Friday, 21 March 2008

Uppies and Downies

The Uppies and Downies is a series of ball games held in Workington each Easter. The games have been supported by the local Daglish family for over 300 years, and I had the pleasure of seeing the Tuesday game last year - and had hoped to be back this year, but unfortunately work commitments made this impossible.

The future of the games is in doubt following the sale of the Cloffocks, an open area on which the games are played, to Tesco - which intends to build a large supermarket and petrol station on the site (see illustration below).

In January Tesco's planning application received approval by Allerdale Council. As well as concerns for the future of the games, other questions have been raised about the way in which the local council conducted the sale.

These games are part of the history and tradition of the local community which Tesco hopes to serve - and it would be a real shame if these were lost. There have been some suggestions to re-locate the games to another site - but this would make it an organised event which is contrary to the spirit and tradition of the games.

On Tuesday evening, the ball was thrown off by Robert Daglish junior, continuing the long family tradition. His father, Robert Daglish senior, talking to the local media about the current situation said:

“I hope that the new Tesco won’t bring a stop the game as it is right in the heart of where the Uppies try to get the ball to. As long I have a breath in my body I want the game to continue. It is part of the tradition of Workington. It would be a sad day if the game had to stop.”

The Uppies won the 2008 series 2-1, their fourth successive win.

See recent coverage from the BBC and Times & Star.

The games are celebrated in a recent book "Uppies and Downies: The extraordinary football games of Britain" by Hugh Hornby, published by English Heritage.

Whilst the book takes its name from the Workington games, it also looks at other similar events around the country and provides a useful calendar of these.

The book includes a photograph from 1872 of Anthony Daglish, pictured holding the balls he had hailed for the Uppies in that and the previous year (the years are on the balls).
There is also reference to an article in the Whitehaven News in 1931 that the Daglish family once owned a 300-year old ball won by an ancestor. I wonder where that is now?

Update 2014:
I recently received an email which read:
Now that we have got rid of any talk of Tesco building on the Cloffocks we thought that would be an end to it but the council now want to build a leisure centre down there.

2014 games 
The 2014 games went ahead as usual, with the Downies winning 3-0. A report of the games appears here, with a link to a report and pictures from the Tuesday game - this notes:
The ball was thrown off by Robert Daglish, 34, who had had the honour for 24 years. He was with his wife Jennifer and their 16-month-old son Harry, who will throw off the ball when he is old enough.

The Barbarians of Workington
I also recently found another book "The Barbarians of Workington: Uppies v Downies" by Keith Wallace (Wallace & Scott 2009).

This contains many stories and photos, including the following one of Anthony Daglish:

There is also a list of Hailers of the Ball, including the following Daglishes:


Anonymous said...

MY parents, grandparents and great granparents also hail from Workington and I have similarly been digging around in the archives. I'm surprised there seems to be so little recorded commentary on the game given the huge local crowds it used to draw. I did come across another similar picture to the one of your forebear from the 1880s. Would you be interested in a copy?

Anonymous said...

Interesting post, being a Daglish living in West Cumbria, it is probably shameful I have never participated in a game of uppies and downies, however I will have to get myself down next year and try and keep the legacy alive!

Stephen Daglish said...

Thanks - you should definitely try to get along if you can.
The Tuesday game is the one that has been connected with the local Daglish family, so might be the one to go for.
I plan to be there again next year so maybe we can have a Daglish meet up!