Allegations of verbal abuse were made at a heated meeting of Hawick Common Riding’s organising committee last Thursday amid revelations that the annual event had made a financial loss for the first time in two decades.
Tempers flared at the committee’s annual general meeting, held at Hawick Town Hall.
Members were also told that this year’s common riding had made an unprecedented loss of £5,403, believed to be down to reduced footfall.
However, it was the angry words and claims and counter-claims that shocked many of the members of the public present, with one attendee describing the meeting as “the worst in the committee’s history”, adding: “The common riding is being ripped apart”.
Matters came to ahead when master of ceremonies and ex-Hawick cornet Ian Nichol accused committee member Gillian Morgan of lobbying against the appointment of his son Ross, also an ex-cornet, to the committee.
That led to a bitter exchange of words between the two, with Mrs Morgan making claims of verbal abuse against both father and son.
Mr Nichol told the meeting: “I am led to believe that Gillian Morgan from our committee, after it was done and dusted at a full committee meeting last Thursday night, went out and lobbied all provost council members, bar one, not to allow Ross Nichol to stand as a representative, and I would like to ask her now what was her reason for not saying this at last week’s meeting. Do you think it is the correct way to conduct business?”
In response, Mrs Morgan, formerly gate and ticket convener for the common riding, denied lobbying provost council members and told Ross Nichol: “At last year’s colour-bussing, you verbally abused me on the stairs. You know what you said at that colour-bussing. You might look confused now, but you came up to me and said I was personally responsible for a child up there crying.
“Your attack on me was completely unfounded.
“I’d also like to put on record that, on January 24 this year, Ian Nichol verbally abused me at a common riding meeting. I think you know what I’m saying.”
Mr Nichol denied that, saying: “There were 30-odd people there – can anybody remember that?
“The common riding committee is a voluntary group that tries hard to organise the common riding for Hawick folk and the town of Hawick, but with folk like this, honestly, it’s absolutely ridiculous.”
The evening’s heated exchanges continued after ex-cornet Jed Huggan accused the committee of letting down the town by handing out one-year bans he described as excessive to young men found to have misbehaved at common ridings.
He said: “I don’t think the executive committee is doing its job properly.
“The common riding is a wonderful thing, but at the moment it is not working well.”
Committee chairman Cameron Knox told him: “The sentence is dealt with by the executive committee, quite rightly.
“We take that to the full committee for their discussion, with each one discussed at length, and it’s up to the committee to pass final judgement.
“If any member of the committee does not agree with that, they can speak up.”
An attendee at the meeting, who did not wish to be identified, said: “It was an explosive meeting indeed, with members of the public and 20 committee members present.
“It was the worst meeting that I have attended in the committee’s history.
“How awful it is to see our common riding being ripped apart in such a way and in the full glare of the public.”
Another attendee added: “I don’t know where the Hawick Common Riding committee goes from here. There are a lot of wounds to be healed.”