Where were you this Shrove Tuesday? If you were in Sedgefield, Co. Durham, chances are you may still be nursing the odd bruise or two from the annual ball game.
This game was started by Peter Robinson (above), and was typically hard fought, but with an atmosphere of camaraderie and respect, throughout.
Other games around the country seem to have the greater focus at the moment, but it was clear after today that tradition continues unabated in the village, with little outside disturbance, and that's just the way everyone would like it to remain.
For a run-down of the game, see below.
At around 4pm, the game moves from the village green to a small beck, around half a mile to the south of the village centre. The ball (and bearer) must be dunked in the waater to win the ball.
Now it's back to the village green, where the ball must be passed back, three times, through the bull-ring to finally win the game.
It wasn't quite the afternoon stroll, but with only a few minor injuries on the day and a popular winner in Daz Clemmet, it proved a fine advertisment for one of the oldest ball games in the country.
The Game Today.
The game itself begins at 1.00pm, when a respected member of the community thrice passes the ball through the bullring set in the village green. The ball is then thrown to the crowd to be contested for the next few hours, being kicked and thrown around, many risking their ankles (and sometimes greater health) as they struggle to kick the coveted ball. With a well spirited, enjoyable atmosphere, the game continues, interrupted only when the ball is 'stolen' - taken to a local pub for a brief rest where recent tradition dictates that free alcohol must flow to the bearer.
This continues to approximately 4pm, when an attempt will be made to win the ball. Here, things start to become more serious. The ball must be taken to the 'alley' (or goal); a stream on the edge of the village, about half a mile away. This, the first stage of winning, is the tough part. The bearer must dunk the ball (and themselves) into the stream, facing stiff competition whilst doing so. This is often an immense struggle to complete, with friends around you being key in success.
Once this struggle is completed, the ball must now be returned to the village green for the small matter of passing the ball back again through the bullring three times – to finally win the game, and therefore, the coveted ball. This itself is another huge struggle, though the contest now is more or less regarded as won, despite the effort required to achieve the final result.
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