THE BAN on women taking part in one of Scotland’s oldest Common Ridings is set to be completely scrapped after decades of controversy.
The Hawick Common Riding made national headlines in 1996 when two women won a court battle to ride alongside men.
Despite that, women riders continued to be excluded in practice from numerous events during the week-long festival of horse riding which celebrates a centuries-old victory over the English.
It now looks certain, 21 years after the controversy blew up, that the committee which runs the event – and now includes women members – is likely to back down.
There had been speculation following a post on the Facebook page of a local shop which suggested the committee was in danger of losing the financial benefits of being a charity as a result of continuing to exclude women.
The post on Rum and Milk.com stated: “As a Scottish charity and the recipient of Scottish Borders Council grant monies, Hawick Common Riding Committee must abide by all laws relating to equality, gender and discrimination. They must also benefit all members of the community.”
“This year Hawick Common Riding Committee have acknowledged these points and have said they will not stop any ladies from riding at any of the mounted events.”
They added: “Hawick Common Riding Committee also unanimously agreed to amend their constitution to clarify procedures and practices concerning allegations of inappropriate behaviour regarding discrimination to anyone taking part in Common Riding activities and will not tolerate inappropriate behaviour directly impacting the Common Riding.”
A high profile member from another Border’s town’s common riding said: “I believe it is true but the Hawick common riding haven’t made it official. The women involved in the discussions have leaked it out before its made official on rum and milk Facebook page so they can’t change the plans.”
In practice, women have only been allowed to take part in unofficial, preparatory rides.
This year it looks like they will be allowed at all preliminary ride outs, chases, Friday’s main Common Riding day and Common Riding Saturday. A drinking event, called the “Hut”, will also be open to women.
Hawick resident Josh Norman, said the news had caused a big stir.
“The hut is an old tradition where only men have been allowed in to drink and celebrate and only men allowed to ride on the Friday of the common riding but due to equal rights tradition is getting thrown out the window. Equal rights are more important than hundred year old traditions.”
The Hawick Common Riding is the first of the Border festivals and celebrates the capture of an English Flag in 1514 by the youth of Hawick.