The Ashbourne Telegraph dated March 10, 1916, reported that for the second year Shrovetide Football had been played ‘under the shadow of the great war’.
Two large photographs illustrated the page, which carried the multi-deck headlines: Ye Ancient Game, Vigorous Football in Snowstorms, Animated Scenes, Exciting incidents.
The snowy conditions apparently did little to dull the enthusiasm of either players or supporters.
“There were certainly no signs of a diminution of enthusiasm on the part of the many lady supporters who turned up on both days in good numbers and made the streets and meadows ring with their encouraging cries to their respective sides, sometimes varied with an altercation between themselves,” the paper reported.
The first ball, ‘turned up’ by Mr W Fowell of the Coach and Horses, was painted in national colours and bore the inscriptions For Auld Lang Syne and Ye Olde Game.
The detailed report was full of descriptive passages: “The players, ignoring the discomfort which a blinding snowstorm was causing, joined in singing ‘Keep the home fires burning, while your hearts are yearning’. There was certainly not much need of warmth in the hug as the steam rose from them in a cloud.”
The first day’s play ended when the Upwards ‘goaled’ at Sturston in the evening.
Wednesday’s weather was even worse than the previous day. Snow fell all morning and there were repeated showers for the rest of the day.
The Telegraph’s reporter employed the language of war to describe the scenes:
“Snowballs were flying about in hundreds and the cross fire (which by the way was quite off the area of play) might have been a miniature bombardment of Verdun.
“The youths of the ‘trenches’ eventually ‘silenced the guns’ of the ‘citadel’ and one by one the defenders of the later withdrew from the contest, the last to leave being a young lady who ‘stuck to her guns’ till the situation was hopeless.”
It was the Downwards who reached their goal in the end – meaning it was ‘honours shared’.
Reports of the Ashbourne Urban and Rural District Military Tribunals dominated the back page. Each case detailed the reason for the application to be exempted from military service and the tribunal’s decision.
“Mr George Parkin, pork butcher, applied on behalf of his son, Samuel Benjamin. Applicant said there was only himself and his wife and son to manage the business.
“The tribunal informed the applicant that they had decided not to give absolute exemption for any single men, as if the single men were not sent it would mean the married men would have to go. The application would therefore be refused.”
Mr Reginald Bagnall, the proprietor of Bagnall’s Cash Stores, grocer’s, of Market Place made a personal appeal on the grounds that he was a sole trader and there was no one else to take charge of the business. If he were sent away it would mean ‘absolute ruin to him’. He was granted a temporary extension of three months.
In rural areas, where farmers and their sons worked the land, labour was at a premium. Mr GW Slater of Hopton applied for his three sons, Henry, 18, James 20, and Joseph Cornelius, 25. They farmed 350 acres, 30 of which was arable, the tribunal was told. The tribunal exempted Henry until September, granted James an absolute exemption, but refused one for Joseph. No reasons were given in the Telegraph’s report.
Corporal Plant, a member of an old Ashbourne family was said to have followed Kipling’s advice and “chucked his job and joined in” when he signed up with the 11th Cheshire Regiment in September 1914. He was serving in the grenade section, an activity the paper acknowledged was ‘particularly dangerous’.
He was joined in the Ashbourne Telegraph’s picture gallery on page 3 by Private T Henshaw who, along with comrades in the 6th Sherwood Foresters, had been drafted out to France in January 1915 and had taken part in the ‘historic struggle around Hill 60’. The paper reported that the effects of the weather had resulted in him being invalided home and he had been in hospital in Nottingham with rheumatism.
Private HA Waring of The Cross, Wootton, enlisted on September 4, 1914 and joined the British Expeditionary Force with the Army Cycling Corps.
Three more men became numbers 98, 99 and 100 in the roll of honour: Private Arthur Collis of Dove Street, Ellastone who was serving with the Royal Fusiliers in the Mediterrnean; Osmaston’s Private L Brown of the King’s Liverpool Regiment who enlisted in August 1914, and Trooper A Allen, also from Osmaston, of the Derbyshire Imperial Yeomanry. He had been mobilised at the outbreak of war and saw action on the Gallipoli peninsular. He was said to have still been in the ‘eastern theatre of war’.
- My fellow researcher and De Montfort University colleague John Dilley is conducting a similar real-time project with the Market Harborough Advertiser. Check out his Newspapers and the Great Warblog