by the regiment. TheSouthern’s Linda Sawers reported how it was the second time Mr Yellowlees had conferred the freedom on the regiment having done so on the last day prior to the 1975 reform of local government as the Provost of Jedburgh.
Mr Yellowlees told 2,000 spectators and veterans: “In Border towns it is an honour which has always been conferred only infrequently and always in recognition of true merit.”
Accepting the honour, the Duke of Buccleuch commented: “This special honour will be the source of great pride to all ranks in the years to come.”
But that tercentenary year of celebration was to end in sadness. The soldiers – now under Lt. Col. Chris Darnell – were deployed to Northern Ireland and to the bandit country of South Fermanagh and County Tyrone. Jill Douglas from TheSouthern and myself from BBC Radio Scotland visited them for three days in December. We reported they were in good spirits despite the daily dangers. Just hours after our reports were printed and aired, the IRA launched a mortar and machine attack on a border checkpoint where we had talked with the troops. The ambush killed Lance Corporal Michael Patterson, 21, from Edinburgh and Private James Houston, 22, from Dumfries.
Roxburgh District Council observed a minute’s silence at its next meeting.
Compiled by Bob Burgess