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Royal Burgh of Selkirk and District Community Council

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 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. 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’, who had tried to sell it to a Selkirk merchant.

The Silver Arrow was crafted by Captain James Fairburn, Deacon of the Edinburgh Incorporation of Goldsmiths, and the first winner, also in 1660, was Walter Scott of Goldielands, the fortified tower house south of Hawick. 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.

Originally, Ettrick archers competed with long bows, for the right to attach their personal medallion to the chain attached to the Arrow, while the arrow was exhibited in the Burgh. The competition lapsed around 1674, the date of the last of nine original medallions attached to the Arrow, which was stored in the Selkirk Charter chest until 1747, when it disappeared from public record. 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. 

The Royal Company does return to Selkirk every 6 years to compete amongst themselves to append their personal medallion to the Arrow. A modern compromise has now been agreed: the Arrow, the original 9 medallions and those of the Royal Company are displayed on a silver frame in Sir Walter Scott's Courtroom during the summer, then returned to Archers Hall in Edinburgh for the winter. Ettrick Forest Archers now hold an annual competition for the Arrow and to add their name.

Ettrick Forest Archers have won many accolades at meets of the British Longbow Society throughout the UK. The club welcomes beginners from 12 years and upwards, who undertake a mentoring course of approximately 8 hours of tuition with an experienced Archer before joining the main club.

Further information can be found on their Facebook page or at Email: 01750 21732