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February 5th 1831

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Crieff cockfighting

One of the less endearing features of the 18th century was the rise in the sport of cockfighting. It was patronised by all classes of society and even the clergy considered it a fit and appropriate pastime.

Crieff was one of the centres of the sport and had the reputation of producing some of the finest game cocks in the country. Most tradesmen kept their own cocks which were boarded out at nearby farms during the summer to leave them in prime condition for the most important match of the year which took place on Handsel Monday in the Mason’s Hall.

The matches were held between different parishes around Crieff. William Campbell writing on February 5th 1831. “There was a great cock-fight here in the Mason’s Lodge. Dunning, Auchterarder, Blairingone and Dollar against Crieff and Bridgend; the latter lost the day by one battle.” 

The schoolmaster generally acted as arbiter and those cocks killed in the fighting became his perquisites. Even more barbarous was the treatment meted out to those cocks that refused to fight. They were termed fugies or cowards and were tied to a stake to become targets for the spectators. The standard charge was half a bodle (equivalent to two old Scots pence) and later a halfpenny, for each throw. The money again went to the schoolmaster who was also given the dead bird.

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