Today’s guest picture comes from my Newcastle correspondent’s trip to the west coast of the USA. It shows ‘Old Faithful’, which she tells me is one of only three regularly erupting geysers in the world.
It was Langholm Common Riding today and it was my firm intention to rise at 5 am. This is the time when the flute band perambulates the town to wake up the citizens and remind them that there is a hound trail on the hill at 6.30. My plan was to take wonderful pictures of both the band and the hounds.
The flute band duly perambulated and I duly got up and put my clothes on. Then I heard the rain hammering on the windows and looked out to see the hill swathed in low cloud. Wonderful pictures were off the menu. I took my clothes off again and retired to bed.
I had a second and more successful go at getting up and although it was still raining, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went out to wait for the Cornet and his mounted followers to come down Thomas Telford Road, the first part of their visits to the far flung corners of the town during the morning.
The procession is led by group of men organised by new neighbour Hector, whose job it is to carry the first of the emblems of the Common Rising, a barley banna and a saut herring. They are the ones braving the rain in their shirtsleeves.
The mounted procession circles the Buccleuch Centre and the historic pump beside it….
…and then led by the emblem bearers and the Town Band, makes its way back up Thomas Telford Road….
The cloud was still on the hills
…and across the Langholm Brig….
The High Street is lined with crowds of spectators, several rows deep.
The cornet is cheered on every step of the way
…and then it disappears along the High Street to Townfoot.
Mrs Tootlepedal counted over a hundred and thirty riders in the cavalcade and this makes for many delays.
A horse with some natty headgear waits patiently for the procession to resume.
We left them to it and walked up to the top of the Kirk Wynd. After the first ‘crying of the fair’, the cornet and his mounted followers gallop up the steep Kirk Wynd out of the Market Place surrounded by cheering crowds and Mrs Tootlepedal likes to see this part of the proceedings. I walked a little further up the hill in pursuit of pictures which didn’t include the heads of a hundred people waving mobile phones in the air between me and the cornet.
I admired these fine rosebay willow herbs as I waited for the cornet to arrive.
The cheers from the crowd below told me that he was coming.
Jamie Fletcher, the cornet, passed us in very good style and he was pursued by his 130 followers at a more leisurely pace.
The procession was still passing me as the cornet arrived on the hill.
By the time the procession had passed me, the rain had just about stopped and by the time that I had met with Mrs Tootlepedal and we had gone home for a cup of coffee, it was bidding to be a slightly better day.
We left the house after our coffee and walked up to the Market Place for the second ‘crying of the fair’. The procession is now preceded by three more emblems which are carried aloft, the spade, the crown and the thistle.
Rae, the fair crier stands on the back of a parked horse to address the crowd. He does this in stentorian tones without the aid of any amplification.
He starts with an introduction reflecting on the route that the procession has taken so far:
Now, Gentlemen, we hae gane roun’ oor hill,
So now I think it’s richt we had oor fill
O’ guid strang punch – twould mak us a’ tae sing,
Because this day we have dune a guid thing; (cheers from the assembled listeners)
For gangin’ roun’ oor hill we think nae shame,
Because frae it oor peats and flacks come hame;
So now I will conclude and sae nae mair,
And gin ye’re a’ pleased I’ll cry the Langholm Fair. (more cheers)
Hoys yes! that’s ae time,
Hoys yes! that’s twae times
Hoys yes! that’s the third and the last time.
And then he cries the fair with warnings about what will happen to those who behave badly:
This Is To Give Notice that there is a muckle Fair to be hadden in the muckle Toun o’ the Langholm on the 15th day of July, auld style, upon his Grace the Duke of Buccleuch’s Merk Lands, for the space of eight days and upwards; and a’ land-loupers, and dub-scoupers, and gae-by-the-gate swingers, that come to breed hurdums or durdums, huliments or buliments, hagglements or bragglements, or to molest this public Fair, they shall be ta’en by order of the Bailey and Toun Cooncil, and their lugs be nailed to the tron wi’ a twalpenny nail, and they shall sit doun on their bare knees and pray seven times for the King and thrice for the Muckle Laird o’ Ralton, and pay a groat tae me, Jamie Ferguson, Baillie o’ the aforesaid Manor, and I’ll away hame and hae a Bannock and a saut herring tae ma denner by way o’ auld style.
The crowd cheers.
While the riders and both the brass and pipe bands did some more processing, Mrs Tootlepedal and I walked along to the Kilngreen to wait for the ‘crossing of the water’. We weren’t the only ones as both the Sawmill Brig…
..and the Langholm Brig….
…were filling up with interested spectators too.
The cornet and the spade carriers led the way across the Ewes water and onto the Castleholm.
…followed by the rest of the riders.
Soon everyone was safely across…
…and the cornet was led out to start the Cornets Chase.
Passing in front of the ruins of Langholm castle which give the Castleholm its name.
He is given a good start and then the rest of the riders chase after him.
That concluded the morning’s work for us and we retired for our lunch….and an obligatory flower picture.
Knautia has appeared as the knapweed starts to go over,
In the afternoon the weather took a decided turn for the better and the sun came out. I walked back to the Castleholm to watch the foot and horse racing there. Mrs Tootlepedal stayed at home and did heroic gardening.
The athletics takes place on the cricket ground and it was looking very sunny when I got there…as was Roger, the chairman of the Common Riding committee whose heart must have sunk when he saw the early rain.
There are races over varying distances from 90 to 1600 metres.
The last stages of the 800m
A tight finish to a 90m handicap race
All the races are handicapped and open to males and females and there is wide variety of runners, the oldest today being over 70.
The going on the horse race track was very heavy after all the rain and entries were low as a result.
Three runners in the first race round the top corner in a shower of dirt
It was a little drier at the bottom corner.
In the third race, a crafty jockey stole a march at the start of the race and was still leading handsomely when they came round the bottom corner.
The rest of the field was playing catch up.
I expect that words might have been spoken if the runaway held his lead to the finish.
I was able to look around between times and saw a nice fence post.
I would like to have stayed to watch the Cumberland wrestling and the high jump but my legs had other ideas and took me home before I fell over.
I apologise for going over the top with the number of pictures in this post but the Common Riding only happens once a year so I hope that readers will forgive me. I also note that if readers looked at the posts for the Common Riding for any of the past three or four years, they might find a remarkable similarity to this post. One of the charms of the Common Riding is that it follows a traditional course and hardly alters from year to year. We know what we like.
A flying siskin offers the day its blessing.