This film is part of Free

Hawick Common Riding

Gallop through the streets of Hawick, in the Scottish Borders, as bands of well-dressed men enjoy the traditional annual Common Riding in 1937 in this raucous local topical.

Non-Fiction 1937 4 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for Scotland's Moving Image Archive


A group of horse riders parade through the streets of Hawick, in Southern Scotland, during the annual Common Riding in this silent film from 1937. A large crowd jostles to steal a sniff of snuff from an old ram's horn during a curious ceremony, riders pass by cheering crowds and traverse rivers, speeches are made and songs are sung. The pomp and ceremony is very entertaining in a festival that has remained true to tradition for hundreds of years.

The Hawick Common Riding is the first of a series of festivals to happen in the Borders every year. The Riding celebrates the capture of an English flag in 1514 by Hawick youths and also marks an ancient custom of riding the marches or common land. A new Cornet is elected each year, who is responsible for leading the festivities and adhering to long kept traditions. The first Cornet was elected in 1703 and the line has been unbroken since then, bar the two World Wars. The riding lasts for three days and includes a number of ceremonies including one called the ‘Snuffin’’, where crowds jostle for a pinch of snuff from a ram's horn, a tradition echoing back to the days when soldiers received a ration of snuff before battle.