Edinburgh Castle from Bruntsfield

with shinty being played in the foreground

Shinty at Bruntsfield

Engraving  -  View from Bruntsfield, looking towards Edinburgh Castle, with shinty in the foreground

  Reproduced with acknowledgement to Ian Smith


The whole picture     Zoom-in to top-left    Zoom-in to centre    Zoom-in to bottom-right


Edinburgh Castle from Bruntsfield

with shinty being played in the foreground

The Picture

Here is an interesting early engraving looking to the north from Bruntsfield towards Edinburgh Castle.  The steeple of St Giles church can be seen on the right-hand side of the picture.  There appears to be a glimpse of the Borough Loch in the foreground.  The Borough Loch was drained long ago.

I thought the game being played might have been hurling.  Others have thought it to be golf. 

However, John Burnett, author of books on early Scottish sport who gave me some advice:


The Engraving

The Process

The process used to produce this print appears to be 'etching and engraving' with the colouring added later.  In 'etching and engraving', the ink is held in the recessed areas of the plate. Depending on the depths of these grooves, different amounts of ink are held, thus producing lines of varying thickness and darkness.                                    [Zoe Whitley]


The lines of the picture can clearly be seen by zooming in to the top-left,   centre or  bottom-right of the picture.

This picture appears to be the work of an engraver named Slack.  His signature can be seen by zooming-in to the bottom right-hand corner of this picture.  There is also a copy of this engraving (without the colour) in the collection of the Edinburgh Room at Edinburgh Central Library. It is dated 1798.

I have not yet traced Slack in any  reference books.  I would be interested to know if this engraver produced other engravings and if these were published in any help.  If you can answer these questions, could you please email me?

  Thank you.        -  Peter Stubbs




John Burnett

John Burnett wrote:

"It is 99% likely to be shinty.  The game was certainly played by boys in Edinburgh in the first half of the 19th century, and I think the figures are supposed to be boys / apprentices / young men. 

The lack of full teams is of no consequence  -  games were often played with small numbers until late in the century.  Shinty was in fact common in Lowland Scotland until c.1850 and I will add this.

The only minor problem is that it's not a very good picture - in particular, only cricket was played with bats which had long thick blades.  Golf clubs sere similar in shape (though not in materials) to modern ones, and camans for shinty were similar but with a handle that was intended to be held vertically.

Golfers of that period are represented as older men, better dressed.  But that leaves the possibility that instead of being a not very good picture of shinty, it's actually a bad picture of golf"                                            [John Burnett]




Sheila McGregor


Thank you to Sheila McGregor who wrote:

The View

"The building on the extreme right of St Giles in this picture is Heriot's Hospital."

The Game

"I'm certain that these are shinty players.  They appear to be using the single-handed Argyll (Kintyre) club illustrated by Robert Craig MacLagan in The Games and Diversions of Argyleshire (1901)."

Sheila added


"I grew up in Bruntsfield Gardens, which still looks exactly as it did, at least outside. But in those days the bairns all had Scottish surnames and most of them had Highland surnames."

Sheila McGregor, France:  March 21, 2009


Please click here to zoom-in and see more detail of the engraving.


Engravings from Modern Athens  -  Published 1829

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