British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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Feb. 3.]                         shrove Tuesday.                    '            75
into the market-place, from the Town Hall, into the midst of an assembly of many thousand people, so closely wedged together, as scarcely to admit of locomotion. The moment the ball was thrown, the " war cries " of the rival parishes began, and thousands of arms were uplifted in the hope of catching it during its descent. The opposing parties en­deavoured by every possible means, and by the exertion of their utmost strength, to carry the ball in the direction of their respective goals, and by this means the town was traversed and retraversed many times in the course of the day; indeed, to such an extent has the contest been carried, that some years ago the fortunate holder of the ball, having made his way into the river Derwent, was followed by the whole body, who took to the water in the most gallant style, and kept up the chase to near the village of Duffield, a distance of five miles, the whole course being against the rapid stream, and one or two weirs having to be passed; on another occasion, the possessor of the ball is said to have quietly dropped himself into the culvert or sewer which passes under the town, and to have been followed by several others of both parties, and, after fighting his way the whole distance under the town, to have come out victorious at the other side where, a considerable party having collected, the contest was renewed in the river.
On the conclusion of the day's sport the man who had the honour of " goaling " the ball was the champion of the year ; the bells of the victorious parish announced the conquest, and the victor was chaired through the town. So universal has been the feeling with regard to this game, that it is said a gentleman from Derby having met with a person in the backwroods of America, whom from his style and conversa­tion he suspected to be from the Midland Counties of England, cried out when he saw him, " All Saints' for ever;" to this the stranger instantly retorted, " Peter 8 for ever ;" and this satisfied them that they were fellow-townsmen. A foot­ball match is also played at Ashborne nearly in the same manner as at Derby.—Jour. Arch. Assoc., 1852, vol. vii. p. 203.
A custom prevailed, too, in some parts of Derbyshire which gave licence to the young men and boys to kiss any young
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