Clan Carruthers

CLAN CARRUTHERS: The Common Ridings.

Our clan and family are advertisers in the Scottish Banner and as such we have the advantage of sharing with you articles as they are published. This piece is of particular interest to us as Borderers as it describes to tradition of the Border Ridings.

Common Ridings date back to the 13th and 14th centuries when 11 Scottish bordering towns were forced to ride in groups along the boundaries to protect themselves from English invaders. Though in the long run, the Englishmen and Scotsmen managed to find peace and establish friendly relationships, the centuries-old tradition has been preserved as an integral part of local culture. So Common Ridings like Hawick Common Riding or Selkirk Common Riding still take place during the civic weeks between early June and early August. (

Common Riding dates

Before going, you should check the details on your own, but here we offer some general information on locations and corresponding timing.

Hawick: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday after the first Monday in June;

Selkirk: Friday after the second Monday in June;

Peebles and Melrose: the third full week in June;

Galashiels: the end of June, sometimes the first weekend in July;

Duns: the first full week in July;

Jedburgh: the second Saturday in July;

Kelso: mid-July;

Langholm: the last Friday in July;

Lauder: the first Saturday of August;

Coldstream: the first full week in August.

Annan: the first Saturday in July.

Common Ridings which can be found in Dumfriesshire are Underlined

Steeped in Scottish Tradition: The Common Ridings by Sean Cairney

Scottish Banner Vol 46 No 12

This month sees the return of a very unique and historic Scottish Borders tradition, the Common Ridings, which also happens to be one of the world’s oldest equestrian festivals. The Return to the Ridings is a celebration of the riding of the boundaries that has taken place for centuries with eleven towns in the Scottish Borders using horses for the traditional ride out.

Border Badlands

Common Ridings can be traced back over 900 years when the ‘border badlands’ were in constant disruption during the long wars with England and because of the tribal custom of looting and cattle thieving, known as reiving (the ancient Scots word for theft) that was commonplace amongst the major Borders families. Reivers could well steal not only from the nearby English but from their own Scottish neighbours. Perhaps your ancestors were reivers who terrorised the border between England and Scotland? Armstrong, Elliot, Graham, Irvine, Johnstone, Kerr, Maxwell, Nixon (Carruthers ed) and Scott were among the lawless families who rode, feuded, fought and pillaged over the wild tribal borders area for 350 years..

During these lawless and turbulent times, townspeople would ride their boundaries, or ‘marches’, to protect their common lands and prevent encroachment by neighbouring landlords. As more peaceful and settled times came, the ridings ceremony remained in the border region in honour of local legend, history and tradition.

Historic equestrian pageants

The Hawick Common Riding is the first of the Border festivals and celebrates both the capture of an English flag in 1514 in Hornshole by some young Hawick locals and the ancient custom of riding the marches or boundaries of the common land. Each of the eleven towns puts their own local tradition and spin on these historic equestrian pageants today, which take place from June to August each year. The Selkirk Common Riding, which takes place mid-June, is recognised as one of the oldest of the Border festivals which goes back in history to 1113, when David I, wanted to establish an abbey at Selkirk, the first abbey ever for the Scottish Borders.

Today the colourful spectacle, considered one of the top annual events in the Scottish Borders, is witnessed by people from across the world who take in the stunning display of horsemanship, pageantry and tradition by hundreds of riders at a time. The riders are saddled up along the routes often used by their ancestors in celebration of their history, and the lawless disputed lands, we all now know as the gentle and peaceful Scottish border region.

Safe oot, Safe In

The Scottish Borders are a real gem of Scotland and I always know when I reach Scotland, if travelling from England by train. Not by a sign or monument but the green and lush rolling hills and landscape that starts to draw you in as the beauty of Scotland begins to present itself.

The region is certainly diverse with some fantastic historic sites, stunning rural scenery and a rich history in textiles and agriculture. Clearly the ‘Border Badlands’ have been relegated to the history books and we thankfully have the picturesque and easily accessible region of Scotland ready for us to explore and discover. Should you be attending the Common Ridings this summer, or just Scotland itself, I wish you a ‘Safe Oot – Safe In’ (a well-known Borders saying, wishing mounted riders a safe journey).

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