17 Returning the flag
After the wreath laying ceremony at the War Memorial on Saturday, the horsemen proceed in procession round the town. Once again they ride up the Loan and on to the Moor via the Dukes Wood, Flex Farm, Williestruther and Pilmuir. At the race course there is another programme of horse racing. Large crowds of tired but happy people enjoy their picnics once more as they watch the races.
In the afternoon, after the races, the mounted supporters follow the Cornet back to Hawick for the last time. They ride via Crumhaughhill, Loan and High Street to the Town Hall to return the Flag to the Provost.
Returning the Flag is a very formal ceremony. It takes place in the Council Chambers out of sight of the crowds who are waiting in the street outside. The Provost, magistrates and councillors are gathered to await the Flag. The Lasses and the parents of the Principals are also present. The Cornet enters the Chambers carrying the Flag accompanied by the Right- and Left-Hand Men. On returning the Flag to the Provost he advises him that:
"as charged by you I have ridden the meiths and marches of the ancient commonty of Hawick and found them to be in good order and return this Flag to you unsullied and unstained.”
The Provost accepts the Flag and congratulates the Cornet on his conduct during the past weeks. He also thanks him for the satisfactory way he has carried out his duties.
The "meiths and marches" have again been ridden as for "hundredths of years past" and the "emblem grand" which went "safe oot" to the farthest part of the "commonty" is now "safe in" with its honour "unsullied and unstained."The Provost then invites the Cornet to display the Flag for the last time. The Cornet, joined by the other three Principals, takes the Flag and displays it from the balcony of the Town Hall overlooking the High Street while the Drums and Fifes play "Tefibus" through twice. The Saxhorn Band plays a sad hymn-like tune known as "Invocation" as the Cornet lowers The Flag and the mounted supporters stand in their stirrups as if to attention. It is a very emotional occasion and many a tear is shed as the end of another Common-Riding is reached.
When the music finishes the Cornet places the flag on the balcony for the last time and with a final touch of the banner leaves the balcony, followed by the others. Probably the most emotional part of the ceremony is when the Provost thanks the Left-Hand Man for his contribution to his three Common-Ridings and he is then asked to leave the room.
After a short time, the four Principals, led by the Drum and Fife band, are carried shoulder-high from the Town Hall in a jovial mood and, along with their supporters and Lasses, proceed to the Tower Knowe where the eight Principals dance their last reel, the Bull Reel, before heading off to enjoy the rest of the day and possibly think of next year's Common-Riding.