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22/7/2016 6:02 pm  #1

Medieval footraces in Scotland

I wonder if anyone is able to help.
 You will know of King Malcolm Canmore wishing  to select a running footman to deliver his despatches  and
organised a race to the summit of 1,764 foot Craig Choinnich . The MacGregor race  is well known – date 1064
Another  running messenger  selection race – the Red Hose race – dates back to 1508 – once again the same motive. 
In 1618 a footman kept by King James VI   outran one belonging to Lord Suffolk over a thirty mile course.
Also in 1618 the Venetian ambassador's chaplain reported that "It is also the custom of this kingdom
to make the footmen run in races of fifteen miles or twenty miles and this very year a famous contest
took place between the men of two leading nobles. It had something truly great and magnificent about it
for they wagered an annual rental of 800 crowns. ... His Majesty is pleased in being present at such sports,
especially when any of the court favourites are concerned, and he chooses the winning footman to enter
his service, as was the case recently."
There does seem to be a more utilitarian pattern  - of races to select fast messengers. I am wondering
if  King James actually made footraces popular in England through his patronage.  Moreover he does seem to be
following the same methodology as his early ancestor...
My basic question are you aware of other footraces held in Scotland in the medieval period and up to 1600? 
Or  were such races above just isolated incidents?
Any help or even clues much appreciated.


22/7/2016 6:53 pm  #2

Re: Medieval footraces in Scotland

The Hat & Ribbon Race held as part of the Lammas Market in Inverkething is reckoned to be one of the oldest races.

The Carnwath Red Hose Race dates back to the early 1500's


23/7/2016 9:43 am  #3

Re: Medieval footraces in Scotland

Hi Shane,

Thanks for your posting.

The Lammas Fair at Inverkeithing apparently goes back to 1640 officially - I will check on that.

The Red Hose race goes back to 1508 and because the laird is legally required to hold it each
year as part of his tenancy from the crown, it is well documented well into the nineteenth century.

Any other footraces held as part of defunct  lammas fairs, or other selection races held to choose
running messengers for Scottish kings or nobles?

Any snippets very welcome.

Best wishes,

Andy Milroy

     Thread Starter

23/7/2016 12:57 pm  #4

Re: Medieval footraces in Scotland

I can see Chalky or Ron calling for a medieval section

.... interesting though


24/7/2016 11:09 am  #5

Re: Medieval footraces in Scotland

Further research is showing that running footmen were in regular employment, especially in the Highlands
and were also employed abroad in Italy.  [17th-18th centuries]  To gain such employment selection races
would seem necessary - the origins of the clan based  Highland Games ? 


     Thread Starter

24/7/2016 6:19 pm  #6

Re: Medieval footraces in Scotland

Interesting thread Andy, here is the details of this years Hat & Ribbon race, takes place a week on Friday.

Hat and Ribbon Race
Part of the Lammas Fair and open to all residents of Inverkeithing this is probably the oldest remaining street/foot race in Scotland. Dating back centuries, to when the Lammas was a farmers' market, the shepherds would race along Hope Street on the Friday night with the winner earning a hat and ribbons for his love..

The prize hat is paraded through town before the race accompanied by a pipe band.It's part of the towns Lammas Fair held during the first week in August - rides and stalls are set up in The Square on the High Street and there are games and other entertainments over the weekend. The races last for around half-an-hour and there is a very friendly atmosphere with the crowd encouraging the runners up as wells the winners!

Races have also been arranged for children throughout the area.

8 - 11 years, boys and girls and 12 - 15 years, boys and girls with prizes for the first three past the post..

REMEMBER - NO PROFESSIONAL RUNNING GEAR, ORDINARY CLOTHES ONLYTimes & VenuesLocationDateTimeHope Street Car Park, Hope Street, Inverkeithing, KY11 1LN    [map] Friday 5 August 2016 18:45 -   


24/7/2016 10:19 pm  #7

Re: Medieval footraces in Scotland

What is so fascinating, Shane,  is that such races are living fossils - preserved so we get some idea of what Athletics was like 250 or more years ago. The Red Hose race is close to 400 years old - held so there would be a running messenger to run from Carnwath to Edinburgh to warn the king that the English were coming. It legally has to be held each year!

Other races on the Continent were held to celebrate political events, battles won or maybe like the Hat and Ribbon
race, to attract people to the market - basically literally early marketing! 


     Thread Starter

02/8/2016 7:37 am  #8

Re: Medieval footraces in Scotland

Lothian Running Club’s Sarah Inglis was the overall winner on Saturday of a race that is recognised by the Guiness Book of Records as the oldest footrace in the World.
The Carnwath Red Hose Race dates back to 1508.The race which is now run in conjunction with the Carnwath Agricultural Show still sees the race champion being presented with the traditional pair of Red Hose.Sarah covered the 2.65 mile course which starts and finishes in the show field and run over roads and grass in a time of 15 minutes 45 seconds.Unfortunately though for Sarah, to win the prize you must reside within the Parish of South Lanarkshire, which she doesn’t. So there were no Red Socks for her. Sister Mhairi made it a family 1 - 2 by finishing second female.

Last edited by Shane Fenton (02/8/2016 7:37 am)


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