by Dorothy Wickham
'ARCHERY? Oh, that's something to do with bows and arrows, isn't it? I have seen people playing with them, trying to hit a target thing … it is no child's play trying to hit the target thing. It is the very difficulty of hitting that round target with its bright and open countenance that makes archery so engrossing. It stands there, sixty or fifty yards from us, seemingly quite stationary; but the nasty way it has of dodging one's arrows must be experienced to be understood' wrote Alice B Legh.
This was perhaps the lure of archery in the early days of Ballarat. Of all the sports available in Ballarat in the mid 1800s, archery was open to both men and women. The participation in many sports, such as pugilistic endeavours (usually bare fisted), wrestling, foot racing, rowing, yachting, horse racing, and walking, that are mentioned as noteworthy activities in historical articles, was the sole province of men.
Archery was one sport however, that was open to women. The Webster Street Archery Club was opened by 1864. The newspaper of the day describes the striking uniform worn by women members. It featured green jackets, and sailor hats banded in green, so that the women were in keeping with uniforms worn by male club members. This is possibly the oldest club in Ballarat, having sections for both men and women.
Archery was present earlier in Victoria. Mr W Liardet had formed a small group of archers in 1840 at Port Melbourne and in 1855 an archery competition at Emerald Hill, won by an American with a long bow, was reported in the Melbourne Herald. The Victorian Archery Club, comprising members of both sexes, was established in November 1857.
Ballarat has had a proud tradition in archery, presently having two archery clubs, Wendouree Archery Club Inc. and Ballarat Bowmen, which currently include among their members International, National, and State medal recipients. The current Olympic Gold Medallist, Simon Fairweather used to shoot at the Field Course in the Creswick State Forest. Other well-known names include Jack and Lil Collins, and Don, Hilda and Ron Balfour. According to Mr Allan Terrett the 'club has a proud history of achievement' .
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