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The Rising Burgh: 1560 to 1770s

Culture and Leisure


By John R Burnett

The earliest records of sport in Glasgow are among the Kirk Session’s prohibitions of activities in the churchyard of the High Kirk. In 1586 football and pennystane, in which stones were thrown at a mark, were banned. Three years later golf and shinty were prohibited. Similarly, the Kirk discouraged games on Sundays and abolished many old holidays that had been occasions for sport, such as Yule and Whitsunday. Sport continued on some holidays. Football was played every year on Fastern's E'en (Shrove Tuesday). Matches involving dozens, if not hundreds of young men and boys were held in every Lowland parish. In Glasgow they were on the Old Green, the flat ground between where Stockwell Street and Jamaica Street were later built. Like other Lowland burghs, Glasgow had a horse race for which the prize was at different times a bell (as at Paisley and Lanark) or a cup. In this period horse racing was the leading spectator sport.

There were also calmer recreations. In the sixteenth century archery changed from an art of war into a pastime: the Council was still maintaining the butts in 1625. It encouraged the laying out of a bowling green in 1697, 'which were necessary for the ornament of the town and good and convenience of the inhabitants thereof and of strangeris that resort thereto.' By 1748 there was also 'a little laigh house where bowllis and jackis lye.' Situated on the east side of the Candleriggs, it survived until 1817.

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