It’s perfectly reasonable to predict poor weather for a Sunday halfway through October, but sun and warmth greeted archers attending the 2012 I.L.A.A Speed-shooting Championships. No doubt one day we shall catch it good and proper, but so far the Fraternity has been extraordinarily lucky, and this event, hosted at the Honourable Artillery Company’s (HAC) Artillery Garden on 14 October, was no different.
Clearly a shoot in the world’s oldest archery ground is something a bit special. Indeed, this is the only shoot with a dress code, and the only one where you get a delicious, and generous, ‘Military Curry’ lunch. In accordance with the occasion, the Fraternity decided to put a cap on numbers, with places filled in advance. A number of archers had made donations as part of their reservation for the shoot. Freely given, these donations are always deeply appreciated
Before the event got underway, Edwin Seabrook, a member of the HAC’s Court of Assistants gave us a tour of the House. As always, it was off the cuff, amusing and informative. The history of the HAC is long and distinguished, and Fraternity archers are thoroughly interested in the historical background of the regiment and the significance of its archery ground. The icing on the cake was the deployment of two massive saluting guns. A detachment of HAC Soldiers rehearsed the salute as we started to shoot – the new artillery alongside the old.
This shoot attracts a mixture of archers, with many returning every year, making the event into a kind of annual pilgrimage. Then there
are archers who are new to the sport, but have quickly become aware of the magic of this old archery ground and its unique location. As in all Fraternity shoots, the old and the new become familiar to one another within little time, with an instant sense of welcome and togetherness.
The morning shoot was to the Marks, laid out in the usual fan shape – customary given the dimensions of the ground. ‘Finsbury Pigeon’, ‘Cuckoe’, ‘Turkes Whale’ and ‘Wings of St George’ stood proudly on their stakes, and were shot in nine successive rounds. Not bad for a morning’s work, given they have to be shot one-way.
Then, with bows braced, it was off to the tour of the house, followed by lunch.
History and Generosity
The presentation of the purse was held in the PSI bar – and it was very smartly done. William Green marched up in full C95s and did the business for the HAC Benevolent Fund. As Edwin pointed out, next year will be the 10th anniversary of the Fraternity of St George shooting in the Artillery Garden. Clearly we shall have to make it a special occasion.
The afternoon was given to the I.L.A.A Speed-shooting Championship, and mightily hard fought it was. We did seven rounds of 30-second bursts with quite a few HAC members looking on in fascination. Archers explained what was going on, and in many instances made them aware of another dimension to the history and significance of their ground. Afterwards we went back to the PSI bar for scoring up and prize giving.
The champion ILAA speed-shooter was Jack Longhurst, with an amazing score of 105 points. The champion Lady was none other than Ruth Carty with 92 points. Joseph Wylie-Carrick kept a cool head; he also became a champion with nine points.
Next we held the raffle, and when the following day dawned, and we saw what the collection box and raffle had raised, I choked up. Such was the feeling among archers for these guys who volunteer their lives in such a fraught conflict that the decision was instantly taken: another £100 was immediately added to the donation already made. The Fraternity expressed it clearly – “You guys are quite something.”