The following is a transcript of a very interesting document made available to me. It was written in 1961 and is anonymous. The writer only identifies himself through his initials W.H.C. (Possibly the artist William Hanna Clark)
KIRKCUDBRIGHT’S SILLER GUN
A history of the “Siller Gun” and the Silver Arrow, and the winners of the trophies as extracted from Minute Books of the Six Incorporated Trades of the Town.
The “Siller Gun” possessed by the Six Incorporated Trades of Kirkcudbright is probably one of the earliest shooting trophies extant. It is a model of a gun of the period, about 8 inches long and made in silver, and was presented by King James VI of Scotland to the Royal Burgh “to be shot for occasionally in order to accustom the Lieges in the use of firearms,” then rapidly superseding the bow and arrow. It bears the date 1587 and the letters “T.M.C.”, thought to be the initials of Sir Thomas M’Clellan, Laird of Bombie and Provost of Kirkcudbright in 1587.
The “Siller Gun” on display in The Stewartry Museum
The Minute Books of the Six Incorporated Trades date back to 1707 but it is known that some earlier books were, unfortunately, lost in a fire at a Deacon’s house many years ago. Apart from the current Minutes, the older books are now lodged in the Hornell Library in High Street, Kirkcudbright, and are a wealth of history of the Burgh. The building of the bridge over the River Dee, the building of St. Cuthbert’s Church, the coming of the railway to Kirkcudbright and even the arrangements for the erection of the scaffolding at the last public hanging in the Burgh are all mentioned in these books and woven into it is the story of the shoots for the “Siller Gun”.
I have extracted minutes referring to these shoots from some of the older books and these, together with a few comments of my own, are contained in the following pages. I hope that the reading of these will give pleasure to all the good friends I made in Kirkcudbright and provide interest to many others who know the Royal Burgh.
10th September 1781.
“The meeting ordain that William Wilson, General Boxmaster, to pay seven shillings and sixpence sterling to Alexander Rae for the Ground for shooting the Silver Gun – the meeting appoint the said William Wilson to pay the sum of two shillings sterling to the fife and drum as the Expenses of music in attending the shooting for the Gun”.
This Minute is the first record of a “Siller Gun” shoot but the occasion, the celebrations in connection with the coming of age of the then Prince of Wales (afterwards King George IV), is referred to by the Deacon Convener in his speech to the Trades on the 25th January, 1859 (qv.). In his “Notes to the Siller Gun”, a poem on the Dumfries “Siller Gun” John Mayne, the author says “This gun is lodged with William Ireland, Esq. the Town Clerk of Kirkcudbright, and has only been shot for twice in the memory of any person living. The last competition was in the summer of 1781, when the Corporations applied by petition to have the gun delivered to them that they might shoot for it at a target. Their petition was granted, but no similar application has been made since that period.” From these remarks, which were written about 1800, it is evident that other shoots took place before 1781 but, unfortunately, we have no record of them.
The shoot took place on Monday, 13th August, l78l, and the actual “Range Regulations” drawn up on that occasion are still in existence, The text of these is as follows:-
“The following Articles is Recommended to the Deacons and Permanent Members of the Six Incorporated Crafts of Kirkcudbright for Shooting the Silver Gun on Monday the 13th August, 1781.
1. That 4 Newtral persons be appointed for to go out on said morning for to fix the door and likewise the distance, viz :- the persons if they will favour the Trades so far as to take the trouble on them
Mr. James Smith.
Mr. John Smith, Notor Publick.
Mr. Craig, Exciseman.
Mr. John Sloan, Vintner.
2. That 2 of the before-mentioned persons shall see all the guns properly loaded in their presence.
3. That if any person’s gun shall miss-fire, he shall be obliged to fire her into the air or retire out of the crowd entirely for that time.
4. That 2 of the men before mentioned shall mark every man’s name that goes through the door with the two initial letters of his name on the door in each side of the ball hole. And at the last, when the members of each Trade hath all fired their gun the man’s ball hole that is nearest to the mark to receive the Silver Gun from them and have the honour to carry her home.
5. That no member of the Trades shall go near the door but all differences shall be settled by their judgment under the penalty of ten shillings sterling to be paid to the General immediately on being convicted.
6. That all the members assemble regularly at nine o’clock on Monday morning with their guns at the Deacon’s house of their respective Trade and from that for to meet at the Moat Wall expressly at ten o’clock forenoon to proceed from that place in good order to the place of shooting according to their respective tickets.
7. That each Deacon have a spantoun and sash if it can be got.
8. That each Trade’s Colours go before their Trade with their Journeymen and Apprentices at their back.
9. That every Trade shall shoot according to their ticket.
10. That the Lads shall be obliged to follow the same Rules and Regulations as the Masters.
11. That no person shall be allowed to shoot with a rifle gun or no gun to shoot above 1 shot.
10th August 1796.
“The meeting resolve to shoot for the Silver Gun upon Saturday immediately following the next election of a Convener and authorise the Convener to apply to the magistrates for the use of the Silver Gun which is in the town’s possession and to give an obligation to return the Gun immediately after the shooting.
The meeting resolve that the premium to be given to the Master winner of the Silver Gun shall be a hat at fifteen shillings and to the winner amongst the journeymen and apprentices a hat worth seven shillings and sixpence.”
10th September 1796.
“The meeting are of the opinion that it is proper to delay the shooting for the Silver Gun till some future occasion and desire the several Deacons to consult their respective Incorporations where it would be agreeable to shoot for it on the fourth of June next being the anniversary of the King’s birthday.”
All the evidence seems to indicate that proposals for this shoot were abandoned and there appears to have been no further activity until 1830.
30th March, 1830 – in McKenzie’s Schoolroom.
“In terms of the adjournment of General Meeting of 24th instant they met this evening to receive the reports of the respective Deacons as to their resolutions of their respective Trades as to the propriety of reviving the ancient custom of Shooting for the Silver Gun; where on the roll being called it was unanimously agreed to shoot for the gun and that it shall take place on the 22nd day of April next in honour of the Earl of Selkirk’s birthday and the Trades further agree to dine together on that day and the respective Deacons to furnish a list of the Freemen in their Trades who intend to dine ten days at least prior to that day. A Committee of the Deacons and Boxmasters of the respective trades, the old Convener Mr. Johnston of the Blacksmiths, Mr. Rankine and Mr. Law of the Squaremen and Mr. Finlayson of the Clothiers is hereby appointed to draw out rules and regulations for the shooting for the gun and to carry the objects of the meeting into effect generally. The meeting next proceeded to arrange the order in which the respective Trades should walk to the shooting ground when upon putting up and drawing tickets they are to take precedence as follows:-
6th Hammermen & Glovers,
and direct that each Deacon have his Trade warned to meet at his house at Seven o’clock A.M. and to be at the Academy precisely at Eight o’clock in marching order to go to the shooting ground to be hereafter agreed upon. A motion was made by Mr. James Hornell, Boxmaster of the Shoemakers, and seconded by Mr. C. J. Finlayson of the Clothiers, that the expense incurred in Shooting for the Silver Gun be defrayed out of the General Funds which motion having been put was unanimously agreed to. It is also agreed that any two members of the Committee shall have it in their power to order the Convener to call a meeting of the Committee to make arrangements regarding the procession and dinner.”
8th April. 1830. D. Convener’s House. Peter Ferguson of Squaremen.
“The Convener stated that he had called this meeting to select the ground for the shooting and other arrangements connected with the business of that day. The Convener also stated that Mr. Marshall had offered the use of the Shore Park for the Shooting – the Committee then proceeded to view and measure the ground which was unanimously approved of. The Committee after their return from viewing the shooting ground proceeded to draw out articles and Regulations for the Shooting and to arrange the order of the procession in marching to and from the shooting ground which was agreed to as under.
Article 1. That the different Trades shall assemble at their respective Deacons House at Seven o’clock, a.m.
Article 2. That the respective Trades shall be at the Academy at half past seven and ready to start for the Shooting Ground at Eight o’clock precisely.
Article 3. That each Member shall provide himself with a musket and wooden snapper.
Article 4. That no person whatever shall be allowed to shoot for the gun unless he has joined in the procession at the Academy and marched in it to the Shooting Ground.
Article 5. That each Deacon shall bring the list of members in his Trade in the procession that they be marked off as they fire.
Article 6. The Convener and Deacons shall have full power to determine all disputes as to the order of firing or nearness of shots or any other thing whatever and their determination shall be final and the target shall be destroyed immediately after the firing.
Article 7. That no member of any trade shall be allowed to leave the ranks without permission of his Deacon.
Article 8. That no Booths shall be erected nor any drink allowed on the field.
Article 9. That each member shall have one shot and no more.
Order of the Procession.
Town Officers with Halberts
General Boxmaster – Convener – Old Convener
General Clerk with Minute Book
Squaremen – two and two.
Clothiers – Standard Bearer; Deacon with two supporters; Essay Masters with two supporters; Members.
Weavers: in same order.
Shoemakers: on same order
Tailors: in same order.
Hammermen: in same order.
22nd April 1830. (Extract Hammermen & Glovers)
“Convened the following members Hammermen & Glover Trade viz:- John Brydson, Deacon, John McEwing, Boxmaster, Samuel Stevenson, Andrew Wilson, William Johnston, Thomas Anderson, William Seggie, John Maxwell and James Blair, who met for the purpose of shooting for the Silver Gun (which had not taken place since 1781) being the day on which the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Selkirk has attained Majority. Each member was put in possession of a Gun and marched to the School Green where we joined the other Trades. And with them to the number of (blank) marched to the Shore Park where the firing took place on which occasion the Gun was won by Robert Gaylor, Shoemaker.
The Boys proceeded to the other side of the Grange Burn to the number of 110 and the successful shot by them was won by David Clark, Painter. The whole company returned to the Town in regular order and partook of a few glasses of Toddy from the old Town Bowl which was twice filled at the Cross.
In the afternoon we dined as Masters in the Old Court Room and spent the evening in much harmony.”
Town Punchbowl on display in The Stewartry Museum
27th April 1830.
The Convener stated that he had called this meeting for the purpose of taking into consideration the propriety of entering upon record a detail of the proceedings which took place at the Shooting for the Siller Gun on the 22nd instant being the day on which the Rt. Hon. Dunbar James, Earl of Selkirk, attained his majority; and the meeting having approved the Convener’s suggestion resolved to record in this book the whole proceedings of that interesting occasion that posterity may know with accuracy the events of that joyous and memorable day in so far as the Incorporated Trades of Kirkcudbright are concerned.
The following are the particulars:- At four o’clock in the morning the bells commenced ringing a merry peal, flags were displayed from the Castle, Jail and Vessels in the harbour, and a drum and fife belonging to the Journeymen and Apprentices of the different Trades – commonly called “the Boys” – beat through the town, roused the lieges and announced the approach of the intended ceremony. At six o-clock two pieces of artillery placed upon the Quay were discharged. At seven, the different Trades met at the houses of their respective Deacons; and at half past seven they all assembled on the school green, the Convener and Deacons with Swords and Sashes and each member with a musket, where they were joined by the Steward Substitute and several other respectable inhabitants.
At eight o’clock precisely the whole Cavalcade (about 200 in number) under the command of Convener Ferguson with Siller Gun displayed from a ribbon round his neck marched off in order prescribed by the Meeting of the 8th instant. The masters were followed by the boys of each trade with their respective flags marshalled in the same order and preceded by a drum and fife. The whole body then proceeded from the school green up St Mary’s Wynd and along High Street round the castle where it passed under a grand suspension arch erected by Mr. Rankine, Timber Merchant, and Mr. Law, Watchmaker, extending from the Church to the Castle and richly decorated with evergreens; then along Castle Street where it passed under a triumphal arch similarly decorated erected by Mr. McKeachie, Builder, and Mr. Noble, Flesher; then turning to the left down that part of High Street leading to the Barhill and thereafter down the road to the Shore Park being that field lying on the west side of the road between Mutehill and Blackmurray Plantation, where a target was erected for the occasion. Here the boys left the Masters and proceeded to a field further down the shore, to shoot for a hat and medal, where a target was also erected by them for the occasion.
Shortly after arriving on the field a discharge from the artillery gave the signal for the commencement of the competition for the royal prize. The Trades then commenced firing, each member one shot; when after an anxious struggle Mr. Robert Gaylor a member of the Shoemaker Trade gained the honours of the day. The Trades were then formed into a hollow square by the Convener who after an appropriate speech placed the Siller Gun round the neck of the successful candidate amid long, loud and reiterated cheering; and the successful candidate thereafter took his place in the procession upon the right hand side of the deacon of his trade. The Masters were then joined by the boys when the Convener was informed by John Price, Convener of the Boys, that David Clark, Painter, had gained the hat and medal.
Here three rounds of Artillery announced the conclusion of the shooting for the prizes; when the whole procession returned to the town on entering which it moved along the road leading to St. Mary’s Street then along St. Cuthbert’s Street to the church, then down Castle Street again passing under Messrs. McKeachie and Nobles Arch; then up High Street passing under a grand triumphal arch decorated with evergreens erected by Mrs. McClure, Draper, and Mr. Nicholson, Bookseller, towards the Cross where they were received by the Magistrates and invited after the fatigues of the day to partake of a bumper of rum punch out of the bowl presented to the town by Hamilton of Bargeny in the year 1707, This capacious bowl which contains eight imperial gallons was placed upon a table at the Cross out of which each person composing the procession was amply supplied; the procession having formed two lines face inwards about three yards asunder from the Cross down High Street towards Barhill. On this occasion the health of the Earl of Selkirk, the Steward Substitute, the Magistrates and the Minister of the town and parish was drunk with rapturous applause and the Magistrates pledged in a bumper the healths of the Convener and Incorporated Trades. After which Mr. William Johnston, Merchant, requested to allow him the honour and favour of filling the bowl stating that the last time it had been used was Thirty-seven years ago it was filled by his deceased father being on the day when the news reached Kirkcudbright of the present Lord Selkirk’s Grandfather having been elected one of the representative Peers of Scotland; which request was accordingly granted and the bowl was again filled at Mr. Johnston’s expense; whereupon Mr. Johnston craved a toast stating that being a native of Kirkcudbright and he and his having been in the borough for the long period of a Century he should be wanting in respect as well as ingratitude if he did not dedicate one bumper to the healths of Kirkcudbright and all her children wherever they may be dispersed and under whatever circumstances they may be placed and may they never want “A Friend and a Bottle, a Bit and a Brat”.’ Mr Johnston’s toast was accordingly drunk in an overflowing bumper amidst loud and continuous cheering, after which the procession moved to the Convener’s house who on leaving them expressed his warmest thanks to the Trades for the manner in which they had conducted themselves during the day and thereafter each Trade marched to the house of their respective Deacon where they deposited their insignia; and thus the ceremony finished.
At four o’clock the Masters assembled in the Courthouse, Convener Ferguson in the chair and Mr. William Johnston, Croupier, where they partook of a substantial dinner prepared by Mr. Malcolmson of the King’s Arms Inn and spent the evening with genuine mirth and cordiality.
It is gratifying to add that during the whole day not the smallest accident occurred. Only two freemen who shot for the Siller Gun in 1781 were to be found in the above procession (viz. Robert McGowan and Mr. McKeachie, both of the Weaver Incorporation) although we are perfectly aware that there are yet alive several of our Tradesmen who were amongst the lads on that occasion.”
23rd August 1830.
“In consequence of an order of August 1796 that a hat should be given to the value of fifteen shillings to the Master Winner of the Siller Gun when it might be shot for which did not take place till April last therefore the Meeting desire the General Boxmaster to purchase Mr. Robert Gaylor, the winner, a hat of the said value of Fifteen Shillings and to make credit for same.”
The minutes on this occasion are very full and present a most interesting account of the shoot.
28th June 1838.
“For the purpose of shooting for the Silver Gun, this day being the Coronation Day of our young Queen Victoria, when we proceeded to the School Green with our Colours flying and joined the other Trades, Magistrates, and respectable Inhabitants. From thence the whole marched, preceded by music, down to the sands opposite Black Morrow, the Lads having gone as far down as the Grange Burn for a similar purpose. The said Gun was shot for and won by Robert Gaylor, a member of the Shoemaker Incorporation. After which the whole return in suitable order to the Cross and partook of a decent supply of toddy from the Town’s Old Wooden Bowl. Next each Trade saw their respective Deacons home and again met at Kissock’s Selkirk Arms Inn and other Taverns where they partook of a good dinner apparently to the satisfaction of all concerned.”
The record on this occasion is very short but it is interesting to note that Robert Gaylor also won the prize at the last shoot in 1830. Robert Gaylor died in 1868 aged 77.
It was later in 1838 that the Silver Arrow was presented to the Incorporated Trades by William Johnston, a merchant in the town. Mr Johnston is understood to have given three half-crowns to Mr Law, clockmaker, who melted them down, cast and modelled them into the Arrow. This trophy then became the prize for the apprentices whilst their masters competed for the Siller Gun.
The Silver Arrow on display in The Stewartry Museum
25th January 1859. Centenary of Burns’ Death.
On Tuesday 25th instant the “Siller Gun” and “Arrow” were shot for on the Town’s Common. The following are the particulars.
At daybreak the Town’s artillery placed on the Mote Brae roused the leiges. At half-past 10 o’clock A.M. the procession moved from the Cross;
1st – Sailors carrying the Union Jack,
2nd – Brass Band, six in number and a large drum,
3rd – Provost, Magistrates and Council accompanied by the number of the Townspeople and visitors,
4th – The Master, Warden and Brethern of the Masonic Lodge of St. Cuthbert’s,
5th – The Six Incorporated Trades (the “Siller Gun” bourne to the field by David Blair aged 87, a member of the Shoemaker Incorporation, Robert Gaylor, Deacon of that Trade who won it last and also on the 22nd April 1830, being prevented by indisposion from attending)
6th – The Trades’ Lads closed the procession.
The procession marched through the principal streets of the Burgh to the Town’s common where two targets were placed, where after a hard contest by both parties the Royal Prize was won by James Clark of the Squaremen Incorporation and the “Arrow” by George McKie of the Tailor lads.
On delivering the “Siller Gun” to James Clark the Convener shortly remarked “That this gun was given to the Town of Kirkcudbright by King James VI to be shot for occasionally in order to accustom the Lieges to the use of firearms. No record existed of it having been contested for until about the year l78l when it was shot for to celebrate the coming of age of the Prince of Wales afterwards King George IV. The next time was on the 22nd April 1830, when the present Earl of Selkirk attained his majority on which occasion his Lordship gave the trades a princely donation and the last time on 28th May, 1838, the day of Her present Majesties Coronation when she was graciously pleased, in a letter from Sir Henry Wheatley to the Secretary of the Trades, to signify her approbation of the loyal manner the Incorporations intended to evince their attachment to the Crown. All these memorable occasions and this 25th January, 1859, is a remarkable and memorable day to Scotland, this day being the Centenary of the birth of Robert Burns a name known thoughout the World and since we know that this gun was given by a Monarch of Scotland to be shot for as a prize to train his subjects to deeds of arms surely this is the fittest day we could have chosen to compete for it in honour of the immortal memory of the author of “Scots wha hae wi’ Wallace bled”.
The procession then returned to the front of the Provost’s, house at the Cross and three cheers being given for the Provost, the. Magistrates, and visitors withdrew – when the band conducted the Brethern of St. Cuthbert’s to the Lodge, thereafter to the Convener’s house who on dismissing them returned the Incorporation and the Lads his best and kindest thanks for the orderly manner they had one and all gone through the business of the day.
Rules of the Competition.
A member from each trade should examine the target after each shot to prevent disputes
1. The Incorporated Trades will assemble on the School Green at a quarter to 10 o’clock A.M. precisely.
2. That each Trade will bring a list of the members in his Trade that they may be marked off as they fire.
3. That no member of a trade must leave the ranks without leave of the Convener.
4. That no member shall be allowed to shoot for the gun unless he has joined in the procession and marched to the shooting ground.
5. That each member shall have one shot and no more, and the shot nearest to the Bull’s Eye to be declared Victor.
6. The Convener and Deacons shall have full powers to settle all disputes as to the nearness of shots or any other thing whatsoever regarding the shooting. Their determination to be final. The Target to be destroyed immediately after the Victor is declared.
10th March 1863.
There is very little reference to the shoot on this occasion which was to celebrate the marriage of H.R.H. Prince Albert, Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra of Denmark. The winner of the Gun is not named but the Arrow was won by William Maben of the Tailors’ Incorporation, the range being 150 yards. On this date also, after the shoot had taken place, the foundation stone of the principle pier of the Railway Bridge over the River Dee at Tongland was laid, the bridge being named the Prince of Wales Viaduct.
8th July 1868.
This date saw the opening of the first bridge over the river Dee at Kirkcudbright and according to the records of the Trades this must have been most welcome. Before this, it was necessary to rely on a ferry, which, according to a petition raised by the town, was never very satisfactory. Invariably the ferry was at the far bank when required on the near one and the sobriety of the ferryman as well as the safety of the boat itself seems to have been in question. The shoot to celebrate the opening of the bridge took place in the Shore Park using carbines borrowed from the Artillery Corps. At a range of 200 yards J Hannah of the Hammermen was the winner of the Siller Gun but the winner of the Arrow is not named.
21st March 1871.
The shoot was again held in the Shore Park, this time at a range of 150 yards, in honour of the marriage of the Marquis of Lorn and Princess Louise. Thomas Halliday of the Squaremen is named as the winner of the Siller Gun, but the winner of the Arrow is unknown.
23rd January 1874.
This was the occasion of the marriage of the Duke of Edinburgh and the daughter of the Emperor of Russia. The “Trades” assembled at 10.a.m. at the Courthouse and proceeded to the Shore Park where the Gun was won by D. Craig of the Clothiers. Again the winner of the Arrow is not given.
29th June 1878.
“This being the Rt. Hon. Dunbar James Douglas, Earl of Selkirk’s marriage day the Incorporated Trades met along with the magistrates, Town Council, Free Masons, Oddfellows, Forresters, Rechabites and general community and marched to the Shore Park to shoot for the Siller Gun and Arrow and after competing for them Thomas Campbell (Hammerman), Veterinary Surgeon, was declared winner of the Gun and A.S Murchie (Clothiers), coachman to Dr. Johnston, the Arrow. The following are names of those who shot on the occasion.
Squaremen: Convener Clark, J McMurray, J Halliday Jun., J Clark, William Henry, Sam Beck, James Sharp, J Thomson.
Tailors: R McConchie, J Ritchie, A Gourlay, J Milroy, J Carter.
Hammermen: J Hannah, A Stevenson, J McBain, T Campbell.
Shoemakers: J Craith.
Weavers: A Kelly, W Candlish.
Clothiers: A Muir, C Finlayson, D Craig.
Squaremen: D Girvan, R Walker, J Sayers, J Logan, W Belford, R Laurie, G McMurray Jun.
Tailors: J Straiton, J McInnes, W Phillips, A Gourlay, J Allen, R Livingstone, P Collins, I Stevenson, J Beck, R Smith.
Hammermen: J Stevenson, S Stevenson.
Shoemakers: J Crossan, A Rae, D Farrell.
Clothiers: T Farrell, J Stevenson, J Hatton, J G Ritchie, T Elliot, W Guthrie, A S Murchie, J McMinn, D Clark, C Cheesebrough, D Davidson, J Houston.
21st June 1887. Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.
“This being the day appointed for the celebration of the Jubilee of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria the Incorporated Trades met at nine o’clock A.M. at the Academy School Green when after an appropriate and loyal address had been given by Baillie Cowan (in the absence of the Provost – David Craig – who was this day representing the Royal Burgh of Kirkcudbright at the celebration of the Jubilee Service in London) and after the singing of the National Anthem “God save the Queen” by the assemblage, the Trades, along with the Magistrates and Town Council, the Burgh Artillery, Free Masons, Oddfellows, Rechabites, the children attending the schools of all denominations in the Burgh and the General public, marshalled by Baillie John Gibson, Writer, marched in procession to the Shore Park where the day’s rejoicings were further proceeded with. The procession was headed by the Brass Band of the Artillery Volunteers.
The “Siller Gun” and “Silver Arrow” were according to ancient usage shot for by the Trades (Masters & Apprentices) at the Target of the First Kirkcudbright Artillery Volunteers, the Carbines and Ammunition of that Corps being used, and the shooting competition being superintended by its officers. After a keen contest, Thomas Campbell of the Hammermen Trade, Captain of the Artillery Volunteers who won the “Siller Gun” on the last occasion of its being shot for was again declared the Victor, the Silver Arrow falling to Thomas Conery of the Tailor Trade.
Captain John Hope, nephew of the late Lord Selkirk accompanied by Mrs Hope and their daughter, having congratulated the winners of the Trophies on their victory, these gentlemen were gracefully decorated therewith by Miss Hope. After three ringing cheers for Her Majesty had been proposed and heartily responded to the procession re-formed and marched to the Town’s Football Ground where sports under the Patronage of the Magistrates and Town Council filled up the remaining portion of the day. After nightfall a huge bonfire was lit on the Silver Craigs around which the younger members of the community disported themselves till an early hour on the following morning.”
13th July 1887.
Unfortunately for the Incorporated Trades, a certain Mr Allen, an Inland Revenue Officer at Gatehouse of Fleet, decided that there had been a “breach of the Gun Licence Act 1870 (Vic. Cap. 57 Sec 7)” when shooting for the Siller Gun without first obtaining a licence and wrote to the Trades in suitable terms. It was arranged that the Convener and Ex-Convener should meet Mr Allen and explain to him the circumstances attaching to the ancient tradition of the shoot. Mr Allen appears to have suggested that a suitable letter should be sent to the Commissioners in London and a reply was duly received stating that, in the circumstances, no action would be taken.
26th October 1891.
The Incorporated Trades decided to shoot for the Siller Gun and Arrow to mark the Golden Wedding anniversary of the Hon. Charles and Lady Isabella Helen Hope. Bearing in mind, however, the stern warning from the Inland Revenue on the last occasion of the shoot the General Clerk was instructed to write to the appropriate authority and endeavour to obtain the liberty of shooting on this very special occasion without paying duty. The reply was that shooting under the circumstances mentioned would be a violation of the law and the Board had no power to grant permission. This was not, however, taken lying down and an appeal was made to M.J. Stewart Esq., M.P. to take the matter up in the appropriate quarter. Mr Stewart replied to the effect that nothing could now be done in the matter but to take out one gun licence only. The law could not be broken but, however, had they shot and then asked it is probable that no action would have been taken.
W.S. MacGeorge of the Shoemaker’s won the Gun we are told with 4 points, but the arrow is not mentioned.
It was decided to mark the occasion of the marriage of H.R.H. The Duke of York and Princess Mary of Teck with a shoot for the Gun and arrangements were made for it to take place in St Mary’s Isle grounds. It became necessary, however, to cancel arrangements at the last minute due to the demise of Lady Isabella Helen Hope. The Apprentices, however, appear to have rebelled at this decision and they unofficially proceeded with their part of the shoot.
In the enquiry which followed it was suggested that the Arrow was in the keeping of the Apprentices and it was therefore their prerogative as to when it should be competed for. The outcome of this argument is not clear but there is no doubt that steps were taken to ensure that this could not happen again.
22nd June 1897.
At Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations the Siller Gun was won by James Sharp of the Squaremen.
9th August 1902.
James Sharp of the Squaremen again took the premier award at the Coronation celebrations of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. David Clerk also of the Squaremen won the Arrow after a tie with R McMonies.
22nd June 1911.
King George V and Queen Mary, and the shoot was held in the Drill Hall. Deacon R McConchie of the Weavers won the Siller Gun whilst R McMonies annexed the Arrow, the trophies being presented by Mrs Hope of St Mary’s Isle.
19th July 1919.
The shoot was held on this occasion in the Academy grounds and formed a part of the Peace Celebrations of the Burgh. Competitors were allowed 3 shots at 25 yards and the Gun was won by E.G Paterson of the Tailors with a score of 28. The runner-up was W McKenzie with a score of 27.
6th May 1935.
Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary. The shoot was held at the Drill Hall commencing at 2.p.m. when competitors were allowed 10 rounds, 7 to count. The trophies were presented by Mrs. Stewart, OBE of Oakley, the Gun to G Hall of the Tailors and the Arrow to R.K.S Crosbie of the Squaremen.
12th May 1937. Coronation of George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
“The Celebration of the Coronation of H.M. King George VI and H.M. Queen Elizabeth took place on the above date when great rejoicings were evinced in the Ancient and Royal Burgh. The day’s proceedings began with the presentation of chains of office to the two Baillies, Mr Samuel Hastings the senior Magistrate and Miss Mary Marshall, the Junior Magistrate, The ceremony being performed by Councillor Miss Nicholson. The school children were afterwards presented with Coronation medals by Provost Andrew Cleland Brown, the medals bearing the figures of the King and Queen with the Burgh Arms and the name of the Provost. Thereafter, divine service was held in St Cuthbert’s Church, the Rev. R.R.Y. Minto, St Mary’s Church presided with the Rev. J.E. Motherwell, St Cuthbert’s Church and the Rev. J, Crombie Littlejohn, Greyfriars Church. The members of the Town Council and Incorporated Trades attended the service officially. At the conclusion of the service a procession was formed and marched through the streets this being followed by a regatta, the planting of a Coronation tree on the Moat Brae by Mrs Brown, the wife of the Provost, also a beautiful pageant depicting the arrival at Kirkcudbright from France of the two Princesses Annabella and Iranna, sisters of Kink James II in 1458. Sports and fireworks were also provided and the day’s rejoicings concluded with a display of fireworks from the Moat Brae. The Castle was also floodlit.
The members of the Incorporated Trades competed for the custody of the “Siller Gun” presented to the Burgh by King James VI in 1587 and also for the Silver Arrow. The competition took place in the Drill Hall with miniature rifles, the conditions being 10 shots with five sighters. The winner of the Siller Gun was Mr James Caldow of the Hammermen with a score of 90 while Mr James Hall of the Tailors won the Silver Arrow with a score of 85, the runner-up being Mr Robert Thompson of the Shoemakers with 82.
The trophies were handed over by Mr Crosbie, Kilndale Terrace, who was cordially thanked on the motion of Mr Caldow. On the motion of Mr J Robinson, the General Clerk, a similar compliment was paid to Mr Cowan, Secretary of the Kirkcudbright and District Rifle Club who had been of great assistance.
Dean of Guild, Samuel Hastings, the Deacon Convener, was present at all the functions and presided over the shootings for the “Siller Gun” and the Silver Arrow.”
At the Annual General Meeting of the Trades in this year a proposal was made that the shoot should become an annual event. On being put to the vote the proposal was defeated by 17 votes to 5, it being remarked that, by restricting the shoot to events of great national and local interest, more interest would be evinced in the competition.
After 1937 World War II intervened and it was not until 1945 that another “Siller Gun Shoot” took place. Since 1937 the trophies have been competed for on 10 occasions and details are to be found in the current Minute Books of the Trades. “Shoots” are held only to celebrate events of national importance or outstanding local interest and one cannot foretell when the next occasion will be, but there is no doubt that members of the Six Incorporated Trades will compete as keenly as ever, whenever an occasion arises which is deemed worthy of the old tradition.