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History of the Ridings

Common Ridings can be traced back to the 13th and 14th centuries when the border lands were in constant upheaval during the long wars with England and because of the tribal custom of plunder and cattle thieving, known as reiving (the ancient word for robbing) that was commonplace amongst the major Borders families. In such lawless times, townspeople would ride their boundaries, or ‘marches’, to protect their common lands and prevent encroachment by neighbouring landlords. Long after they ceased to be essential, the ridings continued in commemoration of local legend, history and tradition.


The Ridings Today

Today, each Borders town celebrates its history once a year during June – August with magnificent rideouts involving hundreds of horses, ridden with a passion worthy of the reivers old. Community spirit is symbolised by the Burgh Flag or Standard, which in a colourful ceremony is ‘bussed’ where ribbons are tied to the staff by the principal lass, recalling the days when a knight’s lady attached her ribbon to his lance before battle. The principal men are elected annually and honoured with such titles as Standard Bearer (Selkirk), Cornet (Hawick), Callant (Jedburgh), Braw Lad (Galashiels), Reiver (Duns), Whipman (West Linton), Melrosian (Melrose), Coldstreamer (Coldstream) and Kelso Laddie. On horseback they lead their followers in the festivities.