- Macabre tales in Cheshire archive
- Online history books full of fun
As with every county in membership of the Rugby Football Union, the annals reveal a wealth of interesting statistics and general information. Sadly for the zealous archivists amongst us, much of that information from yesteryear is restricted to the keeper of the minute books, who usually takes the view that these documents must be constantly under lock and key as permanent reminders of a proud heritage that needs to be securely looked after.
Cheshire is such a county in that its history dates back to 1876, although the Liverpool club was founded in 1857, the oldest club in the game, with the Sale club being created in 1861 and Birkenhead Park club in 1871.
The important difference that Cheshire now boasts by comparison with most, if not all, other Constituent Bodies, is that the entire county archive has now been loaded on to the Cheshire RFU website, making the detailed history available to anyone who cares to read it.
And what an absorbing read it is for anyone who cares to delve into the past for there are countless golden strands interwoven into the colourful fabric of the game in Cheshire.
For example it would seem that football in one form or another has been played in the County since time immemorial, as ancient history reveals:
“The Roman game of ‘harpastum', in which two opposing bands of players threw the ball from man to man and attempted to carry it over their opponents base line is generally regarded as the origin of the game in Britain and must have been played in the important Roman garrison town of Chester.
However, legend has it that the first ball used by the natives of Cheshire was the head of a Dane. After being captured at Chester, he was slain and the population then ‘kicked his head about for sport’.”
Of more recent vintage, when the game had abandoned its macabre edge, there is a record of one imaginative match administration technique.
“One particular instance is recorded when there was a dispute over the validity of a try after some twenty minutes play. The matter was settled by starting the game all over again thus ensuring that ‘the players had no wind left to query further decisions’.”
Referees were a comparatively late innovation, which speaks much for the sporting spirit in which the game was played.
With such a long and distinguished archive to sift through, the student of Cheshire rugby has much material to work with and enjoy, not all of it attesting to a barbaric inclination.