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Beginnings: Early times to 1560

Buildings and Cityscape

Sports Venues

By David Hamilton

In early Glasgow sport was not a priority, but was not absent. Personal and street games were added to by churchyard sport on the cheerful pre-Reformation Sundays and numerous holy days. For the rich, horse-related sport was important – hunting and racing - and an occasional joust would draw a crowd. Hunting, organised or personal, in the fields and forests nearby involved all classes. The well-off and even the university students, kept falcons and could afford swords, elegant bows and arrows and expensive golf clubs. Some may have copied the royal interest in tennis. Curling in various forms was favoured during the cold winters of this time.

For the humbler citizens, personal indoor games were dice, draughts, chess, cards and backgammon. Outdoors there was football and shinty, these disorganised team sports being a feature of important calendar days, notably at New Year. The violent, prolonged matches were watched by large, partisan crowds with attendant drunkenness. Imitating the gentry, the ordinary citizens had various stick-and–ball games including a simpler form of golf using a multi-purpose curved stick. The ruling class encouraged archery by the ordinary citizens, hoping for skilled help in time of war. Children had, as always, their ball games, hoop games, and tag and hide-and-seek.

Much sport was in the open space of the alleys or churchyards. Alley bowls and pennystanes were simple target games and any smooth wall served for hand-and-ball variants, notably "caitch", while throwing of quoits required no special court. The numerous alehouses had board games and they organised cockfights. The arrival of travelling fairs provided other sports such as skittles. In the open spaces, notably Glasgow Green, the short grass and firm surface, still usable in winter, increasingly attracted the town sports.

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