Cornish Folk Tradition: Songs Music Dance and Associated Customs
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Hurling - Traditional Cornish Sport

 

Hurling

Cornish Hurling is a traditional sports custom which is part of feast day celebrations and goes hand in hand with other customs. It was widespread across Cornwall in the Early 17th Century at time of Richard Carew Survey Of Cornwall where it is described it as “A play (verily) both rude & rough” There are three remaining living traditions in Cornwall: at St Ives on the feast day celebrating their patron saint, St Eia, in February; at St Columb Major on Shrove Tuesday and the Saturday of the following week; and every four years at Bodmin for the beating of the bounds in April. It is played with a ball made of applewood, slightly smaller than a cricket ball and covered in solid silver.  The ball at St Columb is inscribed with the Cornish moto  “Gwary Whek Yu Gwary Tek” (good play is fair play).

In St Ives Hurling is now a game for children and centres simply on possession of the ball. In St Columb Hurling is for adults and it is probably fair to say that Carew’s description still holds true. Goals (granite troughs) are set at either side of the town a mile away from the Market Square. There are two teams representing “town” and “country”, and the ball is thrown up in Market Square.  The person who places the ball in his own goal or carries it over the parish boundary later is the winner. He is later “chaired” by his supporters and paraded the mile back from the goal while they sing the Hurling Song. After which the participants adjourn for their “silver beer” and a singing session all of which provides a good example of a folk tradition in its original location.

Links:

St Ives Hurling

St Columb Hurling

The Hurling Song

The Hurling Song
Jim Wearne (a Cornish American folk singer from Illinois) attended a lecture given by Cornish Bard Colin Roberts entitled “The Hurling Ball” at the Dehwelans Festival in Looe in 2008.  He was inspired by the refrain associated with “chairing” the winning hurler to write a song, made a start on the words and tracked down Colin Roberts on the internet to check for accuracy.  After various exchanges, Colin who lived in St Columb, invited Jim to come over and join them for The Hurling in 2011 which he did.  The upshot is that Jim sang his song with Colin’s group during a gig the Coaching Inn, St Columb. This stirred up local memory of further verses, particularly for pub landlord Brian Bazeley who was also singing with Colin at the time. Brian went on to rework the traditional words and Jim’s tune to revive the song in its entirety.               

 

The Hurling Song ( Jim Wearne’s lyrics)
In the Parish of St Columb, every year there comes a day
Whether you are town or country, everybody’s got to play
A game that’s known as hurling, it’s a very Cornish game
And if you go and play it, you may never be the same

  Chorus
For we roll, roll the Silver Ball along
And we roll, roll the Silver Ball along
And we roll, roll the Silver Ball along
And we’ll all chase on behind

A man stands on a ladder, and he throws a silver ball
The crowd is there to catch it, brave souls one and all
There are no rules or order, to govern how they play
The purpose is to reach the goal, tiz only a mile away

    If the Devil’s in the way we will roll right over him
If the Devil’s in the way we will roll right over him
If the Devil’s in the way we will roll right over him
And we’ll all chase on behind

The ball is tossed from hand to hand, with many bumps and blows
And many lumps and bruises, and sanguinary flows
But if you’ve had a baby, by the window you must stand
The ball is tossed up to you, to touch the baby’s hand

    If they won’t get out the way we will lock ‘em in the safe
If they won’t get out the way we will lock ‘em in the safe
If they won’t get out the way we will lock ‘em in the safe
And we won’t drag on behind

All afternoon and evening, the contest rages on
If no one gets to win the ball, it might go on till dawn
But sometime soon or later, you will hear a mighty shout
And either town or country, has won the yearly bout

    For we roll, we roll the St Columb Ball along
And we roll, we roll the St Columb Ball along
If Newquay’s in the way we will roll ‘em in the zay
And we won’t drag on behind

The ball is brought back into town, with merry shout and song
Bruises are forgotten, and the children come along
They throng into the local pubs, and drink the silver beer
A merry time is had by all, who come from far and near

     We will pass, pass the Silver Beer around
We will pass, pass the Silver Beer around
We will pass, pass the Silver Beer around
Then we’ll all go marching home

Everywhere there’s football, of any sort or kind
If you enquire closely, a common source you’ll find
They all began with hurling, from Cornwall they all came
So you can thank the Cornish, for the universal game

    In another year’s time we will throw it up again
In another year’s time we will throw it up again
In another year’s time we will throw it up again
And we’ll all chase on behind

 Additional or alternative choruses

    For we roll, roll the Town Ball we roll
And we roll, roll the Town Ball we roll
And we roll, roll the Town Ball we roll
And we all come marching home

    For we roll, roll the Country Ball we roll
And we roll, roll the Country Ball we roll
And we roll, roll the Country Ball we roll
And we all come marching home

    For we roll, roll the Silver Ball along
And we roll, roll the Silver Ball along
And we roll, roll the Silver Ball along
And we’ll all chase on behind

    Ni a wra rol, rol an bel arghans a-hys
Ha ni a wra rol, rol an bel arghans a-hys
Ha ni a wra rol, rol an bel arghans a-hys
Ha ni a wra oll dos tre

 

An Daras, doorway in Cornish, is an outreach project of Lowender Peran, Cornwall’s Celtic festival, and provides a portal to the distinctive traditions of Cornwall . The links on the site map will take you to the tunes, songs, dances and associated traditions of Cornwall. There are also links to teaching materials and further research work and publications on Cornish Folk Tradition.

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