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Biggar & Upper Clydesdale Museum
156 High St
Biggar, ML12 6DH

Biggar Museum Trust SCIO, a registered charity in Scotland. Charity number: SC003695

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Scotland’s Oldest Gun

The Boghall Gun on display, has been called Scotland’s oldest gun and due to that status was at one time on loan to the Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh (later the National Museum of Scotland) for many years.

It is what would have been called in Scotland a hagbut of crok. The ‘crok’ refers to the fin on the underside of the barrel used for mounting or steadying it. It presumably had a long iron stock but only the stub remains. The barrel was probably faceted, and it would have fired small lead balls of about 3.8 cm (1.5 inches) diameter. Its vent is in the top of the breech, rather than at the side. This early feature suggests it dates to the first half of the 15th century. It came from Boghall Castle and it is believed it was long preserved in Biggar Parish Church.

There are other comparable pieces in collections elsewhere in Europe. As far as Scotland is concerned, there is a much-altered iron gun with a bore of 3.5 cm (1.4 inches) in the National Museums of Scotland (NMS), that came in 1977 from the armoury of the Earls of Seafield. However, it is not as complete as ours as it has had its ‘fin’ removed and has been shortened so that its original vent has gone.

NMS also has an iron gun with a bore of 3.5 cm (1.4 inches) from Corgarff Castle. It probably dates to the 16th century. Abbotsford House, the home of Sir Walter Scott, has in its collection a 16th century unprovenanced long gun. Its iron stock is of the type that is missing from our Boghall gun.

Although research has been carried out by specialists, in particular Dr. David Caldwell it has not been possible to establish where it was made. Dr. Caldwell stated ‘We have so little knowledge of such things and there are too few surviving to make a study of meaningful diagnostic features that might indicate which workshops produced them’.

Charlie Riggs, Biggar Museum Trustee

Author: Dr. David Caldwell
Date: 31st May 2021 Back to Blog
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