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The Annual Shoot at the Tower Bowyers versus Fletchers May 26th, 2011

"Of thunder storms, stones, paper and scissors...

Twenty-four days of unseasonably perfect summer like days in May came to a tempestuous end at four in the afternoon on twenty-sixth day of the month. This unfortunately coincided with the arrival at the Tower of the London Archers ready to set up the targets in the East Mote and the Clerks of both Companies equally equipped to set up the Pimms Bar nearby. It was the allotted day for the annual 'Bowyers versus Fletchers' Tower Shoot. An event normally blessed with good weather and an annual occasion that negates the history of these two City Livery Companies not speaking to each other for nigh on seven hundred years. Any rivalry in the modern age is settled by competition using the traditional products of these ancient Guilds. On this particular meeting the use of the hands and psychology (or guess work) played more than their fair part in determining who would own the Governor's Trophy for the next twelve months.

For the next two hours the skies were studied, while getting very wet. The optimists were convinced that it would clear up. The pessimists were not so sure and wished to find a nearby bar. At six o'clock, just as all guests arrived, twenty-four Fletchers and twenty-three Bowyers, the decision was to forgo the archery competition and set up the Pimms Bar in the entrance hall of the Royal Fusiliers Museum. The speed, panache and co-operative spirit in which this was done was quite remarkable so that by 6.20pm all had a glass in their hand. If you looked out of the window at that moment, the sun was out and as someone loudly proclaimed 'perfect weather for archery'.

At 7.30pm, just as the Pimms ran out, all were summoned into the Royal Fusiliers Mess Hall. An excellent and most enjoyable buffet supper was served by the resident caterers Flambé , accompanied by more than an adequate supply of wine. During the conversation it was let slip that both Companies had arranged a little archery practice prior to the event. Although not against the rules this was considered as taking matters a little too seriously. The Bowyers had arranged a curry supper after their practice session at secret location in Pimlico.

Denied the archery, it was deemed that the annual competition should still take place between the Masters in a best of three "scissors, paper, stone" challenge, presided over by the Governor of the Tower of London (now known as the Tower Group Director), Colonel Dick Harrold. This was won in two plays with aplomb by Master Fletcher with stone blunting scissors and paper wrapping stone. The Governor's Trophy (a small replica of a bow box that had been used to bury Anne Boleyn) was duly presented to the victor.

At 9.30pm the Yeoman Warder arrived to brief all those who wished to witness the Ceremony of the Keys. Those not staying for this were asked to leave the Tower. At 10pm, with the weather now very pleasant, the historic Ceremony was performed in front of an enthusiastic mixture of Bowyers, Fletchers and, judging by the accents overseas vsitiors. A most agreeable evening for which out thanks must be recorded to Colonel Dick Harrold, Major Colin Bowes Crick (Secretary of RRF Officers Mess) and Kay Tyler (of National Heritage) for allowing us to use the Tower, the Royal Fusiliers Museum and Mess, and the help in organising the event.

Richard Sawyer
June 2011

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