I took an extended Easter break to travel to Workington to see the Uppies and Downies on Tuesday evening.
At 6:30 pm Robert Daglish (pictured left) threw off the ball. During the next hour, there was plenty of action as play took the ball across and often into the beck. For much of the time the ball was lost from sight in the scrummage, emerging every so often and thrown – presumably to a team-mate, although to the untrained eye it is hard to tell who is on which side.
As darkness fell the ball began to move down the beck in the direction of Curwen Hall and at about 9:15 the Uppies won the game by hailing the ball. The ball was hailed by Jamie Beaumont, who also plays for Workington Town Rugby League team. This also gave the Uppies the 2007 series, as they had also won the Good Friday game giving a 2-0 lead in the three match series.
However there is a possible cloud on the horizon. The game begins on The Cloffocks, an open space used for sport and recreation - and most of the action takes place there. Some space has already been lost to a car park and to new Council offices – but now a large part of the Cloffocks has been sold to Tesco for a new supermarket. Tesco’s original plans were to divert or cover the beck – but the discovery of salmon and lampreys, an endangered species, in the beck may have caused a change of plan. But this is still a subject of local controversy, with some disputing whether Allerdale Council has the lrgal right to sell land that was apparently left to the people of Workington for recreational use.
As an outsider, the Uppies and Downies is a unique event like nothing I have seen before, with a long and proud history. The continued existence of the games seems to be inextricably linked to the future of The Cloffocks – and it is to be hoped that a solution can be found which will allow the games to continue for many more years to come.
I would like to thank Bob and Robert Daglish, Linda Carter and Aunt Amy for their very warm hospitality, which was very much appreciated.