The Ettrick Forest Archers
Archers from the Ettrick Forest took part in the Scottish Wars of Independence and made a significant and recorded contribution to the Scottish victory at Bannockburn in 1314.
From early times, archery was a skill practiced locally in what later became the Royal Hunting Demesne of Ettrick Forest around Selkirk. There was consequently little problem in choosing a name for the new long bow archery club we formed in Selkirk in January 2007.
In 1660, partly to emphasise the importance of archery in warfare and partly, then as now, to encourage visitors to the Burgh, Selkirk commissioned a silver arrow prize to be made in Edinburgh and shot for annually in Selkirk. The first winner of the Silver Arrow in 1660 was Walter Scott of Goldielands, the fortified tower house south of Hawick.
Amongst the ‘Walter Mason Papers’ discovered in the 1990s, was the tiny original letter from 1660 requesting the arrow to be made from some silver (probably stolen), which was confiscated from an ‘Egyptian’ (Gypsy), who had tried to sell it to a Selkirk merchant.
Archery diminished in importance and the annual competition ceased by 1675 when firearms became easier to train potential soldiers to use. The arrow was kept safe in Selkirk but lay, largely forgotten, in a trunk.
In 1818, Sir Walter Scott, then Sheriff of Selkirk and a member of the Company of Archers - the Monarch’s acknowledged bodyguard in Scotland - arranged a competition for the Arrow between the local archers and the Company, which the Company won. The Arrow then went to Edinburgh and was regularly shot for exclusively by the now Royal Company of Archers. It never came back.
In 2006, by a happy arrangement with the Royal Company the Silver Arrow did come back and is now shared equally and on display in the Town Hall in Selkirk. (Sir Walter Scott’s Courtroom).
After a lapse of hundreds of years and following upon the Arrow’s recovery, the Ettrick Forest Archers were revived to encourage the use of the long bow and to restore the competition held locally for the Arrow.
This form of archery has proved surprisingly popular and the club now has a range of archery equipment for newcomers to use.
Visit www.ettrickforestarchers.co.uk for up-to-date news and details about ‘coming to try’
Contact: Elaine Pearson on 01750 23660. January 2009