Hawick Cornets :
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1850-1899

1857 Andrew Leyden the first photograph of a Cornet

In 1857 photography had only just begun – so the photograph of Andrew Leyden and his Right and Left Hand men records an extraordinary event.

Taking a photograph was a rigmarole involving glass plates and wet chemicals and portable tents and large cameras. Photographic Societies were just being started to promote the art and science of photography [the Scottish Photographic Society founded in 1856 drew attention to  a new portable camera made by Mr Bell of Potterow “capable of taking pictures 8 ins. Square, weighing 8 ¾ lbs. without the lens and folding into a space 18 ins. Long by 10 broad and 2 ½ deep”

And results could be very variable – in 1862, Mr MacPherson atributed his poor photographic results during Lent to “the garbage of fish which the hens ate during Lent, and which affected the albumen so as to cause a want of success”

But this is a very good picture – though Andrew Leyden certainly looks as though it was taken “the mornin after the night afore”

He is standing with his Right and Left Hand Men – Adam Knox Cornet in 1856, and John Elliot Cornet in 1855.

They are outside , standing on a cobbled surface against a big wooden gate. My first thoughts are for the courtyard of the Tower Hotel – which I recall being cobbled, and the courtyard would probably still at this stage be open at this stage though a bit gloomy because of the height of the Tower Hotel and the next door building. The big bolt on the door would give some sort of security for the coaches in what was at the time a coaching hotel [ remember the theft of five silver watches made by the 1781 Cornet James Wilson from the Bull and Mouth coaching inn in London]. And it would seem an obvious place to take a photograph.

[and the photographer? might have been William Beattie, grandfather of the William Beattie who sculpted the Horse in 1914 – he was living in the Back Row and is known to have taken a photograph of Hawick around this time. Or, more likely, the professional photographer William Walker who was a member of the Scottish Photographic Society in 1856, exhibited at the Exhibition that year, and had a studio in Wilton.

The three of them are wearing what must be green coats with favours tied in the button hole; white/cream/yellow trousers, lum hats , and brightly coloured silk waistcoats.
Guessing at colours here, but maybe yellow and quite plain for Andrew, and a more patterned but still light coloured green and yellow ? waistcoat and pale tie for Adam Knox, a flesher.  John Elliot, a railway clerk, has really gone for it –  strongly coloured maybe red and blue waistcoat with a two coloured bright tie and some sort of flashy chain or cord draped over it. The Left Hand Man John Elliot is quite a rakish figure – his lum hat is tipped forward at a bit of an angle; his hair is flying out over his ears and he looks really comfortable in his stance – feet firmly planted apart, right leg straight, left leg bent – and his hands and arms in easy positions, holding that whip across his trousers. C’mon Lassies! [This fits with with his upbringing - he grew up in 3 Orrock Place, at the Sandbed, in a spirit dealers and inn kept by his father for 30 years or more. Later, this became the Ewe and Lamb - better known as The Monkeys]

The Right Hand Man is altogether a more reserved character – standing much more upright, a more dignified and reserved stance altogether – legs just so, arms by his side, whip held higher and neatly coiled, sideburns and hair both neat; his hat absolutely square on his head, and his Sunday School face on.

Andrew Leyden looks in a terrible state – he is a short man for a start, half a head smaller than the other two and so looks shrunken beside them, and  awfi stookie.
His feet are at right angles to each other in an awkward kind of way, he has nothing to hold and his hands look very clenched – he just doesn’t know what to do with them.
His jacket is buttoned and pulling across his chest, with his collar half up, half down.
His waistcoat looks rumpled, and his hat is wearing him, rather than the other way around.

And his face? I don’t see a young man in any good state for a 27 year old.
He looks peely-wally and/or hung over.
Eyes dark and sunken, with puffy dark eye bags [hay fever?] and very close together.
Pale, maybe freckled skin, with maybe a pale ginger moustache which doesn’t show up well in the photograph – and rubbery protruding lips – or is that a moustache/beard combination which isn’t picked up well by the early photographic process ?

Andrew Leyden grew up in the Back House, 66 High Street with his father Adam, an agricultural labourer, mother Margaret Laidlaw from Melrose and his woollen stocking maker brothers and sisters.

His mother died in May 1856, the year before he was Cornet; and although they were still living in the High Street, his father was by then a farmer of 30 acres, and Andrew at 22 was a coal agent.

This was a time of great change in Hawick – and before the opening of the railway from Edinburgh in 1849, coal from Keilder and the Newcastle area had to be traded at the Carter Bar, and brought back into Hawick  in 5 stone creels on the backs of long trains of ponies by way of Ormiston, Wellogate and down the Cross Wynd [and after the 1820s by the new Bonchester Bridge road]; or over Laurieston Fells and the Bloody Bush. The ponies were often used at the common-riding, according to the Hawick Word Book.

Two years after his common-riding, Andrew married Margaret Elliot from Newcastleton, settled in  6 Cross Wynd, had 5 children, and prospered as a Coal and Lime  Agent.

About Neil Wallace

Born in the Haig Maternity, lived in Dovemount Place, and started school there at Trinity. To Burnfoot Primary then the High School. Moved away from the town to Cardiff, then Edinburgh, and now an exile in Suffolk.

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