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Club Spotlight: The Ancient Society of Kilwinning Archers

8 Jul 2024

Thanks to club committee member Jim Bilby for sharing this insight into The Ancient Society of Kilwinning Archers’ rich history, what the club are all about, what they do and plans for the future. 

If you would like to find out more about The Ancient Society of Kilwinning Archers, visit their website here.

1.      Please can you give us a brief background on the club?

''The Ancient Society of Kilwinning Archers is a club based in Kilwinning, North Ayrshire which is part of the West of Scotland area.

We currently have 62 members with 2 coaches. Members volunteer, as necessary.

We cater for archers from ages 9 upwards, with our main aim being to introduce people to the sport, and provide an enjoyable experience. That said, we have archers that are/have been very successful at competitive archery.

Our club dates from 1483, and is the oldest archery organisation in the UK. Records that go back to the 15th century are held by the National Records of Scotland. Our heritage is very extensive and has been detailed in the book "The Ancient Society of Kilwinning Archers - A history of the Society From 1483 to the Present Day", written by Stuart Wilson. However, we are a modern archery club that caters for all bow types (except crossbow); but our main focus is Longbow, recurve and compound bows.''


2.      Where did the idea of the club originally come about?

''The club was initially formed due to the requirement to practice archery, in the 15th century''


3.      What is your club’s overall aims and objectives?

''Introduce people to archery so they can enjoy the sport, and member community.''


4.      Can you talk us through your club development journey?

''The Society has developed over many years. It was particularly active in the 19th century, where Prince Albert was our patron. Historically, many important people have been members (too many to list). There was a period from the late 19th century until the mid-20th century where the Society wasn't running.

 When re-started, in the 20th century, the Society was run as a modern archery club, where some additional competitions and new awards were introduced.''


5.      Have you worked with any particular people/partners?

''We have provided 'come and try' sessions, at local schools, and our own archery range. Mainly in association with KA Leisure (North Ayrshire Council), but sometimes at the request of local organisations. .We also provide archery sessions for Clan Hunter gatherings, at the Hunterston Estate.''


6.      What do you think makes the club unique?

''Our Society has two unique competitions. The first is our Kilwinning Round, where archers shoot at a 9" target, set at 30 yards. Scoring is 3,2,1. The second is our Papingo, where archers shoot over 100 feet, vertically, at a wooden bird, set on a pole on the Kilwinning Abbey Tower. This competition has been recorded from the 15th century, and it is thought it goes back even further in time. This competition was featured by Michael Portillo, in his "Great British Railway Journeys" series.

Members compete, annually, to be captain of the Society. The new captain is awarded a silver medal that is attached to the Society's Silver Arrow Trophy. This is an impressive silver trophy, with medals dating back to 1695.''


7.      Do you have any projects you are working on as a club?

''We are looking at the possibility of getting a new facility, that would allow us to accommodate more archers and better run/host competitions.''


8.      Are there any particular challenges the club face?

''Our outside facilities are quite limited, and we have to encourage members to come along to the Society's outdoor sessions.''


9.      What future goals do you have as a club?

''Our aim is to continue to provide archery facilities for everyone interested in the sport. We also endeavour to preserve and extend our fantastic heritage.''


10.  Would you like to add anything else?

''We run two archery sessions each week. On Thursday evenings, we run indoor sessions, at Greenwood Academy, where we provide equipment, and training, for new archers. In the summer, we run 'outdoor' archery sessions at McGavin Park, on Wednesday evenings. For the indoor season, we hold these sessions at Kilwinning Academy.''


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