Langholm’s Great Day

Today was the day of the Langholm Common Riding and I have made an effort to give a picture of the day as it passed. For those who don’t know Langholm, the Common Riding is  a two hundred and fifty year old annual ceremony  arising originally from a court case where the inhabitants of Langholm were required to go out once a year to check that their boundaries had not been encroached.

Nowadays, this aspect is more symbolic than real but the emotional commitment of of the town to the day is thoroughgoing and it means a lot to many people. On top of that, it is a great day out and people come from miles around to enjoy the spectacle and have a drink or possibly two.

Each picture in the following sequence has the time it was taken as its title and this should appear if you run your mouse across the frame.

The day starts early when the flute band rouse the town at 5 a.m. by marching round the streets with a good thump on the bass drum as it goes. They lead the townspeople up onto the hill to see the hound trail. This starts at 6.30. A pack of hounds following a laid trail race up the east side of Ewes valley and back down the west side crossing the main road twice.  I went to the second road crossing at ten to seven. The hounds have to make the distance in a set time or the trail is declared void..

Waiting for something to happen
The first hound appears
The second hound is close behind.
They cross the road and climb the steep bank on the other side. The finish line is close.
They are fantastic athletes
A short time behind the rest of the hounds follow the two leaders
They have been racing for half an hour but are still full of pep
Well nearly all of them are. These two didn't fancy the steep bank and set off for Hawick up the road.

I left the hound trail and went back to the Townhead toll bar to wait for the flute band to march back from the hill into the town. There were not as many players in the morning, which requires rising at 4.15 a.m. as there were last night.

The flute band on the Bar Brae

I nipped home for a quick breakfast and then went to the Buccleuch Centre to watch the procession. The flag is handed to the cornet at 8.30 and then, accompanied by a large number of mounted followers and preceded by the Town band he parades the flag around the town. Here they are coming down Thomas Telford Road.

Someone told me that there were 179 horses in the procession today
The front three leading the procession round the Buccleuch Centre before returning along Thomas Telford Road
For the riders in the procession, there is a good deal of waiting around.

Mrs Tootlepedal went with a friend to the Market Place to hear the first crying of the fair while I went to the top of the Kirk Wynd to wait for the cornet to carry the flag up the Wynd and then onto Whita Hill.

I met our neighbour Dr Tinker waiting there with some of his family.

It is a happy day for young and old alike

In the sky above, we could see a local lad who enjoys using his video camera from his microlight.

He often posts his results on YouTube
To a great cheer, the cornet emerges at the top of the Kirk Wynd
Followed by the right and left hand men

The riders continue up the Kirk Wynd past the golf course until they reach the open hill where they head for the ancient boundary of the common land. I followed them up and took several pictures which I will put here without further comment.







I left them there and headed home for a restorative coffee. On my way I met the team that carries the rose in the procession on their way to work.


From my upstairs window after coffee, I could see the horses coming back down the hill from the monument into the town.


I went up to the second crying of the fair with my son and his wife and a friend of theirs. The market Place was full for this part of the day.

The crown, made of roses, now in its place in the procession.
It is followed by this magnificent thistle

Standing on the back of a horse, Rae Elliot cries the fair. Although there is a loudspeaker behind him, he does not use it.  He needs no help to keep the large crown spellbound. He is the third generation of his family to act as fair crier.

Hoyez and that's yince
Crying the fair

The High Street after the fair crying as people make their way towards the Kiln Green


After the fair crying two processions head towards the Kilngreen along the Drove Road. The first, led by the pipe band, is a vast flock of children holding heather besoms. The age of the children has decreased in recent years and now most of them are carried on parent’s shoulders.

The pipe band leading the heather besoms down the Bar Brae
The emblem bearers carrying the spade, the barley banna, the rose and the thistle
The town band and the horsemen
The crown and the thistle on the saw mill bridge
The horsmen circle a sod that has been cut to mark the common land boundary
The crowds on the Kilngreen as the horsemen head towards the river
Crossing the Ewes
Circling another sod cut on the Castleholm

I left the horsemen there and went home to make a bowl of soup for lunch. Mrs Tootlepedal had prepared many delicacies and we had a good meal.

After lunch, I went back to the Castleholm where sports and horse racing go on throughout the afternoon. By this time, the sun was out and it was a perfect Common Riding day.

The field coming up the back straight in the big race of the day.
Sprinters in the second semi final of the 90m handicap sprint
The crown in its position on the sports field
The field in the next race coming down the home straight on the first circuit of the track
Cumberland wrestling in the ring

I left the sports field and headed home. As there is a pause in the proceedings at this time, I took the opportunity to have a quick dash round the morning ride on the speedy bike. We decided not to go to the dance on the Castleholm in the early evening because it is often plagued by midges so after an excellent tea and a family game of cards, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went back to the Market Place to watch the handing in of the flag, the last scene in the day’s events.

The platform party and the cornet. They both say a few words.
Singing Auld Lang Syne
The High Street after the ceremony. It is closed to traffic at this time and it is a pleasure to see it full of humanity.

A very successful day. We think that next year, the authorities have foolishly arranged the Olympics at the same time as Langholm Common Riding.  Will they get any attendance at all down there?

Published by tootlepedal

Cyclist, retired teacher, curmudgeon, keen amateur photographer.

11 thoughts on “Langholm’s Great Day

  1. Thank you for such an excellent account of Langholm’s Great Day in words and pictures. I was with you every inch of the way!
    We have Highland Games here this week-end and we have just come in very late after attending the Military Tattoo which takes place on the evening before the Games. Our grand-daughters were taking part in the Highland Dancing display and it was all very fine. Wish I could have been at the Common Riding though!

  2. What a wonderful record of the day especially for those who no longer live in Langholm. You should make a hard copy as a record. It would be a splendid tourist souvenir for you to sell when doing your stint at the tourist office.

  3. Great to have such a full record of the Common Riding – What a lot of organisation must be required!

  4. Thanks for posting this. Some excellent photos. It’s been about five years since I have to the Common Riding as accommodation is at a premium (there’s only so many tents and campervans a young family can handle!). So now always seek out online accounts of the day, such as yours, for the memories -much appreciated

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