The following was written Master Emrys Eustice, to whom James Cunningham
had apprenticed. I am quite proud of my teacher and mentor. He is very
much a second father and I felt it appropriate to help spread these words.
To alle noble ducs, erles, comtes, vicomtes, barons and alle suche peeres
and noble peoples unto whom thise lettres come, Emrys Eustace maister of
the ordre of the laure recomaund hym to your gode lordeshippes. And to the
noble companyes of the grenewoode, the bronze ryng, and the whit launce,
Nota bene: On saturday the .xxviij. day of June, Anno Societatus .xxxvij.,
in the .lxvij. day of the regne of hir roial maiestees of the Midel, at
Midreaume court during the warre the heraudes hight "Border Raides", kyng
Valharic and quene Alys saw fit to set my prentice baron James Cunningham,
forester of the grenewood companye, upon vigil for the moost noble ordre of
the laure for his skille at archery and at huntsmanshippe.
Or, in plainer terms, Their Royal Majesties of the Midrealm have offered to
make James Cunningham a Master of the Laurel by reason of his skill at arms
in archery, and also in period huntsmanship. At this point, I hope to have
the attention of every archer, fencer, mounted competitor, and thrown
weapons enthusiast: the path has been cleared, at least within the
Midrealm, for mastery-level excellence to be recognized in those fields
that do not fit neatly into any of our existing peerages.
James & I agreed to sign an indenture of apprenticeship earlier this year,
to take place at "Push for Pennsic" on June 15, making him my first
apprentice. He told me then that his reason for seeking this relationship
with me, and for eventually achieving the recognition of Master of the
Laurel, was to enable him to aid other archers reach the recognition he
felt they deserved.
I never felt that I had aught to /teach/ James, but that from my position
as a laurel, I would be able to introduce his name into the right people &
places, return to him useful feedback, and encourage him to guide his
efforts into the most productive paths. He already displayed all the
attributes of nobility, generosity, eagerness & skill in teaching,
leadership, thoughtfulness, self-discipline, and so on that I expect of a
peer. In essence, I expected to be a mentor, but not a teacher or
"father-figure" in the SCA.
Apparently, my high esteem of James was not unique! A short time later, his
name was introduced into Midrealm laurel discussions by other admirers, and
his name shot like a proverbial arrow towards its mark.
Thus, a mere fortnight after the ink was set on the indenture, I begged the
Crown that my first apprentice be released from his contract, to be
recognized as my peer. It was not without a mixture of feelings that I did
this. Both James & I had been looking forward to this developing
peer/dependent relationship, cementing old friends tighter, and offering us
both the chance to grow in our roles & our knowledge of the other.
I have heard but one single detractor of James' worthiness to this honor -
James himself. As is often true of laurel-bound artisans, James is never
satisfied with his works, and never ready to admit that he has met "the
bar". We had discussions on this the day after I made him my first
apprentice. James made me promise that I would do what I could to ensure
that he was not elevated before I thought he was ready, and others were
sure of it, and he was ready inside.
As I told James on Saturday: we are not free men, those of us who swear on
bended knee. Of course, it is the privilege of the Crown, and not the
Laurelate in whole (nor especially just one!), to make a laurel. However, I
kept my promise, calling her roial maiestee Alys as soon as I left his
company, and warned her of his doubts about his readiness.
Our queen is a thoughtful woman, but firm in her resolve: it was time we
had recognized a peer by skill in archery, and the first would be James
Cunningham. And who better to be the first? His character, I say with no
little bias, is as worthy and admirable as any who shoot as well or better.
And, her roial maiestee is right in saying: few of us who are peers "felt"
we were ready, when suddenly we heard our names called to join our order.
His scores on the IKAC speak for themselves - there is no other sport in
our Society that is so easily ranked! But scores alone could never make a
peer. I need not describe to any true archery enthusiasts of this kingdom
how much time and service James puts into the fields of our kingdom and at
Pennsic. His woods-walk style archery "hunts" at Harvest Day in Flamyng
Gryphon are legendary.
James works a red-tailed hawk and hound together (in Europe, Kali is termed
a "buzzard"). His hound Sugar is better trained than many human hunters.
The hawk is newly in his hands, but eagerly learning; the hawk is already
quite keen on her little four-legged friend's tendency to flush mice! James
also makes arrows - ask to see my "sheef of pecok arwes" he made as a gift
when I was Flamyng Gryphon's Baronial Champion, years ago - and crossbows,
and combat crossbows (the Cunningham Crossbow plans are available from
either of us), and in his spare time, an immense, two-story-plus-basement
woodworking barn (which isn't remotely period, but it's impressive,
nonetheless!). He's tending a small herd of "heritage breed" cattle for his
sister, and has taken up forging. His skill at huntsmanship (James' opinion
aside) is so high that any who might disagree with the making of a laurel
in the skill of archery, should not protest calling him a master of the art
of huntsmanship. In short, if a period hunter did it or used it, James has
studied it, or tried it, or made it, and probably done well by it.
James is not without faults, and one of them is simply that he finds it
hard to accept honors for himself (a fault that also serves as a whetstone
for his abilities). However, in accepting this honor, however early he
might feel it will be, he is opening the door for a legion of worthies,
whether archers or fencers or tilting champions, to be recognized for their
greatness within and without. And, in the end, that is what every award is
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