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The Rattray Silver Arrow

The Rattray Silver Arrow

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1612 The Rattray Silver Arrow



The Rattray Silver Arrow

Rattray's own Robin Hood

THE RATTRAY SILVER ARROW became the centrepiece of a famous grand archery tournament contested within the parish of Rattray, Perthshire, intermittently between 1612 and 1727.

 The Arrow is believed to have been crafted in 1612 by Perth silversmith Thomas Ramsay, Deacon of the Guild of Perth Hammermen to the order of the Reverend Sir Silvester Rattray of Rattray.  It is considered to be one of the earliest, if not indeed the earliest example of Perth silver in existence.

Proof of its making is shown on the arrow's flight along with Ramsay's mark TR and Perth's hallmark, the Holy Lamb carrying a crucifix over its shoulder.  The arrow is just over 11 inches in length and weighs a mere few ounces.

Being so deeply rooted in the history of Rattray as well as Perthshire more generally, it is a sports trophy of which the community is rightly proud.

The Arrow was last won by John, 3rd Lord Nairne in 1727 at a time of great change in Scotland.  Following the death of England's Elizabeth I in 1603, King James VI of Scotland assumed the English throne as James I, joining the two kingdoms.  However, attitudes towards the role of monarchy and religion had been changing across northern Europe and in 1688 a group of English parliamentarians deposed James II on the suspicion that he held traditional inclinations (that he leant towards absolute monarchy and the Catholic faith).

When the power of the Scottish parliament was then incorporated within the British parliament in London in 1707, many Scots felt that losing both their king and their parliament had been a compromise too far and in 1715 they launched an unsuccessful counter-coup.

Archery competitions had always had a military dimension and after 1727 it was thought best not to antagonise the new authorities by holding another one.

As is now well known Scottish traditionalists launched a final assault against the new political arrangements in 1745 but after a promising start they were finally defeated at Culloden the following year.  John Nairne lost his brother, Robert (who had assumed his wife's name of Mercer) in the battle, and was forced to flee for his life, ending his days in exile in France.  A plaque was placed on the house in Sancerre where he had lived, by the 1745 Association in 2000.  The Silver Arrow went into hiding with him and has been passed down through the Nairne family.

Sancerre Plaque


To mark the arrow's 400th anniversary in 2012 a longbow competition was held in Rattray at which the Silver Arrow was presented symbolically to the winner by a representative of the custodians, the Mercer-Nairnes of Meikleour.  This was the first appearance in Rattray of the Arrow since 1727 when last won by John, Lord Nairne and not returned to the senior Ratttray heritor as required.

In 2006 the Rattray community was outraged when the Silver Arrow was offered for sale at Sotheby's auction house.  Fortunately it was withdrawn from the sale, and it is now back in the safe hands of its custodian, Lord Robert Mercer-Nairne, of the Meikleour estate.

 Robert Mercer-Nairne wrote a play about the Arrow's recent and distant past and this was staged by the Blairgowrie Players in October 2017.

Our sincerest thanks go to Lord Robert Mercer-Nairne and Neil Kennedy (Chair of the Silver Arrow Committee when ownership was contested and then agreed) for sharing with Our Heritage their knowledge and information.  These facts are invaluable. 

This is one of the three Rattray Trophies which can be found here.

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