The Ca’ Knowe (or Caa Knowe, meaning ‘call hill’) was the site at the southern-extremity of the old Hawick Common at which the Burgess Roll was traditionally called, following the Annual March Riding. The purpose of the rollcall was to ensure that all of the councillors and Burgesses of Hawick were present for the annual riding of the town’s boundaries. Penalty for absence was £10 Scots for any absent Burgess (though they could send a deputy in their stead), and the forfeiting of one’s councillorship for any absent councillor.
The Ca’ Knowe stood on the site of an ancient burial cairn (known locally as ‘the Hero’s Grave’) which was dismantled in 1811, apparently during which was uncovered a burial cist of bones and flint implements – this being in addition to other flints and a bronze spearhead found nearby. It is evident that since ancient times the site of the Ca’ Knowe was of significant geographical importance.
Having been an annual tradition to meet at the Ca’ Knowe since 1537 (following the granting of the Charter by Douglas of Drumlanrig), the Burgess Call was rendered unnecessary in 1777 after the division of the Common. Furthermore, it was made impossible at the old site, as this became the property of the Duke of Buccleuch, and was no longer within the town’s boundaries. Nonetheless, the ceremony continued, moved instead to the top of nearby Bailie’s Hill (the original site was known for decades as ‘the Auld Caa Knowe’). Today, the Ca’ Knowe is marked by a modern cairn, erected on the site by the Hawick Callant Club in 1911. The importance of the Burgess Call ceremony is remembered in the Common Riding Friday’s ‘Cuttin the Sod’ – a traditional event during which the Cornet symbolically cuts a sod of earth to mark the southern extremity of Hawick’s Common.
The ground of Ca’ Knowe was gifted to the Town of Hawick by the Duke of Buccleuch in October 1937.