Document of the Month - July

“…and straik at hym with ane goiff club…” Thomas Ednem’s Case in the Stirling Burgh Court, 7th March 1561.

The Burgh Court books contain records of many colourful episodes in Stirling’s past. This is probably the earliest written reference to the game of golf in Stirling, even if a club was being used as a weapon!

The Burgh Court had jurisdiction over petty offences in the Royal Burgh of Stirling, more serious cases being passed to the local Court of Session. As a consequence, the Burgh Court books held at the Archives are full of examples of tempers lost, fights started and too much alcohol having been consumed.

This particular case appears rather comic to our modern eyes but as it involved attempted wounding, it would have been taken very seriously at the time. It would appear that Thomas Ednem had some sort of ongoing quarrel with Thomas Kirkwood, it is not clear if they were actually playing golf at the time, but Ednem had a club in his hand and swung it at Kirkwood after insults had been exchanged.

Unfortunately, Ednem was either drunk or had a very bad swing because instead of hitting Kirkwood, he hit John Allan’s wife, who must have been standing near the two men. Ednem then produced a knife and took a swipe at Kirkwood but only succeeded in stabbing his own wife ‘to the effusion of her blood'. This blunder suggests that Ednem may well have been intoxicated. Thomas Kirkwood’s wife testified at the trial that Ednem had previously called her husband a thief and threatened to kill him.

The court deals with this quarrel by ordering Thomas Ednem and his wife to ask Thomas Kirkwood for his forgiveness. Ednem is also to remain under supervision until he can find a sponsor to enter into a bond for his good behaviour. This was quite a common practice in which a friend would undertake to ensure someone’s good behaviour and if the bond was broken, pay a fine to the court for failing to do so.

It is thought that the modern game of golf was developed in Scotland and it is definitely known to have been played here from the 14th century onwards if not earlier. A 1457 Act of King James II prohibited the playing of golf and football to encourage men to spend their leisure time at their archery practice so that they would be of good use as soldiers. Similar bans on the game were issued in 1471 and 1491. This Court Book entry gives evidence of the popularity of the game of golf in Stirling during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots.

 

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