Hawick Common Riding: 'On the back of a horse we're all equal'

image copyrightMagic B/BBC Scotland
image captionLisa Mackay took part in the traditionally men-only chase in Hawick this year

Lisa Mackay had a more emotional summer than most.

In the Hawick Common Riding - where hundreds of people on horseback ride the town's historic boundaries - she took part in one of its traditionally men-only events.

It was more than 20 years ago that women won the right to join the ride-outs which are part of the build-up to the main celebration.

However, they had not joined the key ceremonial events - until this summer.

Along with Pauline Tottman, Ms Mackay's story is part of a new documentary on the common riding - one of many held across the Scottish Borders.

It looks at the history and traditions of the event - but also at how the increased role for women was received.

media captionThe annual set of horseback rituals held in the Scottish Border town of Hawick.

Ms Mackay admitted there had been both highs and lows from taking part.

"It was a bit up and down for a good few months - I don't know if I was being over-sensitive or naive," she told the BBC Scotland news website.

"I have got no regrets about doing it - it was something that needed to be done.

"The common riding has got a long history of being traditionally male-only but it is the 21st Century."

She said it was "just not acceptable" to have women discriminated against.

However, she admitted that she thought "long and hard" about taking part but wanted to support Ms Tottman, who was fulfilling a lifelong dream to take part in the common riding.

image copyrightMagic B/BBC Scotland
image captionPauline Tottman said it meant the world to her to be able to take part in the chase
image copyrightMagic B/BBC Scotland
image captionHawick is one of many towns in southern Scotland to stage a common riding

"It means the world to be able to do the chase and know I've got official permission, but it's difficult to know there's a great deal of the town not happy with it," said Ms Tottman in the documentary.

"There's a suggestion that if I wasn't to do it, I'd be respecting tradition.

"The insinuation is I'm disrespecting them by doing it. I don't see it that way."

Her actions were backed completely by Ms Mackay.

image copyrightMagic B/BBC Scotland
image captionHawick common riding celebrates the capture of an English flag in 1514 by the youth of Hawick at a place called Hornshole

"It was time that it was accepted that women have got every right to participate in these events," she said.

"I thought long and hard about riding.

"I am glad it was me - I am mature, I am professional, I don't have any gripes with anybody in the community.

"I only did it to support another woman. She has been very, very brave."

In the documentary she added: "I think most people realise we need to move forward.

"I'm just pleased the time has come for lady riders to be involved because on the back of a horse we're all equal."

There are, however, others who would have preferred to stick with tradition.

image copyrightMagic B/BBC Scotland
image captionMalcolm Grant said he had no desire to see customs and traditions change

Among their number is Malcolm Grant, who formerly held the ceremonial position of "acting father" and believes the customs should remain as they are.

"In 2018 there's been a couple of girls who wanted to ride and that's something that needs to be looked at very carefully because we're trying to maintain our customs and traditions," he said when interviewed for the documentary.

"I have no desire to see those changed.

"It's not about exclusion - it's about complete inclusion and everybody plays their part."

'Not broken'

Master of ceremonies Ian Nichol echoed that view. He told the programme he believed in keeping the ceremonial days as they are.

"We don't have lady riders at the moment - what is wrong with being a wee bit special and a wee bit unique?" he asked.

"For me it is brilliant and it wouldn't be bettered.

"I am a great believer if something is not broken, don't try and fix it."

However, the issue is not one which is likely to go away any time soon.

Ms Mackay has said she would be happy to take part once more.

"There will be one woman from the family next year - I would love to do it again," she said.

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