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Friday, 31 October 2014

Young folk brave the rain for an evening of dancing

The morning dawned with every promise of a vast improvement on the nicht afore. Shortly after 5 o’clock the Flute Band began its parade and half an hour later the crowd began to stream by way of Townhead, Bar Brae and the Lamb Hill, en route by Cophsaw road to Collins Turn for the Hound trail.

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Cornet James Telford Armstrong leads the charge up the Kirk Wynd on Common Riding morning in 1933

As large a crowd as ever gathered at the famous rendezvous and visibility proved fairly good. Twenty-nine of the 32 dogs entered faced the starter and were off almost dead on the hour of half-past six. The dogs streamed along in great style, and when they came in view it was seen that two had a long lead. These two kept their lead, but Tibetan the winner, must have shot ahead when they crossed Ewes for the final run home, as that hound proved an easy winner. The result acclaimed, the crowd made speedily home for breakfast and follow on to the Muster.

The usual clatter of hooves on the paved High Street heralded the near approach when Cornet Armstrong and his men would ride. Promptly at 8.30 the Cornet, with Ex-Cornet A Beattie on his right and Ex-Cornet Jas. Ewart on his left, faced Provost Bell at the Town Hall dais. Amid loud cheers, the Provost handed the Cornet the Town’s Standard, charging him to guard it well and “gang oot and see gif a’ oor Marches they be clear“ and at the eventide to return it to him for safe custody for another year.

Taking up a position at the head of his men, the Band struck up “A’ the airts” and a great cavalcade of 54 horsemen and a great crowd of lads and lassies before and behind, and the Barley Bannock and Saut Herrin’ flourishing aloft in the van, set off up the High Street, along Charles Street (New), round the Square Pump, and back again as far as the Townfoot, to turn again for the Market Place.

Here the crowd was densely thick, and as John Elliot took his stance on his equine rostrum to proclaim the Fair, the silence was intense. Mr Elliot cried the Fair in a strong, well-carrying voice. No one, unless they were as deaf as the proverbial post, would fail to hear him.

At the conclusion of the “crying” way to the Kirkwynd was given to the Cornet, who took the steep brae at a stiff gallop, followed by keen, galloping horsemen. An hour was spent at the Castle Craigs, where the Fair was again proclaimed by George Jeffrey, and after being regaled with the ancient fare of barley bannocks and saut herrin’, washed down with “mountain dew,” a return was made to the town. At Mount Hooley, the procession was joined by 502 children carrying heather besoms, and by the Heather decked spade, the Crown of Roses and the Thistle.

Winding its way slowly down the Kirkwynd, the High Street was again reached and traversed before halting at the Market Place.

Mr John Elliot again took command and in no uncertain voice proclaimed the second part of the Fair, and telling his audience of duty done behind auld Whita and what the reward would be.

The processionists made their way to the Castleholm, where the Cornet showed his fine skill as a horseman in a gallop round the course.

The dance in the evening to the strains of Langholm Town Band was rather dampened by the weather, yet there was a fair crowd of young folk to brave the rain and the sodden grass. At any rate, their high spirits were in no way lowered, for, as they lined up at the Castle Gate behind the Band for the closing ceremonies, there was plenty of fun and energy in them.

Linked arm in arm, they marched gaily on, and “Auld Lang Syne” was lustily sung. Halting at the Kilngreen, the usual polka was danced. Then on again to the High Street, the numbers swelling every yard of the way and the dance in front of the Crown Hotel was carried out under great difficulty. But nothing daunted, off they set for the Townfoot, and if difficulties were encountered higher up the street, they were increased a hundredfold there. But the difficulty was overcome to a certain extent, as the dancers broke into steps wherever they could form a ring. Then the march back to Market Place was undertaken by a crowd, which completely blocked the Straits, and a seething mass drew up in front of the Town Hall.

Provost Bell was there awaiting the Cornet, and as he took possession of the Flag, thanked Cornet Armstrong for carrying out his duties so well and so thoroughly. The Provost’s call for three cheers for the Cornet echoed and reechoed in the Market Place and after “Auld Lang Syne” accompanied by the Band had again been sung, the Common Riding for 1933 was numbered with the past.

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