The Hawick Common-Riding is the first of the Border festivals and celebrates both the capture of an English Flag in 1514 by the youth of Hawick at a place called Hornshole and the ancient custom of riding the marches or boundaries of the common land.
The Cornet for the year is elected at the beginning of May, well in advance of the festival proper, when the Provost’s Council, on the recommendation of the two previous Cornets (called the Right and Left-Hand Men) invites a young man to act as Cornet. The Halberdier, accompanied by the Drum and Fife Band, carries an official letter of invitation to the nominated Cornet. Invitation accepted, the Officer is rewarded with a new “shilling” and asked to carry the Cornet’s letter of acceptance back to the waiting Council. Afterwards the Cornet with his two predecessors walk round the older parts of the town before attending a congratulatory Smoker. From then until the festival is over the Cornet is an honoured figure in Hawick. The first recorded Cornet was in 1703 and other than the World Wars there has been an unbroken line to the present day.