Hawick Common Riding celebrates the history of the Scottish Borders town
They include claims that some female participants faced discrimination, derision and hostility at the event.
The accusations include:
One female official was booed and had paper and a water bottle thrown at her as she left an official ceremony
“Venom” was directed at lady riders taking part in ceremonial events by people including committee members and former principals
Complainers said the behaviour ranged from being ignored to being booed, heckled, sworn at and called a “disgrace”. One woman said she felt unsafe
When the behaviour was directed at riders in the presence of committee members and marshals, no action was taken
Speeches at previously male-only gatherings were addressed to “gentlemen” and ignored the presence of women
Hawick Common Riding committee failed to promote the participation of both men and women
The committee had not dealt properly with the complaints it had received.
An email dated 30 July 2019 said that eight complaints were outstanding.
What is Hawick Common Riding?
Until recent years, the Hut has been an exclusively male preserve
The first of a series of similar events held across the south of Scotland every summer, Hawick Common Riding celebrates the capture of an English flag in 1514 – shortly after the Battle of Flodden – by the youth of the town at Hornshole.
It also marks the ancient custom of riding the marches, or boundaries, on the common land.
The election of the Cornet – a young, unmarried local man – in May marks the beginning of a five week schedule of ceremonies, ride-outs, re-enactments, rituals and picnics.
10 things about the Common Ridings
In pictures: Hawick Common Riding
Lisa Mackay says she takes part in the common riding to “honour and recreate history”.
“It’s a real privilege to be up on the hills on a horse and that’s probably the main reason that I do it,” she said.
Ashley Simpson and Mandy Graham took part in the common riding in 1996
When Ashley Simpson, 23, and Mandy Graham, 21, made clear their intention to join the men of Hawick on horseback in 1996, they faced protests and anger in their hometown.
But they won a court battle and eventually the lady riders reached a compromise – they would ride a number of preliminary ride-outs, but would not follow the cornet in ceremonial rides or attend events like the “picking night” smoker or the celebrations at St Leonard’s Hut.
“Traditionalists” blocked the lady riders from joining the common riding in a high profile protest in 1996
As a registered charity and the recipient of public funds, the common riding committee has signed up to equality rules forbidding it from preventing protected groups – like women – from attending its events.
In addition, it must eliminate both direct and indirect discrimination, victimisation and harassment, promote equal opportunities and foster good relations between groups.
Gillian Morgan is a vocal campaigner for women‘s equal access to the common riding. Video circulated on social media shows she was booed and had ripped paper thrown at her as she left the colour bussing ceremony.
“I didn’t know it was coming but nothing surprises me,” she told BBC Scotland. “I think I’m so used to this type of abuse that I don’t particularly like it but I have to sit back and think I’m not going to let you get the better of me.”
Gillian Morgan, a common riding baillie, was the target of abuse at the Colour Bussing
It came the night after the Cornet and the Cornet’s Lass were presented with a controversial gift from Hawick Community Council. Instead of the traditional trinkets to commemorate their experience, a donation was made in their name to the Scottish Borders Rape Crisis Centre.
The move sparked an outcry and Ms Morgan, as then-chairwoman of the community council, was the focus of some anger. She was targeted at the colour bussing ceremony, while a local crowd-funding appeal raised more than £1,300 which paid for gifts for the principal couple and a number of other charitable donations in their name.
“I knew it was different but I didn’t really expect the reaction that there was,” Ms Morgan said. “I think they’ve taken it as if we’re having a dig at men – and that wasn’t the case.”
Another woman who takes part in the ride-outs told BBC Scotland she was verbally abused while on horseback outside Hawick town hall. Police said a 75-year-old man had been charged and would be the subject of a report to the procurator fiscal.
She said it had caused rifts between friends and families.
‘It’s not just about equality’
She said he read out the names of only the men and boys who completed the Mosspaul ride-out, during an event in St Leonard’s Hut.
“But when it comes to the common riding, it’s all just forgotten about. You’re on your own, you’re out on a limb.
“I wish folk could just actually talk about it but there’s no mediation, there’s no willingness to engage in discussion to take it forward.”
One of a handful of women who broke convention to attend this year‘s event said: “When else in his life would his mum not be there? His P1 teacher? Everyone who has meant something over the years? Everyone who is excited?”
Mr Knox also condemned “faceless keyboard warriors” who had criticised him and other office bearers on social media.
“These certain people must remember that Hawick Common Riding is bigger than any of us. It will continue for hundr of years to come and that, ladies and gentlemen, is a fact.