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Ragamuffin Purring in 1873 (Preston) May 3, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

shin bandages

In the early days of this blog Beach celebrated the ancient Lancashire sport of purring or clog fighting (1, 2), where an opponents shins are reduced to bloody jelly with the white bone showing through. Sorry for that. In the hope of reviving this thread of posts here is a nineteenth-century allusion to the sport as played by ragamuffins from rough Preston in 1873. The editor included it under the ironic title ‘A New Scientific and Interesting Street Pastime’. In fact, the editor is one of the world weary Victorians, so much preferable to the mroe common sanctimonious variety.  The clue that we are dealing with some adolescent version of purring comes twice towards the end with the crucial references to shins.

Verily tastes run oddly sometimes. Lately there has sprung up a new evening street game, which one may be sure could be invented nowhere but in Preston, and it will certainly not find imitators beyond its borders. The game is this. Four, five, or six hobbledehoys of some 18 or 20 years or age, assemble we will say at the end of Bridge-lane, Friargate, and watch the shadow of a departing ‘Bobby’ [policeman] as he slowly recedes from view; keeping an eye at the same time on the distant figure of his advancing colleague sedately patrolling the street in a contrary direction. The coast being for a moment clear, they all rush out, and in the greatest good humour commence kicking one whose turn it is to stand to be the recipient of their favours, and the sport is continued until the approaching ‘Bobby’ compels them to beat an expeditious retreat into hidlands. On his departure another has to stand ‘butty’ in the same way, until all have had a taste of their mutual friendship and esteem for each other in this way. The hazard and real spirit of the game is kicking up this pitched row, and yet eluding the ‘Bobbies;’ for if one be caught and taken to the lockup, he is considered the losing party and ranks as ‘duffer’ in their estimation, and hast to stand the jeers of the rest. If fox hunters will run the risk of having their necks broken to enjoy their sport, who shouldn’t hobbledehoys have their shins broken in innocent recreation? Some poet or other once penned the line, ‘Around the rugged rock, the reckless ragged rascals rollicking ran their rural race,’ and very likely we shall be having by and by a similar poem in reference to this shin kicking street frolic.

Any other purring clues: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com