Description of the Boy’s Common Riding at Langholm

Billy Young interviewed by Mairi Telford-Jammeh on 3 March 2013, in Langholm.

Billy recalls the Boy’s Common Riding, Langholm, at which the girls were the horses!

Interviewed: 3 March 2013.
Ref: DG3-4-1-2
© European Ethnological Research Centre, 2016.


MT-J: I think I’m gonna start this evening just to ask you what your earliest memory of the common riding is?

BY: The earliest recollection that I have is something which has sadly died out now but as well as the proper common riding we had boys’ common ridings there was boys’ common ridings throughout the town, which were miniature versions of the real thing, and I can remember going up the Terrace Brae from Caroline Street to Eskdale Street on the back of Eileen Irvine, she was my horse, and I was the rider, and I canny remember when that was but that’s the earliest recollection I have.

MT-J: And what else, what did the other boys do? Did they a’ have horses?

BY: Oh yes, yes. Well, the older girl or boy was the horse and the younger one was the rider, so you went about on piggy back as it were, but all the various elements o’ the common riding were represented we had emblems, we had a boys’ common riding flag, we had a cornet, and it was done very very well and the tradition was adhered to and it was a great time for the kids in the town because there was…different areas o’ town had their own common riding.

MT-J: Can you describe…you mentioned emblems, can you describe what the emblems are of the common riding?

BY: Well there are four emblems carried in procession on the common riding day, five if you count the flag itself, but the four are…the spade, which is used to cut the sods which mark the boundaries o’ the common land. The barley banna’ and the saut herring, which is a very unique and obscure emblem, the floral crown and the gigantic Scots thistle.

MT-J: And would you have these as boys, would you have something that resembled those emblems?

BY: We had miniature versions. I mean the thistle was quite easily got…out o’ somebody’s garden. We had a boys’ common riding flag that the late Matt Ewart made in about Nineteen fifty something, which was a smaller replica the real thing. And the other emblems were made, by parents I suppose. So every tradition, every element was adhered to properly.

MT-J: And can you remember that with great excitement?

BY: Oh yes, yes. I mean that’s the only recollection I’ve got now of being…you know going up the Terrace Brae on Eileen Irvine’s back…she later became a policewoman! She lives in the town now at Townfoot, but I can’t remember very much else about it but, a few years ago…oh it could be even ten years ago, the kids in Caroline Street had a common riding a boys’ common riding, and they came to my door and asked if I’d go down and cry the fair for them, which I did…standing on a bucket in somebody’s garden! Which was great fun.

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