A week today, (Friday 29 July 2005) will see the highlight, once again, of all the annual
events held in the Border town of Langholm - the Langholm Common Riding.
Langholm - The Muckle Toun o the Lang Holm - was formerly known as
Arkinholm and became a Burgh of Barony in 1610. The industrial mill town
is picturesquely situated in the heart of a river junction, where the
River Esk is joined by the Wauchope and Ewe Water. Reflecting on the
beauty of the town's location, Langholm's most famous son, the poet Hugh
MacDiarmid wrote :-
'Gin scenic beauty had a' I sook,
I never need ha' left the muckle toon.'
The town's Common Riding dates back to 1759. It is held on the date of the
annual festival known as the 'Langholm Summer Fair', which was Scotland's
greatest lamb sales. Today it is traditionally held on the last Friday in
July. Whilst enjoying a meal or refreshment in Langholm's Crown Hotel, you
can enjoy reading on the Lounge Bar wall - 'The Origin of Riding the
'In 1759 the three owners of the Ten Merk Land of Langholm were in an
action in the Court of Session in Edinburgh for the delimitation of
certain area in and around the town. The boundaries were duly defined, but
in the award it was laid down by the Court that the Burgesses of Langholm
had certain local rights and privileges, and that part of the Ten Merk
Lands, particularly the Common Moss and the Kilngreen, had belonged
inalienably to the community.
It became an obligation of the Burgesses that the boundaries of the
communal possession should be clearly defined, and accordingly beacons
and cairns were erected and pits were dug to indicate where the communal
lands began and ended, and a man was appointed to go out each year to
repair the boundary marks and to report any encroachment.
The first man to perform this duty was "Bauldy" (Archibald) Beatty, the
Town Drummer, who walked the Marches and proclaimed the Fair at Langholm
Mercat Cross for upwards half a century. According to the records it was
in the year 1816 that the Riding of the Common began. The first person to
ride on horseback over the Marches was Archie Thomson, landlord of the
Commercial Inn. In the previous year, Thomson, like "Bauldy" his
predecessor, went over the boundaries on foot alone, but on the present
occasion he was accompanied by other townsmen - John Irving, of Langholm
Mill; and Frank Beatty, landlord of the Crown Inn, being probably the most
prominent. These local enthusiasts, sometimes referred to as the "Fathers
of the Common Riding" were responsible for introducing horse-racing, which
took place on the Kilngreen, Langholm's ancient commonty. Horse racing was
continued here until 1834, when the races and sports were transferred to
With the introduction of horsemen, there followed in 1817, the selection
of a leader or Cornet who would act as Master of Ceremonies during the
proceedings and activities of Common Riding Day.
In 1919 it was decided that the Common Riding be always held on the last
Friday in July.'
The Crown Hotel Lounge Bar also has a complete record of all the Common
Riding Cornets from W. Pasley in 1817 onwards. The name of the 2005 Cornet
James Ellis Ritchie will take his rightful place on the Cornet's scroll.
Large portraits of several previous Cornets carrying the town standard
now decorate the lounge bar of the Crown Hotel.
Our hope is that the sun shines on Langholm's biggest
day and that an enjoyable time is had by all, the townsfolk, returing
exiles and visitors. A good summer's day is almost an essential
ingredient for this week's recipe - Midsummer Fruit Salad.
Ingredients: 1/2 lb raspberries; 1/2 lb
strawberries; 1/2 lb stoned cherries; 2 oz redcurrants;
2 oz white currants; ginger or raisin syrup
Method: Rinse all the fruit after picking
out the husks from the berries, and stemming the currants. Drain
thoroughly. Place in a glass dish. Cover with ginger or
raisin syrup. Chill and serve with whipped cream.
Ginger or Raisin Syrup: Stir 12 lumps of sugar in 1/2 pint
water over low heat until dissolved, then boil slowly for ten minutes.
Chill. Add 1 tablespoon of a sweet liqueur, and 1/2 pint ginger or