Radical changes could be on the way at this year’s Hawick Common Riding, with women being granted equal rights to participate more fully than ever before in its 315-year history.
A source has told the Southern Reporter that the town’s common riding committee is preparing to release a statement on a major rethink to the part Teri womenfolk can play in 2018’s event, the 302nd.
If confirmed, it would follow decades of criticism over inequalities between the sexes during the common riding, launched over 300 years ago to commemorate the victory of Hawick youths over a marauding English force in 1514.
It is understood that for the first time in the event’s history, ladies will not be stopped from riding at any mounted events, including the preliminary rideouts, chases and main common riding day on Friday.
Even more radically, unlike in previous years, ladies look set to be allowed access to St Leonard’s Hut and other venues previously off limits to the fairer sex.
Further constitutional changes are expected to make clear the committee’s commitment to tackle any “inappropriate behaviour” detracting from the common riding following reports of large-scale rowdiness last summer.
A spokesman for the committee declined to comment on any proposed changes, saying only that an official statement would be issued in due course.
Controversy has dogged the traditionally male-dominated event for many years.
As far back as 1997, two women took legal action claiming that the men-only parts of the common riding were in breach of the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act.
That dispute eventually led to a compromise allowing women to take part in two of the event’s 16 rideouts.
If confirmed, the changes would come in the same year as celebrations take place to mark the 90th anniversary of women getting the vote.