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Non-ball Games

The third set is a mixed bag. Easter Monday at Hallaton is famous for the name alone, never mind the mob-football. The ‘Hare Pie Scramble and Bottle Kicking’ has a fine English Eccentric ring about it, especially since the hare pie is beef and not scrambled for (though it once was) but distributed in a fairly orderly fashion, and the ‘bottles’ are three small wooden barrels, which are certainly not kicked! The ‘Bottle Kicking’ is actually classic mob football between the parishes of Hallaton and Medbourne. The Haxey Hood Game takes mob football to extremes. There is much preliminary ritual, led by thirteen ‘boggins’. The ‘Fool’ makes his speech while being ‘smoked’ concluding with the words ‘so it’s hoose agin hoose, toon agin toon, if a man meets a man knock a man doon - but don’t ’urt ’im!’ and the ‘Hood’ is thrown up by the King Boggin, whereupon it disappears into a vast scrum of heaving bodies, known as the ‘sway’, and is not usually seen again for several hours until it has been conveyed by primeval force to one of the four local pubs and touched by the landlord – who then provides beer for all and keeps the hood for the rest of the year.

Down in Dorset, after the Annual Meeting of the Ancient Order of Marblers and Stone Cutters of the Isle of Purbeck, the quarrymen kick a football through Corfe to Owre Quay to perpetuate their right to use the road to carry stone to Poole Harbour. The need to do this is long gone and it is certainly not mob football – but lorry drivers and motorists furiously disagree. Whether the Eton Wall Game is mob football or not is a matter for philosophical debate. Etonians claim the rules are myriad and therefore impenetrable to outsiders – one said, ‘its like a game of chess in there’. The strategies involved in scoring a goal are so complex that it is over a hundred years since it actually happened. However, Collections suspects that the rules are akin to the famous radio game ‘Mornington Crescent’. Look it up on Google. The Bakers and Sweeps Football at Waltham Cross on Boxing Day is a curiosity. According to their own publicity it was started by local businessmen in Cheshunt in 1908 and moved the couple of miles south after WW2. It was always a charitable event, run by the Bakers and Sweeps Charity which still goes on. Today the popular fracas is little more than an exercise in getting everyone (including spectators) covered with as much flour, soot, mud and ‘gunk’ as possible but it does appear to have genuine mob football credentials. ‘Bakers and Sweeps’ is well within the tradition – married and unmarried, town and country, Uppies and Downies – and there actually was a large bakery in Cheshunt at the time. Bakers made the bread and the sweeps kept the ovens efficient. Collections has not researched this much but we feel sure that this is a revival or at least based on a game that the businessmen knew about...