(8)  Sex Equality at the Hawick Common Riding (1)

The Hawick Common Riding commemorates the feats of Hawick men who in 1514 ambushed English soldiers in the area and captured their flag, the “Hexham pennant”. The Riding has been a men-only event since the 1930s. Four women joined the 1996 ride-out on 1 June despite prohibitions by the organising committee. An angry demonstration by a Hawick shopkeeper against the women’s participation led to his conviction in Jedburgh Sheriff Court on 9 January 1997 for breach of the peace. A poll set up by the organising committee in Hawick on 4 December 1996 showed a large majority in favour of continuing the men-only tradition, but on a turn-out of only about 24% of those entitled to vote. Two of the women who took part in the ride-out complained to the Equal Opportunities Committee about the continued ban on female participation in the event. The Commission has taken up the case. (See further No 11 and No 19 above.)