Langholm shows power of ancient traditions

Langholm Common Riding 2012. Cornet Andrew Elliot with the flag.
Langholm Common Riding 2012. Cornet Andrew Elliot with the flag.

Langholm celebrated its age-old traditions and customs on Friday as hundreds of exiles and visitors joined the townsfolk for the annual Common Riding.

It remained dry, and at times very warm and sunny, with only a short shower at the games in the afternoon, and the entire festivities were enjoyed enthusiastically.

Langholm Common Riding 2012. The second Fair Crying by Mr Rae.

Langholm Common Riding 2012. The second Fair Crying by Mr Rae.

For those who could not make it back for the Common Riding, the following verse sums up their thoughts:

Were God to grant one wish, I’d choose,

To walk by Wauchope, Esk or Ewes,

And be where heather blends with sky,

Langholm Common Riding 2012. Cornet Andrew Elliot. Cornet leads his supporters up the Kirk Wynd to Whita Yett and Castle Craigs.

Langholm Common Riding 2012. Cornet Andrew Elliot. Cornet leads his supporters up the Kirk Wynd to Whita Yett and Castle Craigs.

On that last Friday in July.

Rain early on the Simmer Fair Night, Thursday, eased off in time for a good crowd to be entertained by the Langholm Town Band in the Market Place, and they were later joined by Langholm Pipe Band.

Cornet Andrew Elliot and his right and left-hand men, ex-cornets Lee Earsman and Graeme Murray, were joined early on Thursday evening by the Common Riding committee to inspect the crown made by Les Murray, and look at the gigantic thistle.

As is tradition the Flute 
Band and Pipe Band went to 
the Townfoot to meet the last train at 9pm. The railway closed in 1964, but before that large numbers arrived by 
rail and were led to town by 
the bands. The bands played up the High Street and perambulated the town followed by several rows of enthusiastic followers.

Townsfolk were roused from their beds at 5am on Friday by the Flute Band in preparation for the hound trail, and the hills were shrouded in a thick mist. Things had cleared a bit for the trail, which was narrowly won by Text, owned by Ian and Barbara Telford, at odds of 3-1. There was disappointment for the local dogs trained by Marti Borthwick, with Castle Cairn and Castle Corrie second and third. Castle Cairn was awarded the prize for first maiden home.

Barbara Telford was later presented with the Arkleton Trophy and Holmwood Cup by Kevin Knott at the Town Hall and the hound certainly seemed to enjoy the occasion as it looked over the front of the stage to accept the applause.

Cornet Elliot, 30, who farms in the Ewes valley, and his right- and left-hand men made their way along a sunny High Street, to the platform slightly ahead of the official time and officiating magistrate David Stevenson went down for a short chat before proceeding with his duties proper.

Mr Stevenson mentioned the semi-jubilee cornet, Robert Rae, who was on horseback with his son Ross and daughter Lyndsey, and his wife Judith who was following on foot. He also said that jubilee cornet Bill Harkness, who now lives in Ayrshire, was on the platform with his wife Alexa.

Presenting Cornet Elliot with the town standard, Mr Stevenson said it showed the high regard he was held in when the public elected him on the first time of standing. He was following in the footsteps of his late grandfather, John Young, cornet in 1950, and uncle Billy Young, who carried out the duty in 1984.

He urged him to carry the flag with honour and dignity.

The cornet’s mother Ann and grandmother Jean and other family members watched from the platform as the procession, led by the Barley Banna emblem, carried by Hector Barnfather standing in for Ian Borthwick, followed by the Town Band, set off up the High Street.

It was then over the bridge which joins the Old Town to the New Town and was build by Robin Hotson in 1778, and which the famous Thomas Telford worked on as a young man. The procession went up Thomas Telford Road and round the Square Pump, then back through the packed High Street and down to the Townfoot.

On the return to the Market Place, Rae Elliot cried the Langholm Fair, having taken over the duty in 2003, following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He climbed on to the back of the horse ridden by Iain Little, which proved a bit frisky at times, but was held secure by some of his friends.

Large numbers of people lined the steep slopes of the Kirk Wynd and Mount Hooley to witness the spectacular gallop of about 180 riders up to the hill.

After inspecting the ancient boundaries in fine conditions, and hearing Billy Young cry the fair at the Castle Craigs, the horses circled the monument built to Sir John Malcolm in 1835. Semi-jubilee Cornet Robert Rae was given the honour of carrying the flag for a while on the hill. The riders made their way to Whita Well then to Mount Hooley, where they were met by the bearer of the thistle, James Johnstone, and the floral crown held aloft by Kevin Irving, and hundreds of children with heather besoms.

The procession, complete with the bands, emblems, children and riders, was led off by the Pipe Band down the Kirk Wynd to parade the main street. Rae Elliot cried the second part of the Langholm Fair, again in excellent fashion, which ended in loud cheers. The band played Auld Lang Syne then the procession headed along Drove Road and the Bar Brae.

At the Kilngreen, the boundary sod was cut by spade-bearer Gordon Reid and circled by Cornet Elliot and his mounted supporters.

After fording the River Ewes, and rounding the sod that was cut on the Castleholm, Cornet Elliot was given a rousing cheer as he galloped past the grandstand in the cornet’s chase with a large cavalcade of riders in pursuit.

This was followed by the morning horse racing, mainly for riders who had followed the cornet round the marches. There was a sports programme in the afternoon of horse racing, athletics and Cumberland wrestling, along with Highland dancing, which took place in fine weather.

The dance in the evening went ahead in fine, dry and mild conditions at the Castleholm with music from the Langholm Town Band under conductor David Calvert, and the cornet led off the traditional polka.

At 8.45pm the procession gathered at the Lodge Gates for the closing ceremonies, and when Cornet Elliot and ex-Cornets Earsman and Murray joined them on horseback, the Town Band led off towards the town. There were the usual stops at the Kilngreen, Crown Hotel and Townfoot for the polka before the huge procession arrived back in the ancient Market Place, which was packed with people.

David Stevenson received the flag back from Cornet Elliot and congratulated him on a job well done and said his late father would have been a proud man. There was an anxious moment as the horse seemed to suddenly rear up, but the cornet soon had things under control. Cornet Elliot thanked his family, Common Riding committee and all concerned for a great day.

After three cheers for the Cornet another truly memorable Langholm Common Riding came to an end with Auld Lang Syne and the National Anthem.

Cornet Elliot certainly enjoyed himself as he had a constant smile, and he carried out his duties from the day he was elected with great enthusiasm.

z Common Riding extra: Page 33