Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Football
Every year on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday the town of Ashbourne in Derbyshire comes to a standstill. Businesses within the town centre close up and boarding is fitted to the front of all the shops to prevent damage to the properties. The people of Ashbourne then go to either watch or paticipate in this oldest of traditions.
The pubs all start to fill up and they never really empty off during the day into the evening. Its is a great social event in the Ashbourne Calander.
It is thought that the game originates from when there had been an execution and the head of the executed was tossed to the crowd and so the game begun.
I often wonder how this would be welcomed in this over PC society that we live in today. Just imagine the head of a convicted murderer or peadophile being tossed into the waiting crowd. Hmmm no. It just wouldn't happen would it. I think one year just for a reminder of where the game came from the ball should be painted like a head.
The game has not had its controversy. It has had many attempts to get it banned,most famous proberbly being in 1349 when Edward III tried to outlaw it as he claimed it interfered with his archery practice. There have also been calls for it to be banned on safety grounds and those of you who have attended the event will know it is not for the faint hearted especially if you get caught in the 'hug'. Saying this I always find the crowd behave in a very gentlemenly fashion. One example of this was a couple of years ago when I was there and a young boy got separated from his parents and then got trapped by the crowd against a barrier. The marshalls shouted for the crowd to back off and they duly obliged.Damage to properties and cars is always an issue to but this has been limited in recent years due to some good work by the marshalls and the crowd themselves showing a great deal of respect. On that note though, never park your car in the town centre area on either day as it is at a greater risk .
What are your stories of the game. I have spoke to many people over the years who come from far and wide to see the game. Last year I spoke to someone who had travelled from New Zealand to be there. Its a great event and a great spectacle that must be seen in your lifetime.
I go each year not to participate but just to take photos and to soak up the atmosphere and even sample a few of the local beverages.
Keep your eye out for me and say hello