Thursday, 5 April 2007

Uppies and Downies - Easter in Workington

The Uppies and Downies games take place every Easter in Workington – and there is a long tradition of involvement of the local Daglish family.

Uppies and Downies is one of only three mass-football events that are still played in the UK, the other two being at Ashbourne in Derbyshire and at Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands.

The games are played each year on Good Friday, the following Tuesday and the next Saturday - but it is the Tuesday game that the Daglish family has been involved with.

In recent years this is Bob Daglish and his son Robert. Bob told me:

"We have been involved with the game as far back as records began. Basically it involves the Up side of town getting the ball to the Curwen Hall and the Down side getting it to the harbour. There are no rules, we simply throw the ball off at 18.30 on Easter Tuesday and watch the fun!

Anyone can play, it can last 30 mins or it can last 6 hours. it depends alot on the weather and how many people turn out, sometimes 5 or 6 hundred, sometimes a couple of thousand (especially if Easter is late, and the weather good with light nights). There is no team strip or colours, you wear old clothes, especially if you intend following the ball into the beck (a beck is a small stream or a river)."

Each game starts at The Cloffocks, an open area used for recreational purposes, and is won by the team that reaches its goal and "hails" the ball by raising it three times. The play can go anywhere - in the river, in the beck or into the town. It can be rough – but rarely violent, although injuries are common and death is not unknown. Four players are known to have drowned – most recently in 1983.

Bob's father Henry Daglish (1917-1977) and his great great-uncle Anthony Daglish (1850-1933) are the only men ever to have thrown the ball off and hailed it in the same game. Anthony Daglish also appears in the all-time list of top "hailers" with five successes between 1871 and 1890. The cutting shown dates from around 1928.

The ball, which is dated, is hand made to an existing pattern and takes thirty hours to make. Each ball weighs about two and a half pounds and is 21 inches round. No spares are made.

The Uppies and Downies series raises thousands of pounds each year for charity through ticket draws and ball money donations.

With thanks to Bob Daglish, Linda Carter and to the Times & Star for the information. The cutting appears in the book "Workington in old picture postcards, Volume 2" by Derek Woodruff.

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