DENHOLM will decide next week whether it wishes to ban this year’s ride-out, which is part of the Hawick Common Riding celebrations, writes Kenny Paterson.
A public vote will take place on Wednesday after last year’s event was overshadowed by complaints of urinating in gardens and closes, fighting, broken glass and piles of litter in the village.
These reports of anti-social behaviour among the huge crowd led to some residents demanding the ride-out be axed after more than 50 years of the Hawick Cornet visiting Denholm.
But measures have been brought in in an attempt to persuade villagers that similar scenes will not be repeated this year.
Reflecting on last year’s problems, when about 3,000 people attended, Sid Huddart, chairman of Denholm Feuars and Householders Council which owns Denholm Green and runs the ride-out, said: “The village was quite trashed.
“There were bottles smashed in the children’s playpark and I am sure if broken glass was lying on play slides in Galashiels, Hawick or Jedburgh, people would not be happy.
“There were people urinating in gardens and then being abusive when they were told to leave by the householder. The main issue was the litter left, it was a mess.
“We received a lot of complaints which may seem minor but can be huge to people living in the village having to deal with it.”
Mr Huddart, who is expecting a high percentage of Denholm’s 600 residents to vote, added: “It is not the real followers of the Common Riding [causing problems].
“Unfortunately Denholm is on a bus route so it is easy to access and I assume these people have come in from the buses.”
Mr Huddart and the Feuars Council have drawn up proposals for this year’s festivities, if the village supports the ride-out’s return.
They plan to bring in extra stewards, with Scottish Borders Council wardens also to be in attendance.
The number of toilets would be doubled to 12, at a considerable additional cost according to Mr Huddart, and the Feuars Council would even consider blocking off closes.
Despite complaints to the Feuars Council, few issues were raised with the police last year.
As a result, Mr Huddart is expecting the same number – one sergeant and five officers – to be in attendance for 2011’s ride-out, if it goes ahead.
“In my opinion, there should be more officers and what we are asking people to do is to report any incidents to the police rather than just the council,” Mr Huddart told TheSouthern.
He added: “I expect if we had asked the question whether to keep the ride-out immediately after last year’s event, people would have voted ‘no’ but hopefully they will consider the proposals we have set up.
“We [the Feuars Council] might have made the decision ourselves but we felt it was right that the village should decide. We have worked hard to put in place these proposals and have had several meetings.
“We have a couple of issues to sort out but hopefully people will listen to what we have proposed.”
Hawick councillor Stuart Marshall, chairman of the Common Riding Committee, which is not directly responsible for the ride-outs, said: “Our Cornet always receives a fantastic welcome from the villagers and it really would be a shame if the ride-out was not to go ahead because of a very small minority of people who probably aren’t there for the right reasons anyway.
“You can understand the anger in the village after seeing the mess left over and we just have to keep our fingers crossed that the good people of Denholm support the ride-out.”
Last year’s Cornet, Greg Easton, added: “It never used to be, but over the years it has become a big ride-out. Ninety-nine people out of 100 do not cause problems in Denholm. It is a day the Cornet always looks forward to, so hopefully the situation can be sorted out.”
Mr Marshall said that the Ride-out Working Party would attend Wednesday’s vote, which takes place at 7pm in the village hall.