08 The flag (the colour)
The Flag is an important part of the events at the Hawick Common Riding today. It is proudly carried by the Cornet at all the major ceremonies. As the original has been long lost, this Flag is a copy of the ancient one which was captured at Hornshole. it is generally accepted to have been the Flag of Hexham Priory, as men from Hexham had been in Dacre's force in the area around Hawick in 1514.
In 1706 the Cornet-Elect refused to carry the Flag because it was so decrepit, almost causing near riots. The Bailies carried the Flag that year, while the young men of the town elected their own unofficial Cornet, whose name was not recorded, to carry another colour.
As a result in 1707 the Town Council ordered that it be replaced. It is just possible that the replaced Flag was the original. However, it was not preserved when the new flag was bought. The 1707 flag, sometimes called "the Union Flag", is still in existence and may be seen displayed in Drumnlanrig Tower in the town along ith a replica of the current Flag.
Some time after 1832 until 1903 the cross on the Flag was changed from gold to crimson, although the reason for this is not known, and it was square in shape. The 1832 Flag is in a glass case in the Museum where the 1865 Flag is also kept but it is in poor condition.
In 1903 the Town Council employed an expert in heraldry, Mr Andrew Ross, Ross Herald, to research the true shape and colours of the Flag and he confirmed that it should be in the shape or a "pennon" which is a swallow-tailed flag and should be blue with a gold cross, the colours of Hexham Abbey, and have the date 1514 and the letters HC also in gold. This is the shape and colour of the flag today. "A Banner Azure with Saltire Or". The letters "HC" stand for "Hawick Colour" and they are also on the 1707 Union Flag.
The old blue and crimson Flag was carried for the last time by Cornet W E Scott on the Thursday morning of the 1903 Common Riding. The new Blue and Gold Flag was bussed by the Cornet's Lass, Miss Lunn, at the Colour Bussing on the Thursday Night and carried for the first time on the Friday morning in 1903 by the Cornet as he rode the marches with 30 mounted supporters.
The Town Council loaned the Flag to Hexham Abbey for the consecration service of the newly-built nave on 8th August 1908. The Flag was carried by the Rector of Hexham's Verger in the procession, which included Provost Melrose and Burgh Officer John Waldie, and was flown from the Abbey Tower. After the ceremony Canon Savage asked the Council to donate the Flag to the Abbey and offered to send a cheque to purchase a new Flag. The Council initially did not agree to this proposal, but following a donation of £4.00 from another Committee a replica of the Flag was made and sent to Hexham Abbey in January 1909. A letter of thanks for the generous gift of the Flag was received from Canon Savage. This Flag was displayed in the Abbey until 1972.
The use of the Flag at Hexham Abbey and at Edinburgh Exhibition resulted in a group of Ex-Cornets respectfully protesting to the Town Council in October 1908 that they had not been consulted when the Flag had left the Burgh. After discussion between the Ex-Cornets and Council it was agreed that, if the Flag was to be taken from the town, the Cornet at the time would be given the opportunity to accompany it.
On 26th November 1972 Provost David Atkinson accompanied by the Town Clerk, Bill Hogg, Cornet Philip Murray, and Burgh Officer Bill Allan presented a new replica flag (the one last carried by Cornet Drew Martin in 1971) to the Rector of Hexham Abbey, and received the 1909 replica in return so that it could be preserved with other treasures of the Burgh. This new Flag hangs in the nave north aisle of the Abbey.1749: "May 26-The which day the Bailies and Council have unanimously resolved that in time coming no Colour or Standard shall be carried on the Common-Riding days except the Town's Colour or Standard."
This rule was not too strict as the Grammar School flag was still carried till about 1777. Since then, however, only one flag has been carried at the Common-Riding.
The Flag is rarely brought out except at the Common-Riding, but formerly was used in local processions. e.g. at the opening of the Allan Water supply in 1865 (when a new Flag was provided) and the Dod Burn water supply in 1882. The Flag is also draped over the coffins of ex-Cornets, the practice beginning with James Smith in 1904.
In June 1945 the lasses of Robert Pringle and Son made a replica Flag for B Company of the 4th Kings Own Scottish Borderers (now 1 Scots of the Royal Regiment of Scotland). The soldiers had managed to hold Common-Ridings each June during World War II, the last being held in the East German town of Letzlinglen after the cessation of hostilities. A German lady embroidered on the Flag the names of the places where the battalion had seen action. This Flag is displayed in the Ceremonial Room of the Museum and a replica was "laid up" in St Mary's and Old Parish Church in November 1998 in a ceremony organised by the 4th Borders Battalion KOSB Old Comrades Association.
.As part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations in the year 2002, along with Principals from other Border towns, Cornet Steven Anderson carried the Flag at the Greenyards in Melrose where it was bussed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
A small additional ceremony was introduced in 2009 when Cornet Jamie Richardson was the first to carry the Flag from the Town Hall to the Tower Knowe after the Provost's Breakfast on the Friday morning, before the singing of the Old Common-Riding Song.