12/10/21 (Hawickers is not a word)

This might be a bumper-blogpost week, because they’re resurfacing the road outside our house and it’s going to be impossible to do the sound editing that I’m supposed to be doing until they’ve packed up at six.

This might be my first post about the Scottish Borders that isn’t Hawick-related! You can relax for now, so i don’t put my foot in it and offend a handful of people on Facebook.

Actually, scrap that, I want to talk about it.

I decided to share my last post about The Border Queen, a proposed sculpture in Hawick in the biggest local public Facebook group, Hawick Chat. The group is well moderated, when moderators have issues flagged up with them, and I daren’t think how much time and stress it takes. They certainly get a scary amount of abuse from people who believe their right to free speech is being curtailed. Anyway…

After spending a solid evening writing and proofing the post, I spent about thirty seconds writing a note in the group to direct users to it, if they’d like to read my thoughts. That post began with the phrase “Morning Hawickers!”.

If you weren’t born in Hawick you might not understand that this is a potentially problematic greeting. I was probably thinking, what’s a playful way to say hello to a group of people who either live in the town or have strong ties to it and the surrounding areas (like me!).

It started with somebody politely letting me know that we’re called ‘Teris’ – which is generally true. People from Hawick are Teris, like folk from Selkirk are Souters, someone from Newcastle might be a Geordie, and maybe a Glaswegian could be a Weegie? (honestly wondering if it’s a slur, please let me know; the internet isn’t helping me figure this out) et cetera et cetera. Of course, some of these descriptions are used as insults, and some are identities to be used as a Great Source of Pride. ‘Teri’ is clearly the latter.

So I replied, trying hard, because Facebook is truly designed to make us be our worst selves, to politely explain…

That it hadn’t occurred to me to use the word that’s been in my vocabulary since at least 2005? I thought about it, and came to the conclusion is that it’s just not very inclusive; I just don’t think it can encompass that whole group of people, without questioning the validity of their being ‘Hawick’.

‘Teri’ at first appeared to me to come from Teribus, a song written by James Hogg, also known as the Ettrick Shepherd.

Teribus is a Twenty Four(!) verse song, celebrating the 1514 events that all of Hawick’s Common Riding traditions stem from.

Again, if you’re not from the Borders, you might not see how this is problematic.

I just searched ‘Hawick Teri’ on DuckDuckGo and got the first line of Wikipedia – “Teribus ye teri odin… is popularly believed to have been the war cry of the men of Hawick at the Battle of Flodden”
Which does really sound like it’s something only half of the town had to yell about…

Hawick’s Common Riding (generally unlike the other Border summer events) has a history, and sadly, a present of excluding women. This is a whole subject in itself, and despite the Hawick Common Riding Committee’s promising Diversity Statement and their 2018 acknowledgement that it’s actually illegal to only sell tickets to men for some parts of the festival, it’s still on shaky ground when it comes to gender diversity. I’ve not examined its racial diversity thoroughly, but I’ve literally never seen someone who’s not white anywhere near anything to do with it.

The basis of the festival is also about protecting the lands from outsiders and English. While it’s insisted that they’re Only Joking, there’s a questionability for me at least of how seriously some townsfolk might be taking the proud history of keeping out the foreigners.

I’m probably going to write more about the tangle of passion and history that is HCR, but in the meantime, the BBC documentary on it from 2018 is available to view here until the 20th of November.

Trigger warning: Honestly I’ve still not managed to finish watching it, it’s an upsetting watch, although it’s tricky to give specifics. I guess, trigger warning: misogyny, with heartfelt belief in it, too. There’s footage of the High Street in 1996, where women in the town linked arms across the street to prevent other women from riding their horses, and as a woman and a feminist, it’s really, truly heartbreaking to watch.

Anyway, because of all of this, I’m not sure it’s fair to everyone who lives in the town, around the town, who has Hawick in their address, or who feels personally connected to the place to be described as a Teri within the so specific context of how the Common Riding has been and still can be to women and outsiders. I do know some don’t follow the HCR, but describe themselves as Teries anyway, which may be linked to another way of thinking about it…

Another definition of Teri put to me was that it is only people who were born within the town who are Teries. That’s a curious one, because before 1986, most mothers in the town will have given birth either at home or in the cottage hospital, within the town. After 1986, the general hospital in Melrose was built, and more and more families went to Melrose to give birth. So… it’s unlikely that many people under the age of thirty five in Hawick are actually Teries anyway by that logic!

And that’s not very inclusive either, is it?

(okay so I do know the definition for picking the Cornet (don’t ask) has changed to where the birth was registered, but if it’s not so clear-cut and relies on checking the paperwork, how can anyone make the distinction in the social web of a busy town that just wants to figure out who she is?!)

Oh yeah, I promise next time I’ll do better than Hawickers, as I did admit in the comments, it’s not great – how does Hawickians sound, Hawickettes? Hawickites, maybe…

For my own stress levels, I’m going to avoid posting this onto the local Facebook group myself, although of course, it’s here to be read for free by anyone who would like to (but please donate if you appreciate my work, just click Buy Me a Coffee at the top or the bottom).
Self-Censoring? Maybe, but I’m a woman with opinions on the internet, and I wish it didn’t give me cause to worry.

To read some of James Hogg’s poetry go here
To read Teribus go here
and to see the official Hawick Common Riding SCIO site go here