Armagh City has been the home to many outdoor sports and pursuits since the late seventeenth century. While some sports are still alive and kicking, others have quietly disappeared from the map and memory.To link with the 148th Open at Royal Portrush in July 2019, this exhibition tells the story of the many outdoor sports organisations in Armagh, both past and present. Golf, of course, features, as do bowling, horse racing, archery, tennis, road bowls, cricket, rugby, football, Gaelic football, hurling and road racing.
Armagh Robinson Library’s Archivist, Thirza Mulder, researched the exhibition and has highlighted some interesting facts, for example, that bowling greens were in existence in Armagh in the late seventeenth century and that the city had its own race course up until the late eighteenth century.
The Library holds a 1770 copy of ‘The Works of the Revd Philip Skelton: Consisting of Dialogues, Discourses, Essays’. The Revd Skelton described road bowls or ‘bullets’ as his favourite pastime. One anecdote recounts how he was hit on the head by a bullet during a game. Skelton assumed that this had happened because he had omitted to pray, after first getting up, in his haste to get to the game!
There is also a nineteenth-century copy of the Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland, 1124 to 1707. Golf has a long history, assumed to have originated in Scotland, although in 1457, the Scottish Parliament of King James II banned the playing of golf along with football, because it interfered with archery practice and military training for the war.