It is now just over 12 months since London hosted the Olympic Games we have just held the Anniversary Games, both, seemingly, a great success. Each year around the UK, & indeed the rest of the world, local communities hold competitions & sporting events of a more unusual kind.
In Gawthorpe, West Yorkshire – the next village to where I grew up – they have held the World Coal Carrying Championships on Easter Monday for the last 50 years. One day, back in 1963, 2 local men, Reggie Sedgwick & Lewis Hartley, were having a mild mannered argument about who was fitter than who. Reggie was just a little put out. “Ah’m as fit as thee’’ he told Lewis, ‘’an’ if tha’ dun’t believe me gerra a bagga coil on thi back an ‘ah’ll get one on mine an ‘ah’ll race thee to t’ top o’ t’ wood !’’ For anyone outside of Yorkshire, this basically meant they would race from the Royal Oak pub to the maypole in the centre of the village, which is roughly a mile, each with a sack of coal on their back. And so, t’Coil Race was born. Each year the whole village, & surrounding villages, turn out to cheer on the men, women & even children, who turn up from miles around to compete in this annual event.
There are, of course, many more examples of these events, often involving a village pub, & here are a few of my favourites;
On the other side of the Pennines, in Lancashire, there are the The World Black Pudding Throwing Championships. Generally held on the 2nd Sunday of September, this annual competition plays out the ancient grudge between Yorkshire and Lancashire – this time by hurling Black Puddings at a pile of Yorkshire Puddings on a 20-foot high plinth, usually sat on a pub roof! Participants have three turns in an attempt to knock down as many Yorkshire Puddings as possible and must throw underarm from a purpose built stand called the oche. Allegedly during the Wars of the Roses the two sides exchanged fire with foodstuffs when their ammunition ran out
The Finnish Wife Carrying Festival is held each July in, obviously, Finland, & involves, strangely enough, a man completing a 253.5 m course while carrying their wife on their back. There are various obstacles to negotiate along the way but, among other things, the winner wins his wife’s weight in beer!
Among the official rules for this crazy competition are;
- the ‘wife’ must be over 17 years old.
- the ‘wife’ must weigh at least 49 kilograms.
- you do not have to be married to the ‘wife’, any suitable female will do.
- dropping and bouncing the ‘wife’ incurs a 15 second “fine”.
- you must have fun!
For the August Bank Holiday, there will be the Bog Snorkelling Championships in Mid Wales. The aim is to swim two lengths of the 60-yard Waen Rhydd peat bog with flippers and snorkel in the fastest time. There are different categories including juniors, fancy dress, women’s and men’s.
The Royal Shrovetide Football Match occurs annually on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday in the town of Ashbourne in Derbyshire, England. The match is played out over a mile area between two teams ‘The Downards’ and ‘The Uppard’s’ named by where they live relative to the Henmore Brook. The game begins in the centre of town with the ball being thrown into the air. From then on the match pretty much resembles a riot as the teams attempt to get the ball into the opposing goal. There are few rules to this ancient game – you are not permitted to kill anyone or make use of a motor vehicle to carry the ball, other than that anything goes.
There are hundreds of these types of local sporting events held throughout the year &, whilst they may not be of Olympic interest, the have stood the test of time & am sure they will continue to do so. Bring on the cheese rolling, chess boxing & pooh sticks!