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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


Volume 8 Page 137
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96 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. No. XLIV. COCK-FIGHTING MATCH BETWEEN THE COUNTIES OF LANARK AND HADDINGTON. THIS affair was decided in the unfinished kitchen of the Assembly Roams, in 1785 ; on which occasion the gentlemen cock-fighters of the county of East Lothian were the victors. Among the audience will be recognised likenesses of the principal individuals of this fancy at the time. Hay, in his MS. notes, particularly points out those of Sir James Baird of Newbyth, William Hamilton, Esq. of Wishaw (afterwards Lord Belhaven), - MacLeod, Esq. of Drimnin, Lord North the caddy, the noted Deacon Brodie, and several other eminent cockers. The two figures in the pit represent the persons employed by the different parties ; the one was an Edinburgh butcher, the other an Englishman. In allusion to this contest Kay observes, " It cannot but appear surprising that noblemen and gentlemen, who upon any other occasion will hardly show the smallest degree of condescension to their inferiors, will, in the prosecution of this barbarous amusement, demean themselves so far as to associate with the very lowest characters in society." Cock-fighting prevailed to a great extent among the Romans, who most likely adopted it, among other things, from the Greeks, with this addition, that they used quails as well as the common gamecock. With the Romans cockfighting is presumed to have been introduced into Britain, although the first notice me have of it is by Fitz-Stephen, in his Life of the famous Thomas a-Becket, in the reign of Henry 11. There were several enactments made against the practice in the reigns of Edward 111. and Henry VIII., but it is well known that the cock-pit at Whitehall was erected by royalty itself, for the more magnificent celebration of the sport : it was again prohibited during the . Protectorship of Cromwell in 1654, and afterwards by the Act 25th Geo. 111. Notwithstanding the efforts made to put it down, this disreputable amusement continued in all parts of England to be practised with the utmost wantonness almost to the present time. In Scotland, cock-fighting was for many years an ordinary recreation. In 1705 William Machrie, fencing-master in Edinburgh, published " An Essay upon the Royal Recreation and Art of Cocking. Edinburgh, printed by James Watson in Craig's Gloss. Sold by Mr. Robert Freebairn in the Parliament Closs, 1705." 12mo. This tract, which is now exceedingly scarce, is dedicated to the nobility and gentry of Scotland, who are told that "the sport of cockfighting is improv'd to a great height; 'tis as much an art as managing of horses for races or for the field of battle j and tho' it has been in vogue over all Europe, yet 'twas never esteem'd nor practis'd but by the nobility and gentry. It was kept up only by people of rank, and never sunk down to the hands of the commonality, where the art of managing this fierce and warlike bird had
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