Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide 2016 - photographs

The ball surfaces briefly, in a time honoured tradition which dates back centuries

The ball surfaces briefly, in a time honoured tradition which dates back centuries - Credit: Archant

2016 proved a vintage year for Ashbourne’s world famous Shrovetide game

On Shrove Tuesday former Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School teacher Barry Greenwood turned up the ball from the plinth in a packed Shawcroft at 2pm – following the traditional celebratory luncheon and spirited renditions of Auld Lang Syne and God Save The Queen. Unusually the action moved into the town centre and a fast and well-matched game ensued for the next three hours. Although the Down’ards, those born south of Henmore Brook, saw a lot of action, as dusk fell the ball was spirited away to the Up’ards’ goal at Sturston Mill where Gary Ratcliffe scored a goal. Timed at 5.16pm, it was after the 5pm cut-off time and so marked the end of play for the day.

Ash Wednesday saw Second World War veteran Bill Millward take his place on the plinth to launch the ball into the ‘hug’. Bill, who drove an amphibious landing craft in the D-Day landings, was awarded a Legion d’Honneur last year. He was also celebrating his 100th birthday and gave a moving speech before his chance to turn up the ball was greeted with a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday to you’. This year’s game also remembered the First World War and the occasion a century ago when the game was played by soldiers of the 1/6th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby) regiment in the French village of Sus-St-Leger.

Play resumed and it was once again as dusk settled that the teams approached a goal – this time Clifton for the Down’ards. The honour went to Matthew Etherington from Mayfield who followed in the footsteps of his ancestors and goaled the ball for a well-fought draw.