30/6/20 (How we write history)

So when the Hawick Common Riding events were taken online, other things changed. The essay competition, which I’m sure I was long ago eligible for and baffled by when I was attending the High School in the town, was now open to everyone.

Everyone.

Like, not just schoolchildren, but… everyone.

This is a big thing, an important thing. I’m a person that lives in Galashiels, and I’m eligible to enter this Hawick Common Riding competition. (Inter-town rivalries in this part of the world are REAL.)

So I started scribbling, thinking about, how do I write something about Hawick for Hawick herself, for people who know what the hut is, knows that a cornet isn’t just a kind of horn, and how to express something of myself in there too that’s relatable?

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I’d win. I thought bringing up the awkward history of women fighting for their rights, only a couple of years ago – even only last year, really wasn’t something that the Callants Club would be keen on.

The Hawick Callants Club; who ran the competition were established in 1903 to amongst other things, preserve the ancient customs and traditions of Hawick, and perpetuate the memories of worthy townsmen.

So it was a bit of a shock when I got the email, and hey, of course I’m pleased with my essay, it’s always nice to get what you’ve written read and appreciated, but I’m so much more pleased that a history that’s been downplayed within the town may have another hopeful little beam of light shone on it.

I’m referring to various events in the women’s history of Hawick, but want to mention here the coverage of the 1996 Common Riding on the BBC and in various national newspapers (just DuckDuckGo it) and how that compares to the Common Riding history book timelines which include describing the 1996 events like this:

“Lady Riders Dispute – Cornets Ride out to Denholm on the Saturday before the common Riding saw hostile scenes as four girls tried to join the cavalcade.
There followed a year of bitter dispute with the matter being taken to court.
The episode caused great division in the town and did untold damage to Hawick’s reputation throughout the world”

It feels kind of carefully written, not to take a side, of course, how will history see us men, I hear them thinking? But let’s not upset those who objected to a step towards equality. Calling grown women girls, however, is not a great start.

Who won that court case?
The Women won that court case! It was reported far and wide in the press, but it’s not in this history book.

“Untold Damage”
Untold damage has been done, is done and will continue to be done to the women of Hawick, past present and future, if the history books continue to ignore and undermine them.

You can read the winning essays, including mine here on the Hawick Common Riding website: http://www.hawickcommonriding.co.uk/2020-common-riding/callants-club-essay-competition/

I decided to donate my prize money to the Hawick branch of a charity that’s been assisting people with food during the Covid-19 crisis.