12 The snuffin'
On the Friday morning following the Colour-Bussing the Drum and Fife Band waken the people of Hawick. They set off when the clock of St. Mary's Church chimes the first stroke of 6.00 a.m. and follow the same route as the previous night before the Colour-Bussing. Presently a large crowd gathers at Towerdykeside. When the band arrives the strange ceremony of the "Snuffin'" takes place.
The Official Song Singer, protected by two strong bodyguards, carries a large horned mull filled with snuff. A large number of people, mainly youths, try to wrestle free some of the snuff. There is much pushing and jostling for some minutes. The watching crowd cheers, amazed no one is hurt.
When the mull is empty the Official Song Singer goes into Drumlanrig Tower where he throws little packets of snuff from an open first floor window. These packets are eagerly scarmbled for and are much prized as mementoes. Many are sent to exiled Teries all over the world.
In former times the Snuffin' was not a public ceremony as today. Only the Burgh Officers (Halberdiers) and members of the bands took part. While marching round the town early on Friday morning they used to stop at the Auld Brig. The officers put down their halberds (spear-like weapons) and took a pinch of snuff. This probably comes from the time when it was a social custom to pass round a snuff-box during a halt in meetings. It could also come from the time when it was traditional for troops to receive snuff prior to battle.
After the Auld Brig was removed in 1851 this ceremony was stopped. Howver, it was later revived by William Kennedy who, with a large mull of snuff, regularly met the Officers near the spot where the ceremony used to be performed.
Since that time the Snuffin' has grown in popularity. The horned mull provided by Mr Kennedy, which is now the property of the Provost's Council, is still in use. The Snuffin' used to take place also on Thursday evenings but is now confined to the Friday morning. The Official Song Singer first took charge of the Snuffin' in 1921.