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Home > Books > Badminton > Chapter XXII: On the Management of Public Meetings
Chapter XXII
On the Management of Public Meetings
By Colonel Walrond

THE management of public meetings of necessity devolves on the secretaries, as, though the committees assist materially in checking scores and making out the prize-lists, they are only available for consultation during the actual days of the meeting and a great deal of the real work has to be done before the meetings are held.

Every secretary does his work in his own way. One will leave everything to the last moment and work like a nigger to get it done in time; another will go on steadily, as soon as one meeting is over, preparing for the next. One will fuss the whole time of the meeting, never being so happy as when assisting to move targets, forms, &c., though probably it would be better done if he did not interfere; another will quietly look on, smoking his pipe, and mentally wondering why those last two arrows did not go in, but at the same time watching everything; while a third, having given the necessary orders, lets his. subordinates do the work, and, keeping his eye on them, attends" to other things. Who shall say which is the best plan ? All that will be attempted here is to say what has to be done, and leave each one to work it out in his own particular way.

To begin at the beginning, the secretary must have some sort of notion, at least the day before the meeting of the place where he thinks he can arrange to hold the one for the next year 50 that it may be discussed by the committee who meet on the Tuesday to audit the previous year's accounts, &c. If the committee agrees to his suggestion, he has to find some influential archer in the proposed locality who is disposed to take trouble in the matter, and can give him information generally as to the capabilities of the neighbourhood and ground. Probably he has already sounded someone on the subject, and if the meeting has been held at the proposed place before, he already knows a good deal about it himself. The gentleman upon whom he has pitched will, on his return home, write and tell him what he thinks are the prospects of holding a successful meeting; and if the secretary does not know the ground, he should go and see it as soon as he can.

When on the spot he should look at the proposed ground, carefully noting its size, if it is sufficiently level, and whether the targets can be fixed north and south. This is important, as a range lying east and west is very objectionable, especially in the afternoon, at sixty yards, when the sun is getting low and nearly behind the western target. If the ground is satisfactory, he should settle in his own mind flow he will place the ladies' and gentlemen's targets and the tents. He ought carefully to observe what accommodation there is on the ground in the shape of a pavilion, or other building, which can be made available for the meeting, so as to save tent-hire, He should also inquire whether tents, forms, &c., can be hired, and ascertain the charges for them, not forgetting to ask as to police, ticket takers, boys, and assistants for marking and measuring the ground.

His guide, philosopher, and friend (the influential archer), who has possibly undertaken the duties of local honorary secretary, will be able to inform him who are the best persons to ask to be lady-paramount and president (if such officers are required), and patrons. If he has travelled any distance, he will by this time be ready for luncheon, which affords a good opportunity of going to the best hotel, seeing what accommodation can be secured, and while there arranging as to the charges to be made to archers during the meeting.

All this requires care, as it does not do to make arrangements for the amount to be charged for breakfast and dinner, and forget that for beds, or these latter may be put at a fancy price, as was done at one meeting where this point was forgotten. Luncheon on the ground should also be seen to, and as some archers are particular as to their drinks, they should be humoured. Some years ago, when a meeting was held in Devonshire, one archer always made a point of asking that cider should be provided, and it always was, much to his delight, though probably it came from London on purpose. It is best, also, not to entrust the lunch to a teetotal firm, or to a caterer without a licence, for one or two shooters may like something stronger than ginger-beer.'

Our secretary should by this time have got all the information he can, and having impressed on his local honorary secretary the importance of getting local support in the shape of subscriptions and competitors, must before going home settle which of them is to write to the lady-paramount, president, and patrons, to ask them to act.

The date of the meeting is an important point. Local arrangements have to be considered. The ground may possibly only be available for one or two weeks; while the fixtures of the other public archery meetings have to be considered, as it is generally best to have a fortnight between each meeting. This is a matter in the management of which there is room for improvement. Obviously, the proper course would be that the secretaries should consult, and fix the meetings so as to fit them in together; but this is not at present done. Of course :the Grand National should have the first choice, and if a consultation took place early enough in the year there should be no difficulty in fixing the meetings so as to suit everybody, and avoid complications.

When answers have been received from the patrons, &c., the circulars can be got ready and sent out like sprats to catch a whale. There is no particular object in sending them out too soon, as they are apt to get lost, and then the secretary is asked, 'Why have I not had a circular ? '--his correspondent, when he gets another, probably not coming aster all. He must on account forget to write to the judges, alla secure their services; he must also make sure of his clerk and ground-manager, and see that his transfer sheets, target-papers, and the hundred other small items required are ready. The time for entries having closed (post-entries excepted), he must think of preparing his target-list. How this should be done is a question as to which there are two very distinct and conflicting views, both of which will be placed before the reader.

There is at present a good deal of talk as to reform being required in the management of the Grand National Archery Society, all the arrangement of the targets is one of the principal points in dispute. A good deal of this talk is, no doubt, the hare-brained chatter of irresponsible frivolity, but there certainly are many members of the G.N.A.S. who hold very strong views as to several rules of the Society requiring amendment. It is very possible that some beneficial alterations could be made in them, especially as regards the transaction of business at the annual general meeting; for, as at present conducted, it is practically impossible for any real business to be done at it.

The plan adopted at present for arranging the targets is as follows. A list of the competitors is made out in the order of their entry; from this list as many captains as are necessary are selected, and then an experienced archer is chosen to shoot first at each target. The remainder of the competitors are put down in the order of their entry, any two who may have asked it being put at the same target, care, however, being taken that no two shooters of the same name, or two sisters, or a mother and daughter, are at the same target. The opponents to this system say it is not fair: that as all pay alike, everyone should have the same chance of being first or last, the latter being considered an especial disadvantage; and that the names of all the shooters should be put into a hat and drawn out one by one the first eight or ten, or whatever the number of targets may be, shooting first, the next second, and so on; and there is a good deal in this contention.

The reasons given against altering the present system are that the captains must be selected, as they have to score, and he or she must be trustworthy, and able to keep the score correctly (instances of errors having occurred); besides which, it is necessary that the captain should score the target at once on reaching it, leaving his arrows to their fate. (As an instance of what some inexperienced captains will do, it may be mentioned that within the last ten years one went through the following manoeuvres before he attempted to score. First he picked up his arrows, then he put on his spectacles alla took off his tips, and having given his bow and umbrella to the target boy to hold, he leisurely put down the score, carefully examining each arrow, so that by the time he had finished scoring the other targets had finished shooting.) That the archer to shoot first must be selected, as he should have six arrows in his pocket and be ready to shoot at once on reaching the opposite target, picking up his arrows after he has shot, for otherwise he will delay the shooting, and a slow 'No. 1' is very hard on the last shooter. That some archers take much longer than others to shoot. and it is necessary to arrange the targets so that they may all finish as nearly as possible together. That two good shots, who may be contending against one another should not be at the same target, and that two of the same name should not be at the same target, as it leads to mistakes in the score. That certainly, as far as the ladies are concerned the fact of being at the same target with their friends is a great inducement to attend a meeting. That the majority of archers are in favour of the present system, and that to give satisfaction to the greatest number is the best plan to insure the success of a meeting.

The secretaries of the public meetings are unanimously in favour of the present plan, and a proposal to alter it was defeated at a meeting of the Grand National Archery Society by a large majority. The advocates of the ballot are, however, by no means convinced, and still contend that all archers should take their chance of shooting at any target, or position at a target, by lot. They affirm that, as at some meetings some of the targets may be easier than others, to place any archer at a target, or to shoot in a position which he or she may ask for or prefer, is to give that archer an unfair advantage. While this is the case, they say, archery cannot be considered a properly constituted sport, nor can the Grand National be looked upon as being more than a social function, instead of, as it should be, a championship meeting.

We will suppose the secretary to have prepared his target list, so as to have as near as possible an equal number at each target, due provision being made for post-entries and absentees. He must then send it to the printers, directing that a proof may be sent to him. When he gets this proof he will probably be delighted to find it contains several new names; but his delight will vanish when he sees on examination that these are only the old ones spelt differently. On the Monday morning previous to the meeting the secretary should be on the ground early, so as to square and measure it. This same squaring is a matter of importance, and should be done carefully, and not more or less by rule of thumb, as is too frequently the case. Nothing is more annoying than to find that your target faces a yard or two on one side of your standing-mark, owing to the targets being placed on the opposite sides of a rhomboid instead of, as they should be, of a rectangle, and on your pointing out the fact being told by some swivel-eyed individual, 'Oh, yes, they don't look straight, but it's the shape of the field does it, you know,' anyone who can see straight being able to tell the difference at once.

Fig. 189

To square the ground properly a cross-sight should be used. First settle on the line of targets A B (fig. 189), and run a line" along it. At one end of it, A, place the cross-staff j; align the sight from A on a rod at B. then measure the longest required distance (plus five yards) to c, putting another line along it, and look through the sight to see that c is at right angles to A B. Shift the cross-sight from A to C, placing a rod at A. Align your sight from c to A and c to D, and measure the length of your base A B from c to D. If this is properly done the distance BD is the same as AC, and the ground will be square. The other distances can be easily got by measuring them on A C and BD. The place where each target will stand should then be marked on A B with white tape, taking A as the base-point, and placing the first target two yards from it. The targets can be placed at equal distances apart, or in pairs, the latter being the usual and best method; but if he follow it the secretary must not be surprised at someone coming up to him with a long face and telling him the targets are not all the same distance apart. If he is quick at repartee he might say, like Soapy Sponge's groom, Leathers, 'That's intended, guv'nor.' Having put in all the target-marks, shift the line which is on AB five yards forward, and put in the shooting-points with red tape and proceed in the same way for each distance, not forgetting to place shooting-points in front of each base. If the secretary has an efficient ground-manager, it will not be necessary for him personally to do more than square the ground, see that the distances are properly measured and the base-marks put in; the rest he can leave to him, and himself attend to the other arrangements, such as seeing that the tents, fortes, and furniture will be duly delivered, and that the police, gatekeepers, and boys are warned to come at the right time; besides, he will probably find when he gets back to the hotel that he has a good many letters which require answering.

On the Tuesday the secretary has to mark the centre of the golds; see that each target is properly fixed; that the tents are put in the right place; that the white lines (to keep the spectators behind the targets) are marked; that the target-lists are on sale; and, in short, that everything is ready for the contest to begin on Wednesday. In the afternoon the archers begin to appear, and the secretary must be prepared to issue fresh tickets to anyone who has left his or hers behind, answer questions as to the distances of the ground, and other points. In the evening the first committee-meeting is held, at which the accounts of the previous meeting are audited, the prospects of the meeting discussed, and next year's fixture talked over the most pleasant part of the day being spent after the committee is over in chatting with friends--some of whom have probably not been seen since the previous meeting--and inquiring as to absent ones.

On Wednesday morning the secretary has to be on the ground early to see that everything is ready, to give the police and check-takers their instructions, and ascertain that the clerk has the target-papers prepared; he should also go round all the tents to see that everything is correct. The gold cards and distinguishing badge of his office have to be handed over to the judge, and the bell or bugle put under his orders, to be rung or sounded at a quarter to eleven, so that the gentlemen may assemble at the targets. If the secretary is himself a competitor he will probably be left to shoot in peace, with the exception of having to answer a dozen or so silly questions (the replies to which could be found in the circular), and running after the policemen, who will not stop people crossing behind the targets which are being shot at. After the hundred yards he should see that the scores are properly entered on the 'transfers,' which are somewhat complicated sheets on which everyone's hits, score, and golds are copied from the target-paper after each distance, and from which at the end of the second day the prize-list is made out. At 2.30 the shooting is resumed at eighty yards by the gentlemen, the targets having been moved during luncheon, and the ladies come on the scene to begin their four-dozen arrows at sixty. With the ladies spectators begin to appear, and the judge's work gets more arduous than it was during the shooting at a hundred yards.

It may not be amiss here to give a short description of the important duties judges have to perform, for a good judge is an invaluable coadjutor. It is the duty of a judge to measure golds, to keep all archers who arc not actually shooting behind the targets, alla to prevent spectators coming in front of the white line which is marked on the ground five or six yards in rear of the targets. It is most important that this should be done, as anyone standing in front of the targets is sure to distract the shooters, and the loss of many an arrow can be traced to seeing someone moving just behind one, or hearing some remark made in a loud voice at the moment of aiming or loosing. Some archers have a bad habit of leaning against the front of the target, of which, apparently, they cannot break themselves; and a good judge has plenty to do to keep these in order, both ladies and gentlemen being offenders in this respect. That the spectators should be kept behind the white line is equally important, as generally noise enough goes on without their assistance. It is most annoying to hear 'Judge' shouted in a shrill treble or deep base close to your ear by someone who has got an arrow just cutting the gold, oblivious of the fact that the long-suffering judge is very likely at the next target. Another very objectionable practice (towards which judges are too lenient) is, that when an archer gets a good gold, he or she, and all his or her relations or friends who happen to be within a mile, congregate to see it measured, just as a crowd collects in the streets to stare at nothing as if the judge was likely to be assisted in his task by being half-smothered before he begins it. They never think of the annoyance they are causing to anyone who happens to be shooting two or three targets off; but perhaps this is not to be wondered at, as the offenders are generally, though not always, players with a bow and arrow rather than archers. The judge should also know all the rules governing various possible contingencies, so as to be able to give a decision at once; alla he must see that no one advances beyond the line of targets till everyone has shot.

To resume where we left off, or rather supposing that the ladies and gentlemen have finished the eighty and sixty yards while the last paragraph was being written. At the end of these distances the secretary has to get his committee together, or such of them as he can tear away from more pleasant pursuits, to check the ladies' target-papers and see that the transfers are correct The targets being once more moved and the last two dozen arrows shot, the same process of checking scores and transfers is again gone through, the total hits, score, and golds of the day being added up and checked as well. The secretary an now release his committee, and having seen the first day's scores and any necessary alterations entered on a target-list and sent to the printers, he can go home to dinner. In the evening, if necessary, a committee meeting is held, or as at the Grand National a general meeting of the society; in either case the secretary, of course, must attend, and if he is any good at all he will direct covers so as to send a target-list by an early post to each absent competitor.

The second day's shooting is exactly like the first, but in addition to checking after each distance, the totals of the two days at each distance have to be added up and checked, and at the end of the day the grand totals. It should have been mentioned that any member of the committee who has checked any transfer or total puts his initial in a space provided for that purpose on the transfers, so that if there is any error the culprit is easily detected. The transfers being all duly checked, and, if percentages are deducted, the net value marked on the transfer, the prize-list is prepared either at once or after dinner, the former being the better plan. The process of making out the prize-list is as follows:-- the secretary, or the clerk, takes the ladies' prize-list, and gives one transfer to every two committeemen; he then names the prize say first score and the members of the committee call out the highest on their sheet, or 'good,' if they cannot beat a previously called score, or when better score than any on their transfer has been called. The name of the shooter, society, hits, and score are then read out and entered on the prize list, a pencil line being drawn through the name on the transfer. The same is done for each prize till all are awarded, except as regards the best golds, which are taken from the judges' cards, the name of the winner being carefully pencilled out on the transfer in the same way. The transfers are then signed, and the process is repeated with the gentlemen's prizes. The prize list is now ready, and a copy being prepared on a target-list, together with the second day's score and the totals, for the printers, the secretary has nothing to do beyond revising the proof and preparing the cheques, so that they can be put into envelopes for the prize-distribution on the third day.

During the second day's shooting the judges go to each target and ascertain the names of those who intend shooting in the handicap on the third day, collecting the subscription.

money (5s.) from each of them. On the morning of the third day the secretary has to see that this handicap is properly made out, and that each shooter gets his right allowance, which is got by deducting his score on the two days' shooting from the highest score made, and dividing the result by two, which gives the allowance. He also has to settle at what time the shooting shall begin, as, even if it is put in the circular, there is sure to be a discussion on the point, some people wanting it earlier, to catch a train to go home, others not being able to come unless it is later; and so on. Usually the gentlemen begin at 10.30 and the ladies at 11.30, and the same round is shot as on the two previous days, but a shorter interval is allowed between the distances. At about 2.30, by which time the ladies. will have finished their shooting and the gentlemen their eighty yards, the prizes are distributed. The secretary, having previously seen that the challenge and other prizes arc placed upon a table for exhibition, reads the prize-list, while one of the judges hands the various prizes to the lady-paramount, or president, who gives them to the winners.

Votes of thanks are then moved to the lady-paramount, president, and donors of prizes, and the remaining arrows are shot. The handicap prize-lists are made out as soon as the shooting is over, and the prizes are given to the winners, which concludes the meeting.

The secretary's duties are, however, by no means at an end, as he has to see that the targets are sent to the purchasers, that the ground is cleared--all the tents, target-stands, and other properties packed up the papers put in order, and all possible bills paid. These various matters will take up all the: rest of the Friday, and in the evening he should send any prizes that have not been claimed to the winners. On Saturday morning he must make arrangements with the railway company, and see all his packages removed; and having gone over the ground and seen that everything is left in good order (a duty which should never be omitted), he can go home satisfied that he has done everything he can do. Once at home he will be occupied for some time in writing letters of thanks to the donors of prizes and lender of the ground, and in making up his accounts, after which he had better prepare for the next year, and take notes of any improvements which may occur to him.

The above are the duties of the secretary of one of the three meetings which move about; of course, many of them do not apply to a meeting which is always held in the same place, but otherwise there is little difference.

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