Stirling Chapmen (Pedlars) and Merchants.
The origin of the Stirling Guildry is not definitely known. King Alexander II., on 18th August, 1226, granted a Charter in favour of the Burgh of Stirling, conferring the right to a weekly market and other privileges.
At this period in time, Chapmen, or pedlars, carried their wares from place to place and sold a variety of articles to people they met. There were no shops as such and people relied on the visiting Chapmen for certain goods. By going round the districts, the Chapmen, having heard news and information from several places, were also considered to be early newsmen. Chapmen of a higher class carried their wares on a pack-horse, whereas lower class ones, who walked on foot, were more commonly known as pedlars.
In later years, as their finances improved, the travelling Chapmen sold their wares from their own stores or shops and were better known as merchants. Surplus stock was also sold at markets and fairs. It is from these merchants that banks were first formed. As they became more established, they formed themselves into a merchants guild.
By the time of the Stuart Kings, (1370 – 1714), the Stirling Chapmen were privileged to practice the regal sport of jousting. To keep the tradition, the Chapmen held annual tilting competitions at their fairs.
In 1707, Stirling council offered a purse of silver and the Guildry paid for a gold ring, as a prize at the Chapmen’s annual “Tilting the Ring” annual sports competition, at their fair, in Stirling’s King’s Park. Horse and pony races were later held at those Chapmen Sports.
The ancient fraternity of Chapmen in Stirling, was formerly founded in 1726. Though their annual Chapmen Sports could be said to be the early roots of the Stirling Highland Games, foot races were not introduced until 1818. By this time, all the former travelling Chapmen, were now called merchants. At the 1818 Chapmen Sports or Games, “Tilting the Ring” was still the main competition. In 1823, putting the 22lb 4oz. ball was introduced. In 1824, a hammer throwing event was also held. Wrestling, tossing the bar and other sports had been intended, but the shortness of daylight prevented them from being held. By 1851, full Highland Games, including Highland Dancing and Bagpipe competitions were being held in Stirling. It is worthy to note that William Drysdale, who had featured in the 1824 Chapmen Games, won the gold ring at the 1851 “Tilting the Ring” competition.
The Stirling Chapmen, were instrumental in forming the early history of today’s Stirling Highland Games.