A reader writes to ask what is a caitchpule — and I realise I have made an assumption. In The Castilians I mention King James V’s fondness for the game of caitch, which he regularly played at Falkland Palace. Growing up nearby I was always aware of the famous tennis court at the Palace, and so I wrote as though readers would understand what I was talking about when I mentioned the words ‘caitchpule’ and ‘Falkland Palace’ in the same sentence.
What I didn’t know, before I wrote the novel, was that real tennis was called caitch and the tennis court a caitchpule. The game is the precursor to lawn tennis played at Wimbledon since the the 1800s.
Real tennis is more like squash in that it uses the walls surrounding the enclosed court and the sloping roof above the viewing gallery, to bounce the ball off. Lawn tennis, although played differently, copied the same scoring system as real tennis.
James’s uncle, King Henry VIII of England, was also a keen tennis player in his youth. There was a caitchpule in St Andrews, so it’s entirely possible my characters in The Castilians may have played the game – at least those with the wealth and leisure to do so.
Real tennis is still played at Falkland Palace by local residents, who would most certainly not have been permitted anywhere near the caitchpule in the 1500s.