Archery of the Past
Some of its Archers and some of Their Scores
Part 1 of 3
A WELL KNOWN figure in the archery field was that of Mr.Charles Marriott Caldecott, of Holbrook Grange, near Rugby, who was at one time President of the G.N.A.S., and long officiated as its senior judge at their annual meetings. I always place him first in my individual archery recollections, because, like ' Tom Brown ' in his ' schooldays,' I, too, early met Mr. Caldecott at Rugby; and, like that hero, I met him in the character of a judge. At this meeting I appeared as a schoolboy, convicted of no less an offence than that of trespassing in the preserved water and grounds at Holbrook in search of 'bait,' &c., for our lordly young masters, not of the school, I trow, but of the sixth form, in those much-belauded but overpraised ' Tom Brown's Schooldays.' May every poor young culprit meet with as kind and merciful a judge as we did then ' This took place about 1840, and I met and renewed my old acquaintance with Mr. Caldecott at some forgotten G.N.A. Meeting, about 1863-4 to his immense amusement, once more in the character of my judge--I being a humble competitor at an archery meeting, and he the potent and dreaded judge thereof ! In 1863, as in 1840, there was no escaping him. Slow he was and deliberate in movement, always taking his time, but sure. He was possessed of a 'beady ' black eye, with a peculiarly penetrating glance in it. The least transgression in overstepping the well-known lines of demarcation on the turf, between shooters and spectators, between the archer shooting and his successor (too eager to step forward and shoot), the forbidden talking, and many another suchlike offence, were sure to attract his notice. Courteous at the first, Mr. Caldecott was wont to become unusually decided and firm if the offender again transgressed. And, whilst a pattern of what an archery judge should be, and most witty, sharp, and humorous of speech, he was at all times able, and at most times willing, to add the 'fortiter in re' to the ' suaviter in modo.' Well do I remember the shape and colour, and especially the end, of his stout Indian cane with the silver rings, which he quaintly called his 'silver stick in waiting.' In waiting it always was truly, and never for so very long together, either; and many a time has it made much more intimate acquaintance than I desired with my transgressing feet. In those earlier days, 'alone he did it,' as judge; but he afterwards obtained assistance, as with improving archery the measuring of golds became a burthen; and soon the ladies obtained a judge to attend to their targets and interests alone. Truly I at least shall never forget my old judge's face, his personality, or even his clothes. They are so stamped on ' my mind's eye' that it seems but as yesterday that we met and shook hands, and parted, not knowing that it was for the last time, on the broad oak staircase of the Regent Hotel at Leamington (well known to archeresses, archers, and American travellers). For did not he then and there, between many a puff from the cheroot that, with his well-known umbrella and the dreaded stick, was his inseparable companion, deliver himself of the prediction that, if I continued to improve, in time (here his beady black eyes shone, and the cheroot smoked like a little volcano) I might probably --some day or other when Ford and his coevals were forgotten--be in my turn remembered as an archer; but only then ! Peace to his ashes ! I trow it will be long before we 2 see the like again of the acute Indian judge who so laboriously and successfully exercised his judicial talents in the mimic contests of the archery field. Mr. Caldecott by no means confined his services as judge to the annual meetings of the great society of which he was so long the president, but constantly officiated at the annual meetings of the archers of the Midlands, held at Leamington, from 1854 TO HIS final retirement in 1881. He also placed his services at the disposal of many another well-known archery meeting, and was every-where useful, beloved, respected, and obeyed.
HORACE A. FORD
I now approach the principal subject of this chapter, so long the central figure in the archery of the period, the famous archer, Horace Ford.
As I am not here proposing to write a biography, and as the facts of Ford's life have already been recorded in Sharpe's ' Archer's Register ' for 1881, I shall venture to make the little that I have to say about him take the shape of personal reminiscence. I do this with the less reluctance from the startling fact of my old archery ledger's uncompromising assurance that I must have made his personal acquaintance some time in the year 1851. Our meeting took place, I think, in Buchanan's shop in Piccadilly, and through the direct intervention of that grand old bowmaker and clever humorous Scotsman himself. Ford and I happened to be both of us seeking one of the fine old self-yew bows of which Buchanan had at that time nearly a monopoly. I find also in the same old archery score-book that I shot my first York Round for the insignificant total of 63 hits 221 score with Ford (with whom I was afterwards to shoot so many), in the Montpellier Gardens, Cheltenham, on April 30, 1852, and it is now A.D. 1894 !
I cannot find any account of Mr. Ford's having shot in public after the year 1869, which year he shot in the Grand National Archery Meeting unsuccessfully, being fourth in score; and I think he must have given up archery altogether soon afterwards. He also ceased to reside at Cheltenham, and I saw but little more of him save as an interested spectator at the progress of the G.N.A. Meeting at Bath (where he then resided) in 1870, and where the medal he had so often won and worn (for he was fond of wearing it in its proper place at a public archery meeting) was won for the second time by Mr. E. A. Holmes. This archer, I think, might well have become a second Ford if he had but devoted himself, like the subject of my sketch, to the study and practice of the art he had begun so well.
Ford won the Championship for the first time at Derby in 1849, with the score of 177 hits 703 score, having gained ' the points' by a majority of one only over his friend, Captain A. Penistone Moore, who was forty above him; in score but four below him in hits. This was but an earnest of his future success, for he gained the coveted distinction thereafter no fewer than eleven times; and, more than that, in days when to the last no archer but he had ever succeeded in putting together one thousand on the Double York Round at any public archery meeting Mr. Ford compiled at least ten of such scores of four figures. Of these his two best were in 1857, G.N.A. Meeting, Cheltenham, 245 hits 1,251 score, and in 1858, Midland and Leamington Meeting, 230 hits 1,128 score. These two scores have never yet been equalled in public, and I am free to confess I do not think they ever will be ! The long period of twenty-six years has elapsed, and I cannot help reminding my readers that in all that time (so far as I can recollect) there have been but seven scores of over one thousand each made in public, and not one of 1,100 and that these seven have to be divided between four living archers. Fine as Mr. Ford's scores made in public are, and much as many an archer of the present day tries, and tries in vain, to emulate them, they are entirely eclipsed by some of those he is believed to have made in his private practice. Some of these are so marvellous (when the difficulty of getting up to or getting ever so little over 600 on the Single York Round is considered), that their accuracy and fairness have been questioned. I am happy, therefore, in being able to testify that I used constantly to go over to Cheltenham in those early days for the purpose of shooting a York Round with Ford in the Montpellier Gardens, and have no sort of doubt whatever on the subject myself. I once shot two such rounds in one day with him--the only time I ever did such a thing in my life. He never scored for me or gave me any hints or instruction of any kind; and I only once remember to have put down a score of his making in the field, in my book as he made it--and that one not one of his best. For I can only find in my aforesaid ' old archery book ' one entry of a completed practice score of his--viz. on July 14, 1857. On this occasion it appears that I took it down myself, and it is thus entered: ' H. Ford 58, 272, 46, 252, 24, 138. Total 128, 662 '; and it is further recorded as 'the first beginning of our usual shilling match--weather fearfully hot; our first shilling match on golds and reds. Ford scored upwards of 400 on those colours; he broke the string of his 54-lb. yew-backed-yew bow.' (I may here remark that I very seldom won much in these matches !) I also find that on November 11, 1856, I am stated in the same old volume to have been shooting with Ford, and that he broke his bow. It was the very bow itself which remains in his hand, and bends to this day, in the accompanying illustration. I can remember that bow well, and a fine self-yew it was, of Buchanan's make, and of 54 lbs. My old score-book expressly calls it ' the bow photographed in his book on Archery, a great pity, the string broke.' The figures 72, 55, 273 score are added, and nothing more. I do not remember Ford's ever taking more than one bow to the Montpellier Archery Ground; and he used only one bow at all the three distances of the York Round as long as I knew him to shoot. I do not remember seeing any but self-yew and yew-backed-yew bows hanging up against the wall of his dining-room, and I think they were all made by Buchanan, who, I need not say, did his best for such a customer. Now as Ford at that time in practice very rarely missed more than two or three at most of his shafts at too yards, and hardly ever one at either the 8o or 60 yards, I conceive that this catastrophe to his bow (which he much lamented) must have occurred at or about his fifty-fifth shot at 100 yards. How pleased should any archer now be with 273 for his completed seventy-two arrows (a result I confess I have never myself attained). It may perhaps be interesting to my readers and pardoned to a. ' laudator temporis acti ' to present to them here the only letter I have saved from the many received by me from Ford.
It runs thus: --
Dear Fisher,-- I'm vexed you could not come this morning, as it was beautiful for shooting, and because also I should have given you ' an eternal hiding ' at golds and reds. I shot the 144 arrows, and made in these colours 548 --that's all-- getting altogether at 100 yards 69--371; at 80 yards 48--274; at 60 yards 24--154, 141--799. Mettez cela dans votre pipe and smokey le. Come on Tuesday next, if fine. I know of nothing to prevent my shooting on that day.-- Ever thine,
H. A. FORD.
This fine score possesses the more of interest from the fact that it really is the second best score this archer is ever likely to have made and recorded. He has evidently forgotten to insert it when penning the passage concerning his best private scores in his own book, ' Ford on Archery,' 1856, p. 116, and second edition, 1859, p. 116. These volumes may not be in every archer's possession, and I shall transcribe the words in which he says: --
Under the risk of being considered egotistical, but to oblige the request of several correspondents, I now give the three follow- ing specimens of my private practice -- I need hardly say my best. The first two are the Single York Round of six dozen, four dozen, and two dozen. At the first I made (with an Italian self-yew bow of Mr. Buchanan's, and 5s. arrows of Mr. Muir's) 71 hits 335 score (missing the ' 59' shot), 48 hits 272 score, 24 hits 158 score, giving a total of 144 shots--143 hits 765 score. At the second (with a yew-backed-yew bow and same arrows), 66 hits 344 score, 47 hits 301 score, 24 hits 164 score; total 144 shots--137 hits 809 score.
I have little doubt myself that Ford here fully meant to have given his readers his three best York Round scores, made in private practice, and that it is his second best of these that I have thus happily been able to rescue from oblivion, though I admit that his next record - ' the following is a St. Leonard's Round at 60 yards, 28 golds, 37 reds, 7 blues, 3 blacks: total 75 shots, 75 hits, 555 score '--may possibly have been made to do duty for the third York Round, which he had forgotten, but I have not ! Mr. Ford always used most excellent arrows of 5s. weight, made by Mr. Muir, and, at all events at the time of which I am writing, with the very long feathers of that day. Ford was a very tall man, fully 6 ft. 2 in., I think, and his arrows were one inch longer than usual. I can never forget the impression that his shooting in the ease and quiet of our private practice invariably produced on my mind. We were mostly alone, few or no spectators being present. Sometimes, though rarely, his friend Mr. Bramhall was staying with him, and more rarely Mr. Maitland, Captain A. P. Moore, or a Cheltenham friend, Mr. Dawes, accompanied us, and of course shot. Ford's tall figure, the intense and concentrated attention he paid to every single arrow of the 144 of the York Round, without the least exception, from the 1st to the 144th (and herein lay his chief strength), the peculiar note of his fine 54-lb. bow as it delivered his 29-inch arrow without the string having touched his guard or sleeve, the extra high arch of his heavy Muir shafts, which were feathered or ' fletched ' with turkey-feather wings, of what the moderns would deem preposterous length and size, their singularly steady and, to my mind, slow flight--made up to a young archer a remarkable whole.
How often does not an archer look at a friend's shooting from over his shoulder with friendly interest! How commonly does he not see two arrows start, and fly straight and true, and the third, a little (yes, just a little, I know, but, like poor Mercutio's wound, ' it is eno', 'twill serve '), just that little 'out of it,' or if not so, then is it 'straight over--or straight under--by the back leg ' with him. But what would be thought of all the 144 shafts flying quite straight, in the most remorseless and monotonous way possible ? Only two or three of them all failing to produce that dull but well-known 'thud' that indicates invariably gold, red, or blue. Blacks Mr. Ford abhorred, and whites he seldom made. Golds were with him as plenty as blackberries, and so were reds, which he used to call ' lobsters.' Amongst such a number of golds, I have often been asked if the well-known ' three at one end ' did not often appear. They most probably did, but I do not remember much about it (for in private practice 'the shilling for three golds ' should not be thought of). The only instance that I can remember, of Ford's having made three golds at one end, in private practice with me, occurred in this wise. The difficulty is, of course, much enhanced at the 100 yards range, and one day Ford made two successive golds at 100 yards (or said he had). He then turned to me and inquired what I would wager that he would not make a third. With my usual rashness, I said, ' Twenty sovereigns to one,' which I deemed a safe bet. Ford said, ' Not so; twenty shillings to one, for me.' Whereupon after he had taken most especial pains with it, away flew his shaft and made a gold, visible enough, even to us, from where we were standing. He instantly held out his hand, ' Your sovereign, please,' and this he continued to demand of me all the way to the other target, where indeed he got it, for there were his arrows, all three unmistakably golds, and my own forfeited gold had to be added to their number.
Ford did precisely the same feat (also at 100 yards) in private practice with Captain A. P. Moore, except that in this instance he offered a bet of 5s. that he would make his third shaft a gold; the bet was accepted, and the gold as quickly made.
The following story oft gold-making at 100 yards is related by Mr. A. P. Moore (' Arch. Reg.' 1881) as occurring in the private practice of Mr. Ford, Mr. Bramhall, and himself:--
One morning, as soon as we began shooting almost, the most extraordinary end I ever saw was made at 100 yards. lt was a dull, heavy, dark day, with a perfectly still atmosphere, and the arrows looked like one huge lump in the middle of the target. We were unable to see what they were until we approached them closely, and then we found them to be six golds and three reds. Ford had three golds, Bramhall two golds and a red, and I had a gold and two reds.
Ford also won a silver bracer or arm-guard early in his career, presented by Mr. Hughes to the first maker of three golds at an end at the 100-yards range at a public match, with a suitable inscription on it, to commemorate the feat.
As every recollection of the ' style ' of this great archer is now of interest when recollections can be so few, I shall say that as a whole it used to appear to me somewhat laboured, the flight of his shafts slow, and possibly the whole performance not of the most graceful kind--this I know was not solely my own remark, for I have frequently heard it made by others, and especially by ladies who were attracted to the target where Ford was shooting by his great renown. Both he and his companions at his target were occasionally inconvenienced by this notoriety, and I recollect, at Exeter, that at Ford's target I had three at least of my own shafts broken by one fair lady who persisted in walking on them--' a fitting punishment,' quoth Ford, 'for missing.'