Two miles east of Hawick lies Hornshole, the riverside scene of a skirmish in 1514 when the young men of the town routed a party of English raiders.
The spirit of that altercation – marked by a monument, recounted in the song Teribus and celebrated annually at the common riding – was evoked last week in the Scottish Borders Council (SBC) chamber.
For two Hawick members, the enemy this time was Scotland’s Boundary Commission, which has proposed that Hornshole, along with Denholm, should sever its local government link with the town and become part of a new council ward centred on Jedburgh.
The quango has already deemed that to achieve parity of representation across the region – and of one councillor for every 2,800 voters – the 11 SBC wards should be reduced to 10 and councillors cut from 34 to 32 in time for the 2017 elections. The commission has proposed that the two three-member wards of Hawick & Denholm and Hawick & Hermitage should give way to a single four-member Hawick & District ward.
After a recent sounding board of councillors, it appeared a consensus had been found, broadly supporting the commission, while insisting that Newcastleton should, with the rest of the Hermitage area, remain in Hawick.
On Thursday, Hawick & Denholm councillors Watson McAteer and Stuart Marshall launched a counter-offensive.
Councillor McAteer said: “Hornshole is a sacred and revered site for all Hawick people ... this site must remain within the boundary and control of Hawick. To do anything else would be to disrespect history and defy the wishes of those people responsible for placing their trust in us as their elected representatives.”
Councillor Marshall, a former chairman of Hawick’s common riding committee and currently the town’s honorary provost, blasted: “My constituents are appalled at the commission forcing these changes on our communities in a number-crunching exercise. My town is outraged at the very thought of moving Hornshole to another part of the Borders.”
But Councillor Stuart Bell (Tweeddale East) led the resistance, asserting that historical connections were neither defined nor influenced by electoral boundaries.
On a division, the McAteer amendment to place Denholm and Hornshole within the new Hawick ward was defeated by 26 votes to five, with the other four Hawick councillors ultimately siding with the majority.
The council’s submission to the commission will therefore recommend that Newcastleton remains with Hawick, that the 40 electors at Stichill Home Farm and Stables should switch from Mid Berwickshire to Kelso & District and that 15 electors at New Horndean Farm will nudge across the boundary from East to Mid Berwickshire.
The commission’s detailed plans will go out to public consultation for 12 weeks from July to October, with final recommendations due to be with Scottish ministers in May next year.