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THE INNOCENT ART OF COCKING

JK GILLON

The Innocent Art of Cocking


Cock-fighting was introduced into Edinburgh by William Mauchrie, a teacher of fencing and cock-fighting in Edinburgh, in the first years of the 18th century. Mauchrie published an Essay on the Innocent and Royal Recreation and Art of Cocking in 1705, in which he noted that he had a "special veneration and esteem for those gentlemen, about Edinburgh, who have propagated and established the Royal recreation and innocent pastime of cocking to which they have erected a cock-pit on the links of Leith". Admission was 10d for a ringside seat, 7d for the second row and 4d for the back row. Edinburgh Magistrates banned cock-fighting on the streets in 1704 in consequence of the "tumults it excited and the cruel extent to which its practice had been carried". Despite this ban, cock-fighting continued in Edinburgh well into the 19th century. Regular cock-fights or mains, as they were technically termed, were held in a cock-pit in the Grassmarket and there was a cock-pit on Leith Sands in 1804.

John Kay, the Edinburgh artist, wrote in 1785 that he found it "surprising that noblemen and gentlemen, in the prosecution of this barbarous sport, demean themselves so far as to associate with the very lowest characters of society".

This "school of gambling and cruelty" was finally outlawed in the 19th century and the last cock-fight in Edinburgh was probably in 1869 when a Leith man was fined for participating.


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