© European Ethnological Research Centre, 2016.
Billy tells of some of the rituals associated with the Langholm Common Riding.
MT-J: are there any other…I know I’ve heard of strange little rituals that go on like the…something about the whisky, something aboot the spade?
BY: The spade, that’s right. The spade is anointed with whisky, the spade’s dressed with the common riding ribbons, which are in the colours of the common riding each year…each year the colours are dictated by the winner of the Epsom Derby, so all the rosettes and all the leather wear of the horses, the front three’s horses, are decorated with ribbons in the colours of the winning horse o the Derby, and the spade itself is dressed…it’s dressed with these ribbons and it’s also anointed with whiskey. It’s a very select ceremony and I’ve only ever been once, but what happens is the spade carrier invites a few friends to his house, and they put the very tip o’ the spade in your mouth and they pour whisky down the blade!
BY: But there’s also the nailing on o’ the banna, when they actually crucify…well the barley banna is the scone that was part of the feudal dues to the Baron…the local Baron, and they crucify a fish, a herring, a sauted herring, onto that banna using a twall penny nail, and that’s done at this very selective ceremony before the common riding. And also the floral crown which is made from Sweet William or Rambler Rose blossoms is built over the common riding week, and that takes a hell of a lot of work, because there can be thousands of blooms or blossoms involved in making that. And the thistle is inspected on the summer fair night, and the floral crown…the complete floral crown is inspected on the summer fair night, which is the night before the common riding, and that is traditionally a time of…when old friends return to the town for the common riding and they meet old friends in the town, and particularly in the market place. And on the summer fair night, the flute band which only plays twice in the entire year, on the summer fair night the flute band processes down to the site o’ the old station to meet the last train into the town. It used to bring the last of the ex [?] back to Langholm and there was thousands and thousands of people would gather at the station when the train was still running, and they would be played up the street, by the flute band. And even the cornet’s horse at one point was brought on the train into the town the night before.