Hawick Common Riding chiefs vow to crack down on sexism and drunkenness

Hawick Cornet Gareth Renwick leading his first rideout, to Bonchester Bridge.
Hawick Cornet Gareth Renwick leading his first rideout, to Bonchester Bridge.

Hawick Common Riding bosses have pledged to crack down on sexism and drunken disorder.

The annual event’s organising committee says it will report any acts of discrimination to the police, and it has also vowed to tackle underage drinking and riders causing problems by taking part in proceedings while drunk.

Hawick Cornet Gareth Renwick arriving in Bonchester Bridge.

Hawick Cornet Gareth Renwick arriving in Bonchester Bridge.

That move follows claims that changes to this year’s event, allowing female followers access to all areas and events, are already causing fall-outs in the town.

One former committee member, who resigned last week, blamed their decision on the “committee’s poor representation of the people of Hawick”.

He dubbed the committee an “echo chamber for traditionalists” and warned that it must do more to manage female participation and any potential trouble it might bring come June.

His resignation letter states: “It is ridiculous to think that people will behave themselves, or women won’t turn up, and that everything will be all right.

“When we have ex-cornets not only abusing members of the committee, but other ex-cornets verbally abusing the public on social media and in pubs in Hawick, then we really have a problem.

“And if you think this behaviour will not spill over into the common riding, then you are deluding yourselves.”

He adds: “The people who could potentially ruin the common riding are not the female participants or the outsiders. It is actually the people who are passionate about the tradition of the common riding.

“If these people choose to act aggressively and illegally towards female participants and those that support this change, then I fear the common riding and the town will suffer dearly.”

The 40-plus-strong common riding committee has vowed to combat any discrimination, and its secretaries, Ian and Lesley Fraser, have issued a statement saying: “All those participating or spectating during Hawick Common-Riding events are subject to the provisions of the 2010 Equalities Act.

“Should Hawick Common Riding Committee be advised of any acts of discrimination, victimisation or harassment, the police will be advised and the offenders potentially subject to criminal proceedings.

The committee is also hoping to avoid any repetition of the booze-fuelled disorder seen at last year’s event and has recruited a Midlothian-based security firm to keep the peace.

“Last year, Hawick Moor was marred by the poor behaviour of a few,” say the Frasers.

“In a bid to return it to a family-friendly event, the common riding committee have hired Dunedin Security to steward the moor.

“As well as manning entry gates, the team will man the course crossing points and patrol the moor.

“In another move to improve safety, and in conjunction with Police Scotland, riders returning to their horses may be stopped from remounting by the horse hirer if they do not think the rider is safe to remount. Marshals also have the authority to stop riders remounting and joining the cavalcade if they are deemed unfit to ride.”

Anyone who looks under 25 will be asked for ID at all licensed events, on entering the moor and during the sale of tickets for St Leonard’s Hut events.

Under-18s will not be allowed to carry alcohol into the racecourse and may have their bags searched, and all supporters will receive a wristband when entering the moor.

Supporters are also being urged to bring correct entry money, not take glass onto the moor and to make use of bin-bags supplied to them to dispose of litter.

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson has also resigned from the committee but is citing other commitments as his reason.

The 63-year-old said: “I resigned because I haven’t been to many meetings over the last year or so because of other commitments.

“I have been on the committee for about 25 years, and I just thought it was only fair that I should stand down and let someone else that has more time on their hands do the job.”