The ASKA is believed to be the oldest archery club in the UK, if not the world. Whilst records are only available from 1688, there is a written reference to a papingo shoot in Kilwinning in 1483. The annual shoot, the only one of its type in the world, is held in the grounds of the Abbey on the first Saturday in June, when the papingo, a decorated wooden bird, is mounted on the end of a horizontal pole at the top of the clock tower to allow the archers to attempt to dislodge first the wings, then the bird itself. The magnificent Silver Arrow Trophy of 1724 associated with the shoot is on view in Kilwinning Library.
Originally, shooting at a papingo was not confined to Kilwinning. In other parts of the Britain and Europe, it was customary for villagers and townspeople in the Middle Ages to hold a papingo shoot. As they could be called to military service at any time, it was seen as a form of target practice. By the second half of the 19th century, interest in archery for pleasure was out of fashion, and in 1870, the archers held their last Papingo shoot. There were no volunteers to shoot for the Captaincy, and the Society folded. The Silver Arrow was kept in a local bank, then was loaned for a time to Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow, before being given for safe-keeping to the Royal Company of Archers in Edinburgh.
Following the Second World War, interest in archery was rekindled by local enthusiasts. The Society was revived in 1948, and negotiations began for the return of the Silver Arrow. On 7th June 1951, a Tournament, held in McGavin Park, was arranged between the Society and the Royal Company. The Royal archers, the Royal Bodyguard in Scotland, paraded through the town in full uniform in the presence of Provost Hamilton Fleming, Kilwinning magistrates, and the Earl of Eglinton. The historic trophy was formally handed back to the Society and the town of Kilwinning.
The Arrow was put on display in the Town Council Chambers, but following the reorganisation of local government in 1975, it was lodged with a local solicitor. It was then stored in the Royal Bank of Scotland in Saltcoats, intending to be transferred to the new Royal Bank in Kilwinning. However, better sense prevailed, and it is now on permanent display in Kilwinning Library.
19th century wooden papingoes, bows, arrows and target are on display in the Abbey Tower Heritage Centre. It is believed that these birds and the bows are likely the only examples of their kind in the world.
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