Billy Young interviewed by Mairi Telford-Jammeh on 3 March 2013, in Langholm.Interviewed: 3 March 2013.
© European Ethnological Research Centre, 2016.Billy recalls how the Cornet is elected and how it felt to become Cornet to the Langholm Common Riding.
MT-J: You’ve been a cornet yourself Billy, can you tell me about how that came about, and what age you were?
BY: Well I was cornet in Nineteen eighty four, and I was twenty six then…my father was cornet in Nineteen fifty, and my nephew, Andrew Elliot was Cornet last year in Two thousand and twelve so my mother has actually seen a husband, a son and a grandson all being cornet which is quite a unique thing. It’s the greatest honour that Langholm can bestow on any of its sons now because at one point it could honour somebody by making them a Freeman of the Burgh. Of course the old town council disappeared and Langholm as a burgh it doesn’t exist now so that honour can’t be bestowed on anybody so this is the highest honour that they can bestow on anybody is to make them cornet, and the way the cornet is elected is it’s a public ballot. It’s been a public ballot for, Oh…well over a hundred years, but in Nineteen twenty they had the first official ballot…proper ballot. Up until then people would hold their hands up, you’d elect the cornet by a show of hands, but people started to put both hands up. So they introduced a formal ballot system.
MT-J: Like an election, like a proper election?
BY: That’s right. And that is done on the night that they have what we call ‘the public meeting’ in May, and as the public meeting is taking place, the ballot papers are being counted, through the back in the Buccleuch Centre, and somebody comes onto the stage and announces who the cornet is, so it’s a complete surprise to everybody, and the left and right hand men, the two previous cornets then run from there to the cornets house. So he doesn’t know he’s cornet until he sees these two guys running up his path.
MT-J: Can you remember what that felt like yourself when that happened to you?
BY: Well obviously it was euphoria, it was great great excitement. I can’t remember a great deal about it I can remember vividly last year when my nephew was elected cornet because he lives at Burnfoot Farm up Ewes and he asked if he could have his base that night in our house in Caroline Street, so he had all his friends around and all his family were there, in the hope that he would be elected cornet and of course the door burst open and in ran the right and left hand men and that was the start of it and it was great great excitement and great celebration.