Conkers: conquerors compete in quirky quest
SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia
Recalling carefree days playing conkers in an Essex (UK) primary school yard
80 years ago, I'd like to be in Ashton, an English village near Oundle in
Northamptonshire, on October 8, for the World Conker Championships. After that,
I'd make my way to County Kilkenny to watch the Irish Conker Championship on
The first recorded game of conkers took place in the Isle of Wight in 1848,
and it soon became popular as a children's pastime played in school yards
throughout Britain and Ireland. (I was a fanatical player in the 1920s). Then,
in 1965 a group of drinkers in a village pub began playing conkers instead of
going fishing. Their modest game gradually developed into a world contest.
"Thousands flock to Ashton to watch this great spectacle as modern day
gladiators fight for glory armed only with a nut and 12inches [30cm] of string,"
trumpets the official website. Two contestants take turns to hit their
opponent's conker with their own, until one of the nuts breaks.
The French Conkers Federation displays a well illustrated account of the
Ashton championships on its attractive website. It reports:
10,000 persons, 450 players, all the present English media,
arbitrators and officials everywhere around us. It is incredible, crazy,
raving, they are Conkers's world championships. The second Sunday of October
becomes the compulsory meeting of all the followers of the Conkers.
Every year since 1995, the members of the Team of France go in this
temple to pick up the supreme title. At the moment, our best place is the
second in male individual classification because 4 years ago, our team
returned to France with the Vice-champion of Conkers's world, but the second
place in this game, it is the place of the idiot!!!
In 1999, a report in the Glasgow (Scotland) Sunday Herald said times were
changing at Tony Blair's old school, Fettes College in Edinburgh. The annual
rugby and hockey competitions between masters and pupils had been scrapped and
In some parts of England conkers are called obblyonkers or cheggies.
Americans call them buckeyes. Ohio, where they're found in large numbers
(although they're smaller than the European variety), is often called The
"My grandpa gets buckeyes from his buckeye trees for me so I can make buckeye
necklaces, bracelets and key chains," 10-year-old Gabrielle Dendinger wrote in a
Grandparents' Day message in Ohio's Columbus Dispatch.
But I've never heard of a buckeye world championship.
FOOTNOTE. My 50-year-old Concise Oxford Dictionary states that one
meaning of the word "conqueror" is a "horse-chestnut that has broken others
in boys' game of conkers."
Golden Spurtle World Porridge-Making Championship
While the World Conker Contest is in progress in England on October 8,
further north, the 13th annual Golden Spurtle World Porridge-Making
Championship will take place in Carrbridge, Inverness-shire, Scotland.
contest website says "The piper, millers, judges and entrants meet at the
famous bridge for a complimentary dram to toast ‘The Porridge’ before
proceeding to the Village Hall where the competition commences. Badenoch and
Strathspey Pipe Band will play at bridge and then lead procession.".
in the world is a spurtle? A year ago, Velvet Perston proudly told the
Sydney Morning Herald's Column 8 that she had "been using my husband's
spurtle every day of our married life."
Here's a definition from the
Some say porridge should only be stirred in a clock wise direction
using the right hand so you don't evoke the 'Devil'. The stirring is
done with a straight wooden spoon /stick without a moulded or flat end
and known is Scotland as a 'Spurtle' or 'Theevil'. Porridge should
always be spoken of as 'they' and old custom states that it should be
eaten standing up. A bone spoon should always be used for eating
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