Hugh Soar (1926-2022)

Hugh Soar, who passed away at the end of November 2022 age 96, was Bow’s longest-standing columnist, and a fixture in the magazine since its earliest days in the 1990s. We received this tribute from his widow, Veronica-Mae Soar.

Hugh David Hewitt-Soar began his archery interest in 1978 as a member of the Plymouth Company of Bowmen, later shooting for the County and qualifying as a county coach. When he moved from Plymouth to Batheaston he became a well known and enthusiastic member of Bath Archers; and most of his activities since that time have been connected in one way or another with archery and its history.

He took his first steps into commercial writing when, in 1990, he was asked to contribute articles on traditional archery for the ‘The Glade’. Readers soon warmed to the slightly unorthodox slant he brought to his articles, giving his historical characters a human face and presenting the various aspects of archery’s past in a down to earth and often humorous way. At the same time he was both collecting antique and interesting archery equipment and helping to display it to the public at various events.

He also started giving talks on the subject he had made his own, based upon his extensive private collection of equipment and ephemera; and at the same time began producing small informative booklets. For some years he was a Mary Rose Presenter, bringing fascinating information about the ship and the associated finds to various groups. He was also pleased to contribute to their archeological report and to be consulted from time to time on archery matters.

As Honorary Secretary of the British Long-Bow Society, formed in 1951 to preserve the traditional recreational longbow and style of shooting, he was instrumental in raising its membership, here and abroad, from around 200 to 2,000. While in post, he soon perceived a need for a coming together of the growing number of those starting once more to make the traditional equipment, in order to provide quality bows and arrows for BLBS members; and thus was born the Craft Guild of Traditional Bowyers & Fletchers. From small beginnings this Guild now enjoys a reputation for excellence and is recognized by both the Bowyers and the Fletchers Livery Companies.

It was during this time that – with his wife Veronica-Mae – he twice contributed a large display of archery equipment and how it is made, at events in the London Guildhall, in support of the Bowyers and the Fletchers Companies.

Hugh was very much taken by, and learnt to speak and read, Anglo Saxon, joining Ɖa Engliscan Geðisas. Recently he was thrilled to discover he was 6% Norwegian – and was often heard telling all who would listen that he was a Viking; while the obligatory glass of mead at Christmas was raised to the cry of Wes þū hāl. He had a Seax on his desk too.

For many years his readers had been asking him to write a book, and so it was that Of Bowmen and Battles appeared in 2002, dealing with those engagements – both well known and less so – in which the bow played a significant part. Following the success of his first book, Hugh was commissioned to write another, which was published in 2004 to critical acclaim: The Crooked Stick – a History of the Longbow takes the reader from pre-history to the present day, covering the many aspects of this charismatic weapon and the people who used it. This was follow by Secrets of the English Warbow which includes detailed examination of the making of both bow an arrow and their capabilities.

Since then he produced The Romance of Archery dealing with the more social side of archery as a recreational activity. Anxious not to deal solely with the bow but to examine the essential arrow, Hugh wrote Straight and True. This was followed by The Young at Archery, which looked at how budding archers all over the world have been trained in the sport.

When he retired as their Secretary, Hugh continued his association with the BLBS – of which he was made an Honorary Life member – as its historical and technical consultant, called upon by those seeking advice or information or assistance with research. He would also identify – and answer questions about – old equipment, basing his answers upon knowledge gained from study of his own very large research collection and many years experience. He was recently made an Honorary member of Archery GB. He has been honoured by both the Worshipful Companies of Fletchers and of Bowyers being made a Freeman of each; and recently he was “clothed” as an Honorary Liveryman of the Bowyers Company.

Hugh was a long time member of the Society of Archer-Antiquaries, a learned society dedicated to archery research of every possible kind, and for whom he was Hon Sec. for eleven years and a regular contributor to their annual journal. His principal clubs were the Royal Toxophilite Society, the Herefordshire Bow Meeting Society and the Worcestershire Archery Society.


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