Serendipity comes to surprise at unexpected moments.
May 1, 2015, Don, Thomas and I travelled from Edinburgh, Scotland to Berwick-upon-Tweed, England, a small distance of approximately 55 miles or 88 kilometers by train. It was a beautiful spring day that offered blue skies with intermittent rain clouds. We were roaming the Scottish Borders, the land of dramatic coastlines, ancient abbeys, and green hills – the land of my ancestors.
We were on our way to visit Robert Smail’s Printing Works, the oldest working commercial letterpress printers in the UK – a living museum of Victorian history. Our plans were delayed the moment we stepped out of Berwick’s train station at 9:30a.m. to see riders and horses moving in tandem down the street towards Berwick Town Hall.
May 1st celebrates the ancient tradition of Riding the Bounds, one of Northumberland’s oldest traditions. May 1, 2015 marked the 406th year when riders on horses toured the traditional fifteen-mile ride to check the security of the boundaries of the town.
Berwick-upon-Tweed is England’s northernmost town. During its turbulent history, this town changed hands 13 times. According to the Northumberland Gazette, “the ‘Bounds’ refers to the Bounds of the Liberties of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the land between the border and the River Tweed. The first description of the Bounds is in a charter created by Robert Bruce after he took the town in 1318 but this land extended only a little north of where the medieval walls stood (the Bell Tower area).”
Horses and riders assemble at the Barracks and move down Marygate to the Town Hall where they are greeted by the Mayor and Civic Party. The Chief Marshal then asks permission of the Mayor for them to ride and inspect the Bounds. Permission is given and the riders set off.