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Home > Books > An Essay on Archery > Chapter VI
Chapter VI
Of Arrows.
Part 5 of 5

THERE is a kind of Arrow which, from the conftructtion of its head, is called the Whiftling Arrow. There are two methods in which the heads are made. The one is by having a ball of horn perforated with holes at the end, and fattened to the Arrow, by the wood paffing through it, and fitting tight. But this is not the moft defirable kind; for as the perforations are liable to become choaked up, by the Arrow falling to the ground, the head muft be taken off whenever the holes are thus filled ; and as the horn ball does not adhere very firmly, if the Arrow penerate the earth to any depth, it is difficult to draw it back without loofing the head. Another fort, which are ufually larger, and which have a deeper tone, are made with a fcrew in the middle of the ball; by which means all the inconveniences attending the fmaller kind are removed, as the ball is in the latter cafe glued firmly to the body of the Arrow, and may be drawn from the ground without danger of feparating.

It is fuppofed thefe Arrows were formerly applied to fome military ufes, and particularly giving fignals in the night. The Chinefe, I have been told, have ufed them for this purpofe in time immemorial.

How long thefe Arrows have been known in England is uncertain; but I have found no paffage refering to them earlier than the time of Henry VIII.

In Hollinfhead we read, "That in the year 1515, the court lying at Greenwich, the King and Queen, accompanied with many lords and ladies, rode to the high-ground of Shooter's-hill to take the open air ; and as they paffed by the way they efpird a company of tall yemen, cloathed in green hoods, and Bows and Arrows, to the number of two hundred. Then one of them, which called himfelf Robin Hood, came to the King, defiring him to fee his men fhoot, and the King was content. Then he whiftled, and all the two hundred fhot, and loofed at once; and then he whiftled again, and they like wife fhot again. Their Arrows whittled by craft of their head, fo that the noife was ftrange and great, and much pleafed the King and Queen, and all the company. All thefe Archers were of the King's guard, and had thus apparelled themfelves to make folace to the King."79

From the manner in which this ftory is told, we may be led to think the Whiftling Arrow to have been a new thing in the beginning of the fiixteenth century, and perhaps juft introduced, other wife the exhibition would have fcarcely been worth performing before the King and his company.


There are contrivances by which fmall fhot and balls are difcharged from the Bow, and by the affiftance of a fpecies of Arrow, (if we may venture to term it fo) which is fixed on the Bow-firing, by means of a perforation through one end, into which the String is paffed. At the head of this rod is a tin ferrule, about there or four inches in length, and into which the fhot are placed. It is ufual to have a ftring on purpofe for this kind of fhooting, well wrapped in the middle with filk; and the Arrows flipped on, that the whole may be removed from the Bow at pleafure. When an apparatus thus fitted up, is difcharged, the Arrow communicating the force impreffed upon it by the String, to the fhot, projects them with a velocity in proportion to the ftrength of the Bow made ufe of; but as the weight of the charge and the Arrow tend in a great degree to diminifh the velocity of the body emitted, we muft conceive the effect much lefs powerful, than that of an Arrow fhot from the fame Bow.

In difcharging balls, the fame apparatus is made ufe of, except that inftead of a tin ferrule, as in the former cafe, the Arrow has a weak fpring on each fide of the head, placed fo as to prefs gently on the ball.

One invention on this principle is very extraordinary, and which I cannot omit to mention, though it appears more curious than ufeful.

The Bow is to be fitted up as in the preceding cafes, and the Arrow as that ufed for difcharging {hot, only that this muft have four tin ferrules about an inch long each, inftead of a fingle one. Thefe are to be placed nearly parrellel, but not entirely fo, as they are intended to make the charge diverge. A light filk net about four feet fquare, is to be prepared, having a fmall leaden bullet fixed on each corner: thefe bullets are to be put fingly into each of the four tin ferrules, and in this ftate the whole may be carried into the field for ufe. On difcharging the Bow, the balls are thrown out with violence, carrying the net with them, and at the fame time expanding it; and fhould it be directed properly towards a partridge, or any other bird on the wing, the net will not fail to entangle and bring it to the ground.

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