19th Century sport in Scotland



Communal games involving men and older boys ranged up and down the streets of many towns and can still be observed each New Year in Kirkwall’s Ba’ Game, between „Uppies“ and „Doonies“ on 1st January. The border towns kept their Common Ridings, and many others celebrated an annual beating of the bounds, in all cases accompanied by fairgrounds, music, dancing and the public consumption of a great deal of alcohol. Quoits, cockfights and bare-fist boxing were all popular, and all provided opportunities for gambling as well as for social drinking. These events often took place in the open air, but premises were also built or adapted to put on such entertainments. Public disapproval turned such sports into furtive events, and as such they have not wholly disappeared.

Bare-fist boxing match

 

Meanwhile other sports were encouraged. Golf, which had been popular with the Stewart kings as far back as James V, survived with equipment im­proved by the new technology, and the modern game took shape, with St Andrews as its capital. In 1860 the first Open Championship took place. The ancient winter sport of curling became popular and received a set of rules from the royally patronised Caledonian Curling Club (the use of the word ‘Caledonian’ in public titles frequently indicated a harking back to half-remembered or wholly imaginary Scots traditions).
Scottish curling team in Montreal
In the Highlands, hill-running races and shot-putting became regular events in the communal Highland games that began in Braemar in 1817 and spread to many other places, often with spurious claims to origins in medi­eval times. While some form of football had been practised for centuries, it was essentially the two English forms of the game that were formally estab­lished in 1873 by the Scottish Footbal1 Association for soccer and the Scottish Football Union for rugby. The significance of these foundations goes beyond sport. There was no obvious reason not to form British associations. The re­lated associations south of the Border did not always have the word ‘English’ in their titles, nor did they often proclaim themselves as ‘British’. No one sug­gested that there should be differences between Scottish rules and English rules for games. Distance might have been a problem for Scots clubs affiliated to an English league; though reasonably rapid rail transport was possible, all ­amateur clubs had but modest funds. That was not the crucial issue. With a habit of mind as automatic as a key turning in a well-oiled lock, the founders of these associations created them as Scottish institutions.
England vs Scotland 1872

Nearly two hundred years of union with England had not diminished that primary sense of identity, nor had it removed a viable working context for that identity to display itself in. Something typically Scottish arose in the workings of the Scottish Football Association, albeit as an inheritance of the great Irish immigration. Religious rivalry became an element in the sporting contests between Glasgow Rangers, founded in 1873, and Glasgow Celtic, founded by Brother Walfrid (Andrew Kerins) in 1887 as a sporting club for Catholic youth. Very early in the history of the game, these two clubs became the dominant forces that they still remain.

Brother Walfrid, an Irish Marist Brother and founder of Celtic Football Club

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