© European Ethnological Research Centre, 2016.
Billy describes the events that make-up the Langholm Common Riding.
MT-J: Can you describe then what happens on the actual common riding day in Langholm?
BY: Well on common riding day, it starts with a hound trail, which is quite a unique thing for any Border common riding. The hound trail takes place at Collins’ Turn on the side o Whita Hill, and they run a ten mile course, and once the hound trail has been run, the people walk back to the town…they follow the flute band back to the town, for a quick breakfast and then the riders get mounted and assemble in the market place. Then the cornet and the right and left hand men, these are the cornets o’ two previous years, arrive, and the cornet is presented with the borough standard by the officiating magistrate.
They then process through the town to the square pump, outside the Buccleuch Centre, and then bock over the bridge, down to the bottom of the town, down to the south end o the town and then back to the market place for the first fair crying. And once that’s done comes one o the most spectacular parts o the common riding and that is the gallop, from the market place up the Kirk Wynd to Whita. And the riders’ll follow the cornet, up to the Castle Craigs which is the furthermost point on the common land, where they’re served whiskey, and barley banna’ and saut herring, and the fair is cried again. In fact this is the second fair that we talk about, or the Langholm Fair proper is cried firstly by the Castle Craig’s fair crier at the Castle Craigs.
Then they go up to the monument, thrice round the monument and down the front o the hill, and by then, the people in the town’ll have went to the town foot to collect all the emblems, and the children and all the emblems wait on the Kirk Wynd for the horsemen to return. Then, process up to the Kiln Green, back down through the town and back into the market place where the second fair or the Langholm Fair proper is cried…by the fair crier standing on the back of a horse. Once that’s done, the riders…that more or less signifies the end of the common riding proper. The riders ride up the Kirk Wynd, along Drove Road, down the Bar Brae to the Kiln Green, where a sod’s cut, and then across the river Ewes onto the Castleholm, where a further two sods are cut. And then, after a while there’s the cornets chase, which is basically a gallop round the racecourse. The cornet goes first with the flag and then after a short spell all the other riders follow him.
And then after that is the afternoon sports and games, things like Cumberland wrestling, which is very traditional here, Highland dancing, foot running, high jumping, horse racing what we call flapping, which is horse racing that is not under Jockey Club rules. And that takes up the whole afternoon and then at night, there’s an open air dance on the cricket pitch at the Castleholm, with the town band supplying the music for the dancing, and at aboot quarter to nine, the front three (that’s the cornet and the two previous cornets), mount up their horses and they lead the procession back down into the town, and this contain somewhere in the region of four to five thousand people. The procession stops at the Kiln Green where the people dance the traditional polka. They then go down to The Crown Hotel where another polka’s danced, and then down to the town foot, to the site of The Buccleuch Hotel or The Salutation Inn, where another polka’s danced, and then back into the square where the cornet hands the flag back to the officiating magistrate.