Sunday, 20 September 2015


I was in Hawick for a 10k race, but had a bit of time to spare. I'd passed through before but never really looked round - the general impression from the A7 is of boarded up mills and the air of a town past its prime.

But passing through on the A7 doesn't do Hawick justice.

Hawick from the mote:

This is a handsome town with steep streets in a green Roxburghshire valley.

Hawick streetscape:

Was it my imagination, or did the locals look sportier and healthier than your average? Maybe it was just people gathering for the 10k and the local sports grounds emptying of players. This is a big rugby town, and horse riding is popular in the Borders. I had a wander up the main street.

Hawick town hall:

The usual charity shops and Greggs with just a few independent local businesses. No different to any other Scottish town. What would it take to improve the vitality and economy of Scotland's many small towns? Proper local democracy? A system of Mairies as in France? A more equal distribution of the national GDP? Better infrastructure links? Hawick, after all, is known as the furthest decent sized town from a railway station anywhere in Britain. I wonder if the partially reconstituted Waverley line between Edinburgh and Galashiels changes that?

Hawick main street and the 1514 memorial:

This statue is the town symbol. You see representations of it everywhere. It commemorates an event that happened after the battle of Flodden, where Hawick's adult male population was killed. Flodden left Hawick open to attack from roving bands of English reivers, who were not slow to take advantage. Hawick would undoubtedly have been sacked like other Border towns were it not for a daring night raid by the boys of Hawick on a camp of bandits led by the Bishop of Hexham. The surprise night attack turned the tables on the English reivers and Hawick was saved. The statue shows a youth returning with the Bishop's banner - an event commemorated every year in the annual Common Riding.

The mote:

Hawick' history is older than this. Up a side street sits a small artificial hill known as the mote. This is a 12th century construction built by the Norman Lovel family and would at one time have had a wooden fort on top. I had never heard of Hawick's mote until my little wander around. It features in the Common Riding celebrations too, as the cornet mounts the hill at dawn to sing the town song and kick off the festivities - which The Rough Guide World Party describes as "an equestrian extravaganza that combines the thrills of Pamplona's Fiesta de San Fermin with the concentrated drinking of Munich's Oktoberfest". The mind boggles!

The Towerhouse:

As I left Hawick, I heard a woman say to her wee son "would you like to see the motorbikes?" They joined a crowd lining the A7 where they could watch the memorial run to Steve Hislop. Steve was a superbike champion who grew up near Hawick and died here too, in a helicopter crash in 2003. As I left the town hundreds of motorbikes came in the other direction in an annual riding of a motorised kind. In the town furthest from the railways, they like their transport with saddles on.

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