Hawick – a rich tapestry of Border traditions

In its heyday the Scottish Border town of Hawick hummed and thrummed to the rhythm of over 50 textile mills.

The fortuitous meeting of Slitrig Water and the River Teviot helped power the water wheels that brought astonishing industrial growth to the town, known the world over for its high class weaves and finest quality knitwear.

Hawick is the home of Cashmere and the town’s oldest building, Drumlanrig’s Tower, houses a new heritage centre celebrating the textiles industry in the Scottish Borders.

Hawick’s roots trace back to the 7th century when the Angles founded a ‘wick’ or settlement enclosed by a hawthorn hedge giving the town it’s name and the foundations of an enduring community identity.

The town, in the front line of the Border Reiver badlands, whose terrifying brand of lawlessness held sway for over 300 years across the border that divided England and Scotland.

Living by the sword often meant dying by the sword but at Hawick they managed to come up with another gruesome means of despatching villains – at its infamous ‘drowning pool’ near the centre of town. The Reivers are the focus of an annual costume festival held in Hawick every March.

Like all Border towns, Hawick was on the front line for many bloody clashes between Scotland and England. In the High Street ‘The Horse’ monument commemorates victory by local men over English invaders at nearby Hornshole in 1514.

That event and the devastating losses sustained the year before at the battle of Flodden are commemorated each year with one of the oldest Border Ridings. – a tradition of riding the bounds of the town and district.

Pride and passion is a thread that runs through the town’s sporting life, too, and where rugby looms largest. The town has produced many Scottish internationals and was home to the ‘voice’ of rugby, the late rugby commentator Bill MacLaren.

Other home grown sporting heroes include round the world yatchsman Chay Blyth and Hawick’s sons of speed, the world class motorcyclists Jimmie Guthrie and Steve Hislop.

Both men, who were to die young in tragic circumstances, have superb exhibitions at the Hawick Museum in Wilton Park, set amidst 107 acres of riverside, tree-lined walks and recreational facilities.

The Heritage Hub, part of the Heart of Hawick development, houses historic records for the region and is used by people from all over the world for help to trace their Scottish Border roots.

The Hub’s other half at Beanscene was formerly a textile mill and the massive water wheel that once powered its operations can be viewed below a glass floor in the coffee bar. The new facilities also include a cinema and theatre and provide a venue for travelling exhibitions in the Scottish Borders.

 

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