Glasgow Archers founded 1840?

75th logo archAs we proudly say on the website’s front page and the Facebook page … Glasgow Archers was founded in 1948. It’s quite a moment for us as we reach our 75th anniversary as well as our 50th year at Craigholme/H@PP. However, had circumstances been slightly different, this could be our 183rd anniversary. And yes, we have the receipts!

So, our Club Chair likes to do research. While ferreting around in some scanned antique archery books from the mid 1800’s, he found a reference to “Glasgow Archers” having been recently formed (The Book of Archery p270). His curiosity piqued, he went full Rambo on the subject and uncovered details and proof of the existence of our .. forefathers? This club was very different to the one that exists today but at the same time, strangely familiar. Here’s what the Chair found…

1840 club attireThe Glasgow Archers Society was founded in 1840. At the time of the writing of Anecdotes of Archery in 1845, the club had grown to between 40 and 50 members and was taking part in competitions and meetings throughout central Scotland as far away as Edinburgh. No mean feat in the horse and buggy era. They practiced six times a week. Three times in the morning, three in the evening and were said to be quite accomplished ” … some very excellent shooters are to be found in their ranks.” (Anecdotes of Archery p133)

Club uniform was a little more formal than the red shirt and black trousers of todays GA. Dark green bonnets with black ostrich feathers was the mandated headgear. Coats and trousers were to be the same colour. The coats were decorated with frog buttons and lots of black braid. Club dress code seems to indicate the coats were to be buttoned up to the neck at all times. Shooting belts were to be worn with a crimson silk waist cord and have an attached tassel in the same colour.


Frog buttons – more knot and a loop than button

Joining the club was pretty different as well. You needed to be proposed by an existing member and seconded by another. A vote of 2/3rds of the membership was required to let you join and your dues required to be paid there and then. There was an entrance fee of £1 and annual subs of 5 shillings. Allowing for inflation, into 2023 pounds, this would equate to £120 joining fee and £30 annual subs – extremely reasonable. HOWEVER, if you factor in salaries for the time … the scaling we will use from now on … the joining fee today would be more in line with £900 and the annual subs £234. The Glasgow Archers Society was for gentlepersons. Some of the scruffier current committee members such as the Vice Chair or Tourney Organizer would likely have had them reaching in horror for their black balls to veto!

Once you had been a member for 3 months or more you could shoot in the club championship which was held on the 1st Thursday of September (right before Glasgow weather traditionally turns nasty). The prize was a silver bugle (and not budgie as our Vice Chair initially misread) which was retained for the year. Everyone shooting for the bugle paid an entrance fee of 1 shilling (or the equivalent of £47 in 2023 money!). Other prizes were shot for during the year all seemingly with financial reward. If you won some of these competitions, you were expected to chip in prizes for the following year. “All members who gain annual prizes, shall, within the year thereafter, give a prize of not less than ten shillings and sixpence. (£493.50 in 2023 money). (Anecdotes of Archery p135)

archery kelvingrove house

Archery at Kelvingrove House in Kelvingrove Park used to be common … if a little risky for observers.

And as to the wider archery community in Glasgow? On 2nd May 1844, Kelvingrove House, in what is now Kelvingrove park, and Robert Knox hosted a grand archery tournament. Present were archers from Edinburgh Salisbury, Glasgow St. Mungos, Irvine Toxophilites and … Glasgow Archers. In attendance as an audience were some 300-500 ladies. (Somewhere modern archery took a wrong turn re our audience!!!) Nine targets were set up in the park for the archers. Four at 30 yards. Four at 100 yards and one was set up as an “elevated target” .. we think as a Papingo or Popinjay. Various “friendly” competitions were shot between the four clubs. Liberal refreshments (unlikely to be soft :o) were served to the archers during the shoot – WADA would have had kittens! After the event, dinner for effectively 4 sittings was supplied to all the competitors and many of their supporters at Kelvingrove House. Finally, 40 of the archers and the host partied into the night “in a most agreeable and delightful manner.”. (Anecdotes of Archery p71) Better still, everyone agreed to come back next year and do it all again. Wow, did our forefathers know how to run a competition or what?!

Exactly when and why this first Glasgow Archers came to an end, we have yet to discover. It may have just faded out as interest in archery waned or the horrendous slaughter of the Great War may have been the cataclysmic event that so impacted the membership, it caused the club to fold. If it was WW1, there is a comforting symmetry that when Glasgow Archers was (re)formed in post war 1948, there were veterans of WW2 amongst our founders. And while there is no direct line connection yet found between the 1840 and 1948 clubs … don’t worry Gramps, Glasgow Archers in the 2020’s will be doing its best to keep your legacy alive.

*          *          *

Note: Kelvingrove House stood on what is now the skatepark at Kelvingrove Park. Looking at prints of the park from the period, as 100 yards was needed for the 1845 shoot, the range may well have been set up with the building to the archers backs and them shooting towards the east with the shooting line somewhere near the Stewart Memorial Fountain. (built 28 years after the shoot). This ground is mainly flat, wide and runs all the way to the park’s eastern gate. (300m/330yrds) …

final version

… and on that very site today, you can sometimes see a ghostly boss in the distance.

References and Acknowledgements:

Archery Fete Kelvingrove image curtesy of Glasgow Museums.
The Book of Archery by Hansard, George Agar – 1840 (ISBN: 9780341788614)
Anecdotes of Archery by Hargrove, A. E. – 1845 (ISBN: 9780901951229)

Glasgow Archers

We are an amateur archery club based in the centre of Glasgow.

5 Responses

  1. David Alan Cawdron says:

    Very interesting. Are we putting in a bulk order for the purchase of ostrich feathers or each buying our own?

  1. March 27, 2023

    […] part of our 75th anniversary, we brought you details of the Glasgow Archers that existed in the 1840’s. A club that may have no connection to our GA, but it still bears the name so we can’t help […]

Leave a Reply