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  • Writer's picture Tim Caple

"No Pie No Priest"

Welcome back to the podcast as we return from a brief hiatus over the summer and look ahead to what is the book industries busiest time of the year in the run up to Christmas and I am trying hard to make sure the choice of books and authors we have on the show is as varied as possible and isn't just a collection of books on football.

Now if after a month of the football season you are already tiring of headlines which are nothing to do with the sport itself but about money ,scandals on and off pitch ,celebrity presenters etc then we have the perfect antidote to all of it with "No Pie No Priest" by award winning author and journalist Harry Pearson.

This then is a whimsical stroll through the shires and counties of England on a voyage discovering "Folk Sports" most of which are still performed today all of which have deep histories some in the case of "Stoolball" goes back to the late 1700's and was once "one of the fastest growing sports in England" and was one of the very few sports other than Cricket to have been played at Lords and there is a question to test your knowledge what other sports have been played at Lords aside from Cricket ? Lacrosse was

another and Baseball the "Boston Red Stockings" as they were known at the time were granted this considerable privilege.

Harry joined me last week to talk about some of the inclusions in the book it is hard to believe that "Stoolball" "Aunt Sally" and "Cheese Rolling" all still exist those of you reading this who are based in Gloucestershire will know very well the continuing popularity of "Coopers Hill Cheese Rolling" every spring bank holiday people from all over the World come to town ready to literally risk life and limb by racing down a hill trying to catch a 5lb Double Gloucester.

Where did Harry get the idea for the book in the first place well it came after someone sent him a video clip from the 1972 "Knur and Spell" World Championships

Harry Pearson:

Well, someone sent me a YouTube video of the World Knur and Spell Championships from the early 1970s, in which Fred Truman turned up in all his indoor league glory with that sort of hairstyle that looked like a ferret that had fallen asleep on top of his head and I watched that and then investigated that a bit and then I realized that there were lots of these sports that had either fallen by the wayside they say that they're going to campaign to become part of the Olympics, you know, which is always the sort of it that was always a thing wasn't it, to legitimize a sport.

And here is the video of those 1972 "Knur and Spell" World Championships at times it does resemble a sketch from an episode of Monty Python or Ripping Yarns but as you will see this was taken very seriously indeed with all sorts of conspiracy plotting and subterfuge throughout the days


tim caple:

This book that's set then isn't just about weird, abandoned sports of yesteryear ski ballet and aerial golf, but these are traditional sports, centuries old, and as you said, deeply rooted and still played competitively. So did you have a list? were there any that didn't make the cut?

Harry Pearson:

No, no, I think I think I've covered most of them. I think what I wanted was to do things, say they're not self-reverentially zany. They're not like bog snorkeling or something like that. They're actually sports that have evolved in the same way that football or cricket evolved. They've evolved organically over a period of centuries. Most of them do date back to the same times that cricket and football emerged. And some of them are so rough that no one, the Cooper's Hill cheese rolling. which sounds like a sort of zany British thing, all everyone chasing after a cheese. But if you actually watch it, I mean, Andy Smart, who sadly died early this year, the comedian, he said to me that he'd run with the bulls in Pamplona 62 times, and he'd slayed down Ben Nevis on a Lilo, and he said that he did the Cooper's Hill cheese rolling once, and that was enough.

Once was enough then ?

Harry Pearson:

Yeah, exactly, but it was a kind of comical thing that I said to him, so the Spanish run away from bulls and the English run after a cheese. And you say that the running after the cheese is more dangerous.

tim caple:

I picked various sports out to look at, and you're usually drawn by the name so Stoolball and one of the earliest references to this in print was in the Evening Standard well over a century ago. I love the reporting talking of... Merry milk maids, flashing ankles and rippling petticoats.

Harry Pearson:

Yeah, well, this was the kind of dairy maids form of cricket. And when cricket was invented around the same time and in the same area in Sussex and just as shepherds invented cricket, playing it with the things that they had a crook and a ball of wool and a picket gate the milk maids played a game very similar where they used to, they used a butter paddle and a milking stool as the wicket. So it was very similar to cricket. They run up and down it, but it was always played by women. And it's l the first sport, you know, developed by women for women. And probably the first great English female sports star was Gertrude Brandy, played for the Glynde Butterflies and she scored Stool balls first century in 1868. And unfortunately, her career was cut short. She actually retired when she was 24, not because of injury, but because of something far worse matrimony.

To listen to the full podcast with Harry you can find it here on the website or stream it from any streaming platform just look for "Talking Sports Books"

Elsewhere we covered "Aunt Sally and "Cheese Rolling" you will be amazed just how many people still actively participate in these Sports and last word on Stoolball the first ever England Stoolball match took place only back in 2013.

Moving on in the next edition of the show I will be joined by Carl "The Jackal" Frampton MBE the former Super Bantamweight + Super Featherweight World Champion ahead of the release of his new autobiography and this isn't just a glossy tale of talented boy makes good on potential Carl has not shied away from exploring and dealing with sensitive subject matter .

The next edition of the show is due toward the end of September in the meantime you can catch up with all the previous editions of the show either here on the website or in any streaming platform .

Do feel free to get in touch if you have a new book which might be suitable for the podcast we do schedule these quite a way in advance so for example there is only very limited space left in the run up to Christmas.

Thanks for stopping by

Tim Caple

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