19 The songs and poetry of Hawick
A deep love of Hawick and the Common-Riding has, over past generations, inspired many people to express their feelings in verse. Musicians heard and read these poems. They liked many of them enough to set tunes to the poems and so gave us the songs we have learned to love.
"Teribus" is, by a long way, the oldest of our songs. The words, written by James Hogg, date back to 1819. But the tune dates back to, at least, the sixteenth century. When Hogg was asked about this, he replied, “Its air’s eternal.” That’s why it is often referred to as "The Eternal Air". Actually, Hogg named the song "The Colour" but it is better known as "Teribus". An old copy of the tune is preserved in the Library. However, it only vaguely resembles the tune used today. James Hogg died at 14 Loan in 1838 where a plaque to his memory can be seen. There was also an older version of this sing written by Arthur Balbinnie that was the official "Common Riding Song" for about twenty years till James Hogg's version was published. The old song is still sung today. The Principals each sing verses from it outside Drumlanrig Tower every Common-Riding Friday morning before the procession.
"The Border Queen" and another very popular song, "Up Wi' the Banner", were written by James Thomson, who was famed for composing "The Star o' Robbie Burns". Thomson died in 1888 and was buried in the Wellogate Cemetery where a memorial was erected to him. The words of "The Border Queen" were at first sung to several tunes. But they had little success. However, when the present tune was written specially for the words, this changed. Indeed, the song became a great success. It has been sung at every Common Riding since the Colour-Bussing of 1887. "Hawick Volunteers" is another song written by James Thomson with the music "The Red Cross Banner" arranged by Adam L Ingles.
In 2005 a cable-stayed footbridge built across the River Teviot between the rear of the Burns Club and Teviot Road was named after James Thomson and an impressive bronze sculpture of Thomson, created by Bill Landles and unveiled in 2006, sits at the Burns Club end of the bridge looking towards the confluence of the Teviot and Slitrig. An appropriate verse from four of Thomson’s works is inscribed on each face of the base.
"Up Wi Auld Hawick" was written and composed for John Bell, a distinguished local singer, and was sung by him at the Colour-Bussing of 1902. Thomas Caldwell, who was born in Hawick in 1854 and died in Edinburgh in 1915, wrote the words and the tune was composed by Adam Grant. Grant, born in St Andrews in 1859, contributed more than anyone else to the town’s heritage of song. He wrote a great deal of music. He set or arranged music to no fewer than twelve of our songs. Grant had a music shop in Bridge Street, near the Post Office, now the Conservative Club. Caldwell and Grant also wrote "Oor Ain Auld Toon" which is dedicated to "all Hawick Callants in exile". "Hawick" is another of Adam Grant's tunes and was first used at the Colour-Bussing of 1910. Grant died in Southdean in 1938. A memorial plaque to Grant was erected at 2 High Street where he opened his first shop before moving to Bridge Street.
"The Mosstrooper's Song", published in 1931, was composed in 1928 by Adam McLeod Colledge. For many years he was music teacher at Hawick High School and organist at the Old Parish Church besides being an ardent horseman. The words, in the Hawick dialect, were written by J. E. D. Murray Cornet in 1890 and Acting Father four times, (1901, 1905, 1912 and 1925). He was born in Hawick in 1858 and was a great supporter of the Common Riding. "Jed" Murray wrote many of the town's best-loved poems and songs, including two favourites, "Clinty's Song" and "Meda's Song", more correctly known as "The Song of Meda" in its original form.
"The Banner Blue" was first sung in 1911. The words were written by John Inglis who donated the proceeds of his first publication in 1879 towards the building of St. John’s Church. Inglis, for many years curator of the Hawick Museum, came from an interesting family. His maternal grandfather was the last ferryman at the Coble before the Teviot or Albert Bridge was built in 1741. Inglis also wrote the words of "Hawick Among the Hills". He died suddenly in 1928 at the age of 90 and is buried in Wellogate Cemetery. Joshua J H Taylor who was born in 1831 in Huddersfield composed the music for "The Banner Blue". He came to work in the tweed trade at Blenkhorn and Richardson’s and eventually became mill manager. He died in Hawick in 1910 aged 79.
One of the oldest of our songs, "Pawkie Paiterson", was written about the same time as "Teribus". It was written by John ("Soapy") Ballantyne. He was a cousin of Wat the Drummer who is mentioned in a verse of "The Border Queen". "Pawkie Paiterson" is often sung at the Common-Riding.
Many others of Hawick’s songs are very popular and are often sung at the Common-Riding functions. Some of them praise Hawick like the sentimental "I like Auld Hawick the Best" by Tom Ker. This song is different in one way as it has a different chorus for each verse, unlike other songs that have only one chorus. This sometimes leads to confusion when the audience joins in.
"We'll follow oor Cornet Roon" was written by David Johnston and the words first appeared in the Hawick Express on 2nd May 1951. Adam L. Ingles later took the words and wrote the tune in the 70s dedicating it to the 1514 Club who have since adopted it as the Club Song. It was first sung at a 1514 Club Dinner in the mid 1970s.
Other songs praise the Borderland. "The Soft Lowland Tongue" is one of them. This was written and composed by William Sanderson who, for many years, edited "The Border Magazine" and wrote many poems. This song is sung at many of the Border Common-Ridings and is often included in Scottish song books.
A humorous song, "Kinly Stick", was written by William Easton who had a talent for writing about some of the characters of the day. Another of his humorous songs, "The Anvil Crew" tells the story of a group of well known local lads who played with a punt on the River Teviot.
"Invocation", a hymn-like tune, was written by "Jed" Murray and Adam Grant. It was written to be a fitting end to the Hawick "Quater Centenary pageant" (June 2nd 1914). The song was intended to be sung in the open air by a large audience, accompanied by the Saxhorn Band. "Invocation" now closes the ceremonial part of the Common-Riding. The Saxhorn Band outside the Town Hall plays it on the Saturday afternoon when the Cornet returns the flag to the Provost. The mounted supporters stand to attention in their stirrups during this time.
"Hawick in Song and Poetry" was first published by the Callants Club in 1931 and re-issued in 1945 as the "Red Book".
"The Hawick Songs - A Complete Collection" of words and music arranged by Adam L. Ingles, published in 1957 and reprinted in 1981, was sponsored by Hawick Callants Club who also produced a further compact version of "Hawick in Song and Poetry" in 1959. A further edition was printed in 1978 as the "Blue Book" and reprinted in 1981 and 1990.
The Club also produced two LPs in 1984 that brought many of the songs to a new audience who did not attend Common-Riding functions of smokers and dinners. The songs were re-released on a CD in 2000. The 1514 Club also published two cassette tapes of Hawick songs, Volume 1 in 1986 and Volume 2 in 1987. Volume 2 was reproduced on CD in 1997 and Volume 1 in 2003. These proved very popular and the songs can be heard emanating from cars at ridesout and all over the Moor on Common-Riding days.
In early 2000 a sub-committee of Hawick Callants Club comprising Henry Douglas, Ian Landles, Philip Murray, Frank Scott and Ian Seeley undertook the task of revising the Hawick Song Collection. The enlarged 3rd edition, "The Hawick Songs - A Complete Collection" edited by Ian Seeley, was published in 2001. A small compact version, "Hawick in Song and Poetry", the "Green book" was printed at the same time, and this was reprinted in 2009 with the addition of the songs "The Bonnie Banner Blue" and "Old Mill Town".
The additional songs include the following written and composed by Ian Seeley: "Callant's Song", "The Queen O' The Auld Scottish Border", "Songs of Teviotdale", "Where Teviot Rins" and "Hawick Reivers". Ian William Seeley was born in St Andrews in December 1941 and was educated at the town’s Madras College. He studied Music at the Royal Scottish Academy in Glasgow and Trinity College of Music in London, before taking teacher training at Dundee College of Education in 1964. He came to Hawick in 1970 to take up the post of Head of Music at Hawick High School. He held that post until he retired in 1997 and was responsible for setting up the new department in 1991. He arranged all the music for the highly successful revival of "Jed" Murray's and Adam Grant's "The Gutterbludes" performed by the "Two Rivers Theatre Company" in 2000. He had a long association with Hawick Amateur Operatic Society culminating in the meticulously researched production of their Centenary book in 2010.
Other songs in the 2001 edition are:
"The Hawick Callant" has words by Matthew Gotterson (1858-1936) and music by Adam Little Ingles. The poem was written about 1899 and the verse at the beginning of the compact new book has been sung annually at the start of the Callants Club Dinner and Smoker since the mid 1970s. Adam Ingles was born in the West End of Hawick on Common-Riding morning, 5th June 1914. His name is synonymous with the music of the town of Hawick. As composer, arranger and accompanist, he has left the imprint of his personality on our local songs, with which the town is more richly endowed than any other community in the country. He was Acting Father to Cornet Rob Brydon in 1964 and president of the Callants Club in 1976. He was a qualified optician, and a jeweller in the family business. The song has long been associated with Robert "Bert" Armstrong who was born in Dickson Street in 1924. He worked most of his life in the mills, apart from a few years in the Navy as a cook druring World Warr II. He was Official Song Singer from 1973 to 1984 and was awarded an MBE for services to entertainment in 2002.
"Auld Hawick Ma Border Hame", written by Ian W Landles in 1996 has, with its heartfelt chorus, quickly become a favourite at Common-Riding time. Ian was born in 1952 and is descended from a well-known and respected Hawick family. His great-uncle, John Chapman Gray Landles - affectionately known as "Chap" - was the only Hawick man to be both Cornet and Provost. Ian’s father, William, was one of the finest poets Hawick has produced and he was awarded the MBE for services to Border Literature. Ian was educated at St Mary’s, Trinity and Hawick High Schools and, after gaining an Honours degree in History at Edinburgh University, he was appointed to Hawick High School History Department where he taught for 34 years communicating to his pupils his passion for Hawick and its history. He has been President of the 1514 Club, Hawick Archaeological Society and Hawick Callants Club and is now an Honorary Life Member of all three. He collaborated with Alan Brydon on the musical "A Reiver's Moon".
"A Song O'Hawick" was written by Robert McCartney, who was born in 1909 at Wilton Dean but spent most of his early life in Myreslawgreen, attending Drumlanrig School and then Hawick High School where he was a Kennedy Dechan gold medallist in 1924. He entered the local law practice of Thomas Purdom and Son, specialising in accountancy and taxation as a Law Clerk. He often said that the melody of "A Song O' Hawick" had been in his head for many years, but it was not until the summer of 1990 that Ian Seeley received an audio cassette of Robert singing his song, which had been conceived on the mouth organ. Ian produced a simple piano accompaniment for the song. Robert died on 12th November, 1996 and was laid to rest in Wellogate Cemetery.
"Where Slitrig and Teviot Meet" has words and music by Tom Ker, who also wrote "I lke Auld Hawick the Best" and "The Fairest Spot O' A'". Born in Hawick in 1856, Tom Ker became a representative in the hosiery trade and was, for a number of years, treasurer of the Common Riding. He was the first president of Hawick Callants Club and his poetic output was considerable. James Edgar published a book of his verse in 1924 under the title "Some thoughts O' Mine in Song and Verse". Tom died in Glasgow on November 19, 1932 and is buried in Wellogate Cemetery.
"Hawick Stands Alone" was written by George L Goodfellow who was born in Hawick in 1951. He was educated at Wilton Primary and Hawick High Schools. George left school at 15 to train as a gasfitter and, after playing in two musical groups for several years, has been a "Gasman" ever since. In the mid 1990s he wrote and recorded, with the help of Elliot Goldie, the songs for the Children’s Hospice C.H.A.S., selling over 1000 copies with all proceeds going to the hospice appeal. In the early 2000s he formed the GLG Band with American and british musicians. George wrote "Hawick Stands Alone" around the time of the lady riders' controversy in 1996 when ther seemed to be so much influence from people who had nothing to do with Hawick or its customs and traditions.
"Home by Burnfoot" was written and composed by Neil Mackay who was born in Slitrig Crescent in 1928, son of William Gibson Mackay, draper – an occupation he would later follow. He was educated at Hawick High School and the Royal High School in Edinburgh where he was a boarder. In May, 1969 he was elected to the old Hawick Town Council to serve the ward of Burnfoot. It was his Burnfoot connection that produced, in June 1970, the words and music for "Home by Burnfoot". Its jaunty tune struck a chord with the younger citizens of Hawick and it was first performed in Burnfoot Roadhouse as part of the 1970 Common-Riding celebrations. This song has been adopted by Burnfoot Primary School and sung at the 1514 Club Concert held during the weeks leading up to the Common-Riding. Neil died in 1996 and was buried in Wilton Cemetery.
"The Lassie that Works in the Mill" was written and composed by Walter Armstrong Peden (1864 - 1954). In his youth Walter was a keen cyclist and won many trophies. A Master Butcher to trade, he had a shop at 3 High Street. Walter was father of George Peden Senior, who was Acting Father to Charles Whillans in 1948, grandfather of George Peden, Cornet 1967 and great grandfather of Laura Peden, Cornet’s Lass in 2009. The song was frequently sung by Jock Peden and after Jock’s death Adam Ingles asked Henry Douglas to sing it and he adapted it to give the current version. Henry was born in 1935 at Catslack Burn in the Yarrow Valley, attending Yarrow and Philiphaugh schools and then Hawick High when he moved to Craik in 1946 and then Howahill Farm near Bonchester Bridge in 1949. Henry was Acting Father to Cornet Derek Inglis in 1978 and was the official song singer for the town from 1985 to 2000. He has been President of the 1514, Mosstroopers and Callants Clubs. Henry’s son John was Cornet in 1989.
"Hawick Lasses 1514" was written by James Young Hunter (1877 - 1937), the eldest son of Robert Hunter factory manager and poet who wrote "Oor Bonnie Border Toon". James was educated at Buccleuch School and E C Training College Edinburgh, before being appointed assistant teacher at Drumlanrig Public School in 1899. At that time he was secretary of the Common-Riding Ceremonial Committee. He died when on holiday in Crieff and is buried at St. Andrews Western Cemetery.
The melody was composed by David S. Gibb who was born in Hawick in 1933 and was educated at Trinity and Hawick High Schools leaving at 15 to become an apprentice at Braemar Knitwear. He joined John J. Welch, accountants, in 1976 and served until retirement. He was always interested in music and singing, being a founder member of Hawick Music Club in 1951. He sang the part of "Clinty" in the Two Rivers Theatre Company revival production of "The Gutterbludes" in the year 2000. He first performed at the Colour-Bussing in Norman Murray’s year, 1959. The melody for "Hawick Lasses 1514" suggested itself when he was reading through J. Y. Hunter’s poem in an old copy of the Hawick Express. He was awarded an MBE in 2002 in recognition of his services to entertainment in and around Hawick. He died in 2007 and his ashes lie in Wilton Cemetery.
The following two songs were included in the 2009 edition of the song book which has a shiny blue cover.
"The Bonnie Banner Blue" was written and composed by Alan G. Brydon, who was born in Hawick in 1961. Alan was educated at Wilton Primary and Hawick High Schools. He qualified as a carding engineer at the Scottish College of Textiles and developed an expertise in textile technology. His business interests have taken him all over the world and sharpened his appreciation of his hometown. His passions for the town and its history are insatiable. His historical novel, The Keeper of Teviotdale reveals an intimate knowledge of our region’s past. He entered into the ancient Common-Riding ceremonies, revelling in the horsemanship at the centre of them. This provided the inspiration for "The Bonnie Banner Blue", a song that is relevant, has evocative words; a strong easily remembered melodic line and passionate chorus. Iain H. Scott first sang it in public at the Mosstroopers Dinner on 27th May, 2005. Alan was President of the Mosstroopers in 2012.
"Old Mill Town" was written and composed by David Finnie who was born in 1960. David was educated at Burnfoot Primary, Hawick High School and Napier College and has worked as a printer ever since. "Old Mill Town" came to him in 2001. He sat down to write a song about his favourite view approaching Hawick from the North on the A7 - "I'm looking down on this old mill town, making my way back home...". However, the song quickly took on a life of its own and changed from being a song about an external view to being an internal view of how it feels to belong to this "Old Mill Town". The song has become closely associated with local singer Deborah Lyons who has performed it at many public events.
Many of the new songs are included on the CD "Hawick and Teviotdale - In Song and Poetry" issued by Hawick Callants Club in 2006.
The following poems are also frequently recited at Common Riding functions.
"The Road to Roberton", "The Raiders", "The Barefoot Maid" and "Ho! The Blades of Harden" were written by Will H Ogilvie, who was born at Holefield Farm near Kelso in 1869. He was educated at Kelso Grammar School, at Prep School in Yorkshire and Fettes College. He travelled to Australia in 1889 where he was a skilled drover and breaker of wild horses. He wrote many poems when in Australia and continued writing on his return to Scotland in 1901 producing sixteen books of verse and four of prose. He lived most of his life at Kirklea, Ashkirk and died there in 1963. A cairn was erected in his honour in 1993 on the road between Ashkirk and Roberton with a memorial plaque (sculpted by Bill Landles) and a replica at Bourke in Australia. His ashes were scattered on the "Hill Road to Roberton".
David Hill, born in the West End in 1911 and educated at Drumlanrig and Hawick High Schools, wrote "The Vertish". He worked in a local mill in advertising, and then volunteered for the RAF, returning after the War to work in the family firm making Hawick Balls. He was a prolific poet and writer who also wrote "Robbie Dye" and "The Bleach" and many other poems as well as short stories. He contributed regularly to the local papers and had several pieces broadcast on radio. He died in 1977 and a book containing a collection of his works, called "Ain Gait" was published in 2011 by Hawick Callants Club.
"The Exile's Return" was written by William Landles who was born in the Sandbed in 1912 and was educated at Wilton School where the headmaster, Robert Wood, sparked off his life long interest in poetry. This poem is an integral part of the Overseas Night on the Wednesday before the Common-Riding. He also wrote "Hame Toun" and "Hawick Sang" among over 400 poems and the words for the songs "Borthwick Water" and "Oor Border Hame". William worked in the knitwear industry for most of his life in various locations throughout the Borders. He was awarded the MBE for services to Border Literature in 1996. He was also a lay preacher in the local Brethren Fellowship. He died in 1998 and is buried in Wellogate Cemetery.
"The Last Epistle to Tammus", better known as "A Border Burn" was written by J. B. Selkirk whose real name was James Brown of Selkirk. He was born in 1832 and wrote other poems with a Border flavour. In 1884 he spoke at a demonstration of around 10,000 people at Loch Park, now an industrial estate, in support of the Franchise Act which was the third legislative reform that converted the British Government from an oligarchy of landed interests to a largely democratic system. He died in 1904 and is buried in Selkirk Auld Parish Kirk Yard.
Finally it is interesting to note that at all Common-Riding social functions, the Cornet’s Toast is always recognised by the verse of "Teribus" - "Annual since, our Flag's been carried". The toast to the Right- and Left-Hand Men was recently changed to the verse "High the trump of fame did raise them" replacing "For They are Jolly Good Fellows". Instead of ending with "Auld Lang Syne", "Teribus" is sung with "Cornet's Up". At this point the whole company stands while the Cornet, Right and Left, and all ex-Cornets present stand on their chairs. On some occasions an official singer may be appointed to sing the verses. In very small companies the Cornet, Right and Left and Acting Father sing a verse each, the Cornet ending with "Peace be thy portion, Hawick for ever!" followed by 3 cheers.