Cornish Rugby

Sent in by St Hilary

” As far as the issue of Cornish pride in the game of Rugby is concerned, there is no debate that by owning the first ever published account of the game (Carew in 1602) the Cornish truly own the game of rugby.

Is that not something on which we can all rest, content with our contribution to worldwide sport?

I saw and heard radio, tv, newspaper and magazine articles whilst in New Zealand in September which clearly, unequivocally and repeatedly stated that the claims made in England that, “… a boy called William Webb Ellis in a school in the town of Rugby picked up a ball and ran with it…” are complete unfounded nonsense when applied to the creation of the game of Rugby.

In his ‘Survey of Cornwall’ in 1602 Richard Carew wrote that,

“For hurling to goal there are 15, 20 or 30 players moreorless who strip themselves to their slightest apparel and then join hands in ranks against each other – every of which couple are specially to watch one another during play. They pitch two bushes in the ground 8 or 10 feet asunder and 12 score feet (80 yards) apart. One goal is appointed by lots to one side, the other to his adverse.

There is assigned for their guard a couple of their best stopping hurlers, the residue draw into the midst between the two goals where some indifferent person (the ref) throweth up a ball, the which whosoever can catch and carry through his adversary’s goal hath won the game.

But therein consisteth one of Hercules his labours, for he that is once possessed of the ball hath his contrary mate waiting and assaying to lay hold of him. The other thrusteth him in the breast with his closed fist … if he escape the first, another taketh him in hand, and so a third, neither is he left until he touch the ground with some part of his body, then must he cast the ball to some one of his fellows, who catching the ball in his hand maketh away as before.

The hurlers are bound to the observation of many laws … the hurler must not butt nor hand-fast below the girdle, and he must deal no fore ball, ie. he may not throw it to any of his mates standing nearer the goal than himself.

Lastly, in dealing the ball, if any of the other part can catch it flying between, or ere the other have it first, he thereby winneth the same to his side, which straighway o fdefendant becometh assailant.”

IF THAT IS NOT A CLEAR DESCRIPTION OF AN EARLY GAME OF RUGBY THEN I AM ENGLISH.
Would it not be a matter of great pride for players, management and supporters alike if that, or parts of it, were published in the Pirates Clubhouse and in the Pirates literature. It is a statement of FACT, so there would be no point in arguing about it.
St Hilary”

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