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Home > Books > Book of archery > Section IV: Welsh Archery
Section IV
Welsh Archery
Part 4 of 4

Like too many of his class in that age and country, Gam had embroiled himself in a violent domestic feud. During an affray which took place in the High Street of Brecknock,he unfortunately killed his kinsman, and, to shun the threatened consequences, sought an asylum in England. The dependency of his estate on the honour of Hereford rendered him, like Howel Sele, a determined partisan of the Lancastrians; like him, too, he made an ineffectual attempt on the life of Owen Glendower.

David Gam held a command of archers on the field of Agincourt; and it is said that, being despatched by the King to reconnoitre the enemy, and report upon their numbers, he returned with this laconic estimate: "an't please your highness, there are enow to be killed, enow to be taken prisoners, and enow to run away." Historians have passed many encomiums on his velour and conduct --Sir Walter Raleigh even goes so far as to compare him to Hannibal-- but they make no mention of this circumstance, which might perhaps be known only to his fellow countrymen in arms; unless, indeed, Elmham has given a false colouring to the transaction. He mentions that scouts were despatched by the Duke of York to gain intelligence of the enemy's approach, when one of them, who had climbed to the summit of a hill, saw the whole French host, to the number of sixty thousand, stretching far and wide over the plain beneath, which seemed on a blaze, as their polished harness reflected the beams of a splendid noontide sun. Astonished at the sight, he retreated with a trembling heart and the utmost speed of his horse, and, breathless, reached the English camp;-- "Quickly," said he, "be prepared to do battle, for you are about to fight against a world of innumerable people."

These three valiant Welshmen, Gam, Vaughan, and Llwyd, fell covered with wounds whilst defending the person of their monarch, and Henry knighted them as they lay extended in the agonies of death upon the gory bed of honour. Sir S. R. Meyrick remarks, that the above Sir Roger Vaughan was married to Gwladis, Sir David Gam's daughter. Agincourt made her, as it made many besides, a widow; but she afterwards married another hero of that day, Sir William Thomas, of Ragland, one of the ancestors of the present Duke of Beaufort.

I have been induced to enter thus largely into the biography of these three individuals, because their chivalrous self-devotedness stands so conspicuous in the annals of that memorable contest. Their heroism, no less than Henry's Welsh extraction, gave rise to the following spirited burst of poetry, entitled--

OUR CAMBRO-BRITONS TO THEIR HARP

Fair stood the wind for France,
When we our sails advance,
Nor now to prove our chance,
    Longer will tarry.
But putting to the main,
At Kaux the mouth of Seine,
With all his martial train,
    Landed King Harry.

And taking many a fort,
Furnished in warlike sort,
Marched towards Agincourt,
    In happy hour.
Skirmishing by day
With those that stopped his way,
Where the French general lay,
    With all his power.

And turning to his men,
Quoth our brave Henry then,
"Though we be one to ten,
    Be not amazed:
Yet have we well begun;
Battles so bravely won
Have never seen the sun,
    By fame been raised.

"And for myself," quoth he,
"This my full rest shall be,
England ne'er mourn for me,
    Nor more esteem me.
Victor I will remain,
Or on this earth lie slain;
Never shall she sustain
    Loss to redeem me.

"Poictiers and Cressy tell,
When most their pride did swell,
Under our swords they fell.
    No less our skill is,
Than when our grandsire great,
Claiming the regal seat,
By many a warlike feat
    Lopt the French lilies."

They now to fight are gone;
Armour on armour shone,
Drum now to drum did groan;
    To hear was wonder;
That with the cries they make
The very earth did shake;
Trumpet to trumpet spake,
    Thunder to thunder.

Well it shine age became,
O noble Erpingham!
Who did the signal aim
    For our brave forces;
When from a meadow by,
Like a storm suddenly,
The English archery
    Struck the French horses.

With Spanish yew so strong,
Arrows a cloth-yard long,
That like to serpents stung,
    Piercing the weather.
None from his fellow starts,
But playing manly parts,
And like true English hearts,
    Stuck close together.

When down their bows they threw,
And forth their bilboes drew,
And on the French they flew,
    Not one was tardy;
Arms were from shoulders sent,
Scalps to the teeth were rent;
Down the French peasants went:
    Our men were hardy.

This while our noble king,
His broadsword brandishing,
Down the French host did ding,
    As to o'erwhelm it;
And many a deep wound lent,
His arms with blood besprent,
And many a cruel dent
    Bruised his helmet.

GLO'STER, that duke so good,
Next of the royal blood,
For famous England stood
    With his brave brother
CLARENCE, in steel so bright;
Though but a maiden knight,
Yet in that furious fight,
    Scarce such another.

WARWICK in blood did wade,
OXFORD the foe invade,
And cruel slaughter made,
    Still as they ran up.
SUFFOLK his axe did ply,
BEAUMONT and WlLLOUGHBY
Bare them right doughtily,
    FERRERS and FANHOPE.

Upon St. Crispin's day,
Fought was this noble fray,
Which fame did not delay
    In England to carry.
Oh! when shall Englishmen
With such acts fill a pen,
Or Cambria breed again
    Such a King Harry?

The enthusiasm attendant on the revival of archery in England towards the close of the last century, quickly reached the Principality. Of the numerous societies formed there, the first in rank and consequence is the Royal British Bowmen. It includes nearly all the leading families of North Wales, and was originally founded by Sir Watkin Williams Wynne, Bart., in whose park of Wynnstay, Denbighshire, the Royal British Bowmen hold their meetings. His Majesty George the Fourth, when Prince of Wales, not only condescended to become their patron, but presented them with several beautiful prizes. The prize arrows, for both ladies and gentlemen, were first shot for, October the 6th, 1788, when Sir Foster Cunliffe, a well-known archer, won the former, and Miss Harriot Boycott the latter. His Royal Highness likewise presented them with a superb gold medallion, and a silver bugle. They were ably contested at Acton Park, when the former was gained by Lady Cunliffe, at 30, 60, and 70 yards; the latter by R. Hesketh, of Rossell, Esq., at 64, 96, and 128 yards.

The Society of Royal British Bowmen still survives in all its original splendour. Their uniform is green and buff, with black hat and feather. I may minister to the "hæc olim meminisse juvabit" of many an ancient bowman, by adding a list of those ladies and gentlemen who early joined this society.

Sir W. W. Wynne, Lady Wynne,
Sir Foster Cunliffe, Lady Cunliffe,
Lord Carysfort, Lady Carysfort,
Messrs. Bunbury,Mrs. Cooke,
St. Leger,Mrs. Puleston,
P. L. Fletcher,Mrs. Apperley,
Maurice Wynne,Miss Parry,
O. Bridgeman,Mrs. Hammerston,
Jones,Miss Hammerston,
Warrington,Mrs. Fletcher,
Hammerston,Miss Fletcher,
Master Wynne.Mrs. G. Warrington,
Mrs. Jones.
Oh loyal in grief, and in danger unshaken,
For ages still true, though for ages forsaken;
Yet, Cambria, thy heart may to gladness awaken,
Since thy monarch has smiled on thy harp and thy bow!
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