Hawick Callants Club: founded 1904

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Here Callants once at Flodden's fight
Renowned for deeds of matchless might
When Scotland's valour sank in night
Shone Hawick's on the Border.
And long as Hornshole Brig shall stand
That trusty valour through the land
Shall tell the story proud and grand
Of Hawick on the Border.

J L Hercus

Annual Dinner held on 2nd March 2018

Top Table Guests – top row (from left) Past President Davy Chapman; Hon Treasurer R. Scott; Rob Halliday; Rev Charles Finnie; Michael Aitken; Ian W Landles, bottom row Past-President Frankie Scot; Cornet Ali George; Chief Guest David McVittie; President Kenny McCartney; Provost Watson McAteer; Ex Cornet George Peden; Vice President Ex Cornet Ian Nichol.

A chapter and verse account of Teri greats

Although admitting he couldn’t quite put his finger on what makes Hawick and its folk so special, Michael Aitken was certain that “our songs and poems play a huge part in our lives in this grey auld toon.

More used to hitting all the right notes as official Common-Riding song- singer, Michael proved to be equally as accomplished as a speaker with a fine toast to Oor Ain Auld Toon.

Focusing on Hawick’s “great ambassadors”, he asked whether they would have been able to achieve what they had without being brought up with the “terrific amount of song and verse that goes hand in hand with Oor Ain Auld Toon”.

“To me, it’s like the glue that holds us all together,” he asserted. Turning to some of the “amazing men” who had put Hawick on the map centuries ago, Michael threw the spotlight on three renowned figures, namely novelist Sir Walter Scott, who had “several haunts” around Hawick; poet and novelist James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, who was a regular visitor to the town; and poet and songwriter Henry Scott Riddell, who was educated at Newmill-on-Teviot, lived at The Flex in his early days, and frequently lectured at Hawick Archaeological Society.

The speaker also recounted personal memories of the late ex-Acting Father Addie Ingles, who was his “biggest influence”, and the late Ian Seeley, “another big influence”. “These men have helped carve out Hawick’s f uture in song and verse,” he said. Michael added that there had been a resurgence in Common-Riding songs over the last 20-30 years, stating that Ian Landles and Alan Brydon had helped bring “our songs” into the 21st century with the very popular Hawick Ma Border Hame and Bonnie Banner Blue.

He then rounded off with a couple of verses from A Callant Abroad, by John Rule, before a spirited chorus of Thomas Caldwell’s Oor Ain Auld Toon.

Delivering the toast to Border Art and Literature, the Rev. Charles Finnie, minister at Burnfoot since 1997 and current Callants’ Club chaplain, told the company that local wordsmiths such as Tom Ker could “turn their hands to anything”, alluding to Ker’s well-known songs such as I Like Aud Hawick the Best, The Fairest Spot o’ a’ and Where Slitrig and Teviot Meet.

Ker’s love for Hawick “poured out”, said the speaker, who also highlighted the resonance of the former’s poems, including Hornshole and Gather Callants, Gather.

Closing with a “nod to Border Art”, the speaker recalled travelling to Hawick in 1997 for his church interview, cresting the Ashkirk heights, where, laid out before him, was “a vista which continues to hold opportunity for exploration and adventure”. He added that it was a picture of the Borderlands seared in his mind’s eye. “A palate that cannot ever be fully mastered, I don’t think, and I hope not.”

Our future prosperity lies in our own hands

Main speaker for the evening, ex- Langholm Cornet Dave McVittie, delighted the company with his trademark humour, while also striking a cautionary note over what he thought the future held for Hawick and Langholm. The butt of several of his jokes was his sparring partner from Langholm, Billy Young, while Callants’ president Kenny McCartney also took a ribbing during a side-splitting repertoire for which ‘Big Deev’ as he is known has become synonymous.Our future prosperity lies in our own hands The speaker went on to recall hisrugby-playing days during which he first experienced the “Hawick hospitality” after matches against the Greens, and also talked of friendships forged at Hawick Common-Riding.

Giving his own take on how Hawick and Langholm might prosper in years to come, Dave continued: “Over the last two decades in Langholm we’ve seen work all but dry up. When once the sound of busy looms echoed through the streets, there’s now just a ghostly wind, and I know Hawick has suffered a similar fate. “We get no appreciable help from Dumfries and Galloway Council and none that I know of from the tourist board. It is therefore the widely held perception in Langholm that we are out on a limb.

“If this is the case, gentlemen, why don’t we take things into our own hands, drawing visitors to my beloved Muckle Toon, where we can show them what we have, before directing them north on the A7 to the queen o’ a’ the Borders. “The Highlands of Scotland rely heavily on the American dollar, but what do they have that we do not? The Highland Clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries saw thousands of Scottish families emigrating to America and Canada, but there are just as many Border descendants living across the Atlantic.” “[So] why can’t we have a mutually run enterprise between Hawick and Langholm where we welcome Americans to our towns and show them some of the history upon which they are built. “Bus them up to Hornshole or Otterburn and regale them of stories of blood and steel. Drive them down to Carlisle Castle where the Bold Buccleuch freed Johnnie Armstrong of Gilnockie. Or bring them up to the new distillery in Hawick where they can buy a bottle of the same sort of whisky that their ancestors would have used to keep warm during a night of reiving.”

The speaker said he didn’t have all the answers, but if we didn’t try something we would be leaving our children nothing. He added: “Perhaps this is all just a pipe dream, but think of what good it would do both our towns if we had thousands of extra visitors staying in our hotels, using our shops and eating in our restaurants. “I will leave the idea with you all to ponder, and who knows, by the time my kids are old enough to leave school, there may just be something up and running, and both our towns might be in the ascendancy.

“What I do know is no matter what direction we go on and where our towns end up, we shall forever remain friends.”

Company toasts town back on the up

“Real investment is pushing Hawick down the road to economic recovery,” said Provost Watson McAteer in an upbeat State of the Nation speech at last Friday night’s Callants’ Club dinner.

The town’s civic head, addressing the 98-strong company in the Mansfield Park clubrooms, also expressed his delight at the soon-to-open Borders distillery in Commercial Road, and ambitious plans to breathe new life into some of the town’s derelict buildings.

The annual function, which was being held on a rescheduled date due to the heavy snow on March 2, saw the provost begin by nailing his colours to the Hawick mast in unequivocal style, revealing that he is regularly accused of parochialism for putting Hawick before the rest of the region by his Scottish Borders Council colleagues.

“Gentlemen, I am often told that I represent SBC ahead of all else. How wrong that is. My responsibility is to this town – and those that have placed their trust in me to work to improve everybody’s well-being. I will never make any apology for putting Hawick first.”

He continued: “We have some new faces representing our town at UK, Scottish and local Government levels. At a local level there are efforts being made by most to work together for the benefit of the town and that can only be a positive and welcome change.”

Touching on the “poor behaviour” of a small number of high school pupils, the provost said it was incumbent on everyone that they fought to secure funding for a new secondary school.

It was quite disgraceful that we had a food bank at times as busy as the local supermarkets, but on a more positive note, unemployment was very low and work could be found by those who wanted it. “In properly recognising the challenges Hawick faces it is also important to recognise what is happening and how real investment and effort is gathering speed and pushing Hawick down the road to economic recovery,” said the provost. “Much is being made of the extension of the Borders Railway to Hawick and on to Carlisle, and we have a real opportunity to capitalise on a project that is being discussed at UK and Scottish Government level.

“Gentlemen, The Three Stills Distillery, a 10million private investment in Hawick, is about to open its doors, creating a high quality attraction for our town. Guaranteed new jobs and an estimated 25,000 visitors per year can only be great news for Hawick. “Investment continues to grow. Pesco’s now bought with plans to develop high quality retirement homes. The old cottage hospital destined to be retained and turned into a 14-house development. I suspect the queue will stretch to Denholm for housing that will have some of the best views in the town.” The provost went on to praise the town’s knitwear and textile businesses who were competing at the “high quality end” of the world market, and hailed the revamped Wilton Lodge Park as a “real gem in Hawick’s crown”

Concluding, he asserted: “I firmly believe that Hawick is turning a corner and that the pace of change will increase. We must be ready to embrace change and work collectively to secure and grow our future.”

Proposing the toast to Our Common-Riding and Our Cornets, Rob Halliday, convenor at The Hut, was certainly well qualified to wax lyrical about the town’s annual celebrations, telling the company the Common-Riding had been in his blood since he was pushed up the Loan and onto the Nipknowes in his pram for the “spectacles that are the Chases”

Rob continued by remarking that controversy was never far away when the Common-Riding cropped up in conversation, with differing opinions over what should and shouldn’t happen. He said he would like to celebrate the Common-Riding the way it was.

“I’m a great believer that if a thing’s not broken, it doesn’t need fixed; and gentlemen, the Common-Riding is definitely not broken,” he said. “[But] whether you agree or disagree with these sentiments, everyone will come together and celebrate what is, and always will be, the best Common-Riding in the land.”

The speaker also paid a touching tribute to the late ex- Cornet and ex-Acting Father Norman Dickie, with whom he had formed a long friendship from their days at Leaburn Stables. “Norman took me under his wing and pointed me in the right direction, educating me in the rights and wrongs of Common- Riding procedure,” said Rob.

Ex-Cornets Jed Huggan and Brian Patterson had also contributed to his “learning curve”. There were also some warm words from Rob for Cornet Ali George who he said had done things to the “highest standard”, and he finished off by saying that all Cornets and Common-Ridings were special and would continue to be so until time ends.

Earlier in the evening, club president and chairman, Ken McCartney, announced that new members at the dinner for the first time were Cornet Ali George, Cameron Knox and David Wright. He also welcomed the club’s newest honorary life member, ex-Cornet Elliot Hutton, who will celebrate his golden jubilee this year, and 2018 Silver Jubilee Acting Father Murray Richardson.

The president then turned to former club president Robert Charters and wished him a “speedy recovery” after a recent knee operation, and also made special mention of 1964 Cornet Rob Brydon who has recently undergone major surgery and was unable to be at the function. “We wish him all the best,” said Ken.

The presentations during the evening saw Brian Tait, who has stepped down after four years as club secretary, receiving a specially made tie pin, while the Cornet was presented with the winning entries in last year’s schools essay competition, and guest Dave McVittie received the customary club pack comprising various publications and a CD.

The first-class line-up of entertainers who provided the perfect interlude between the night’s speakers were: past- president Bernie Armstrong, Doug Riddell, Scott Lambie, ex-Cornet Chris Ritson, past-president Ian Landles BEM, Graeme Tinlin, Billy Young, Drew Johnstone, past- president Dave Chapman, Alan Brydon, Iain ‘Scocha’ Scott, ex- Acting Father Malcolm Grant and Michael Aitken.

Other toasts were The chairman, by club vice-president ex-Cornet Ian Nichol (reply, the chairman). Cornet George replied to the toast to Our Common-Riding and Our Cornets. Pianist was Ian Landles, while Rev. Charles Finnie said Grace, and Deborah Brown and her catering team served up a lovely meal. A cracking evening drew to a close with a rousing rendition of Teribus, led by former Callants’ Club president, ex-Cornet Philip Murray, and 16 “Cornets up.”

(with the kind permission of Jason Marshall, Hawick News)

Signing the Book of Attendance, Annual Dinner 2nd March 2018 – Chief Guest David McVittie flanked by President Kenny McCartney.