K is for Shooting Parrots

I am again focusing on the famous, the forgotten and the misbegotten for
my contributions to round 18 of the popular ABC Wednesday meme.

Shooting the PapingoThis week I am departing from my usual ABC Wednesday format by writing about a group of people, rather than an individual, because it allows me one of the few genuine references to ‘Shooting Parrots‘.

Kilwinning is a town in Ayrshire, Scotland, home of the Ancient Society of Kilwinning Archers, probably the oldest archery society in the world.

It has existed since 1483 and each year holds a competition – Shooting the Papingo. ‘Papingo’ is the Scottish word for the old English ‘popinjay’ which in turn means ‘parrot’, hence Shooting Parrots.

The Papingo on the Clock TowerThe competition takes place on the first Saturday in June at the 12th century Kilwinning Abbey where a target bird is fastened to a pole that is extended from a pole some 103 feet from the ground on the clock tower.

The archers must keep one foot on the tower steps when firing vertically, the aim being to clip the bird’s wing, or ‘ding doon the doo’ as they say in those parts.

Silver Arrow TrophyThe winner becomes captain of the society for the year and custodian of the rather splendid Silver Arrow Trophy first presented in 1724. On it hangs a gold or silver medallion to commemorate each of its winners,

The trophy has become so valuable that it now has to be kept securely by the local council, while the captain is presented with a crystal rose bowl instead.

All the Kilwinning archers wear the traditional Stewarton bonnet which looks uncomfortably like an archery target itself if you ask me. The captain also wears a sash, known as a ‘benn’.

I first came across the Kilwinning Archers through the BBC’s Great British Train Journeys presented by former MP, Michael Portillo, and since video paints a thousand words, above is the feature from that programme.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

8 comments… Add yours
  • KVVS MURTHY 23rd March 2016

    Kilwinning,knowing it for first time..Thanks for sharing.

  • Roger Green 23rd March 2016

    That is a twisted bit of history!


  • Melody Steenkamp 23rd March 2016

    How intriging and interesting this is…. my husband, my son and my daughter in law, practice archery…twice a week…. it is fun to watch too… but takes a lot more than one might think at first glance…
    Have a nice ABC-Wednesday-day / – week
    ♫ M e l ☺ d y ♫ (ABC-W-team)

  • Margy 23rd March 2016

    Our local archery club was kicked out of their venue because of a disagreement with the property owners. It was sad to see since they had been there and teaching youth for many many years. – Margy

  • Jesh StG 23rd March 2016

    What a delightful story – I had heard of the expression of poppinjay, but didn’t know it ways connected to shooting parrots! Ding doo the doo I have never heard off – thank you for sharing this tradition!
    Am inviting you to my new meme SEASONS, where you could share these interesting traditions, or anything else taking place during the Season you are in. The link is open Mon – Wed. till 7pm, US, Pacific time. Have a great rest of the week and hope to see you there!

  • Yorkshire Pudding 24th March 2016

    A Stewarton bonnet would suit you very nicely. I advise you to let Mrs Parrots know well in advance of your birthday Ian if she is going to have time to either order one or better still knit one. You will look so cool strutting around Manchester with such a bonnet on your bonce.

  • Reader Wil 24th March 2016

    This is the most interesting post beginning with K
    I’ve seen sofar! I like the video and the whole view of the surroundings.Thank you. So in Scotland a parrot is a pigeon?
    Wil, ABCW Team

    • Shooting Parrots 24th March 2016

      No Wil. Although they talk about shooting a parrot, it was a pigeon they aimed their bows at. It was originally a live bird, but is now just a replica. I’m not sure why the tournament became known as shooting parrots!


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