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The Early Days of the Sport of Archery in North Wales

     In September 1951 a Canadian Visitor to Overton in North Wales introduced Dr. Walter Casper and David Haynes to a Swedish Bow and after shooting with it, so smitten were they that by May 1952 they had established the first Archery Club in North Wales - Overton Archers.

It became very much a self-help club, they studied the sport in all available books and ingeniously made a straw target boss and painted a face in strong canvass to the required dimensions.

The Village is very fortunate in having a large recreational area and so a shooting range was no difficulty when the local cricket club agreed to share the facilities of club house and ground.

So during the summer of 1952, twelve members of Overton Village were very keen to improve their archery skills and to this end persuaded six very experienced archers from the Shrewsbury club to come to Overton to teach the finer arts of target shooting. The word spread and soon there were five to six different groups of people situated in various districts of North Wales all interested in the sport and Dr. Casper encouraged them all to form clubs and register with the Grand National Archery Society.

There were Regions of archery in all parts of the country and as there was one already established in South Wales, Dr. Casper was keen to form a similar region for the six North Wales Counties. A meeting was held in 1954 in Llandudno but no progress was made until the following year when, after receiving guide-lines and help from GNAS a meeting was held on Deeside and firm foundations were laid down for the formation of North Wales Archery Society.

The clubs represented at that important meeting were: - Buckley, Holywell, Llandudno, Overton, Rubery Owen and Summers, also invited to attend was Stewart Griffiths of the Welsh branch of the C.C.P.R. A draft constitution was discussed, proposed and accepted.

The officers were- Chairman Dr. Casper, Treasurer Mr Scott of Holywell, and George Millington agreed to be Secretary. At a later date the Earl of Powis was approached and invited to be the President of N.W.A.S. a position he kindly accepted. He invited the two Welsh Archery Societies to hold their first Welsh Championships at Powis Castle when he was quite amused to be allowed to open the meeting by shooting the first arrow.

The Earl of Powis resigned from the office of President in 1960 and Dr. Walter Casper was unanimously voted to take the office of the second President of N.W.A.S in recognition of his hard work and dedication in the formation of the Society. when he died in 1986 the honour of being the third President passed to Jim Donaldson also in recognition of the part he had played in the formationof the Society and for his work as a Judge, an organiser and as a Treasurer for N.W.A.S. At his death in 1992 the honour passed to myself.

During the years between 1956 and 1962 more clubs joined the Society and some faded away or amalgamated with other clubs. In the Northwest a club was formed in Anglesey and in the South there were clubs at Briedden and Trannon, both near Welshpool and a little further north Croesoswallt.

There was much friendly rivalry between the clubs and at the instigation of Dr. Casper they were encouraged to hold "at home" shoots.

One of the first was held on a Whit Monday by J.S & S (now British Steel AC) consequently the idea grew for the western round to become an Open shoot, and so was born the Welsh Whit Western.

Overton Archers had a novel idea for their "at home". At some attractive undulating ground near the village Jim Donaldson and David Haynes devised an archery field course, shooting at flags instead of animal symbols and christened a "Roving Shoot". All the clubs in N.W.A.S. took part as well as our nearest neighbors - Chester AC and the archers shot at the flags craftily positioned at various distances ,asking the most of the undulating ground. The roves proved very popular for some years for they provided an interesting break from target archery and the friendly rivalry between the clubs was enjoyed by all.

Rhyl club which was formed in 1960 organised an Albion round which was shot on the Pitch and Putt course on the Promenade giving the summer visitors an introduction to archery and probably encouraged new members.

Buckley held their at home on Padeswood Golf course and from that event the golfers were invited to take on the archers in an archery golf match. That proved very interesting and other golf matches were held with the Wrexham and Phwhelli golf clubs.

While these "at homes" were enjoyed by all "grades" of archers in the regional clubs, Dr., Casper was always urging the 2nd and 1st class archers as well as the very few MB s to compete in the tournaments throughout the other regions. Cheshire being so close was popular but some archers competed at Windsor in the International Trails and at Oxford for the G.N.A.M to name but two of the many prodigious tournaments entered by N.W.A.S. archers in the early years.

As more archers were introduced to the many tournaments held near and far so the Summer Sundays became filled and there was little opportunity or the need to hold "at homes" by the North Wales clubs.

A handsome trophy had been presented to the Society by a member of British Steel AC called the Archibald Trophy and in order to encompass the "at homes" into one event a "Deeside Western League was formed so that the trophy could be competed for by the various clubs. Eventually the Deeside League had to be included into the Welsh Whit Western because of the lack of "available shooting time".

In 1957 our own North Wales Archery Society Championships began but at the first only a "closed" shoot although quickly developing into an "open "shoot as the confidence of organisation grew. The first venue was Courtaulds Sports Ground near Holywell and this proved very convenient especially with good club house facilities. The meeting opened with a short service of blessing from the Vicar of Holywell and this was well received and became an annual event. When the Courtaulds factory had to re-organise their ground the North Wales Championships moved to their second home John Summers Sports Ground Shotton and there it has remained. The organisation from 1957 was taken on by the very efficient secretary of N.W.A.S John Till with the help of his wife Dorothy both being founder members of John Summers and Son (later British Steel AC). John Till was elected President of G.N.A.S. four years later and with his spare time even more fully occupied, he then passed the job of the Championship organisation to his stalwart helper Jim Nichols who continued the well established presentation of a prestigious tournament for which North Wales has long held a good reputation and of which we are so justly proud. The baton was later passed to Jim Donaldson who held it for a couple of years and afterward passed it into the very capable hands of David Page who continues to uphold its high status.

There are many stories of the incidents that have occurred between 1952 and 1998 which I and many others can relate but we would need a large volume, sufficient to say that, that is the main story of how North Wales Archery Society began and developed.

I haven't mentioned the juniors of which there were many promising ones. Some continued in Archery although in other regions, one in particular being Hilda Hanlon now Gibson, and Dennis Humphries who began with B.S A.C and both return to our Championships whenever possible. Hopefully we can continue to encourage our juniors and help them to develop into the champion archers of the future.

So good luck to our society. May we all feel proud to belong and may it continue to flourish for many more decades.

written by Evelyn Donaldson



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