No Pie, No Priest
By Harry Pearson
WSC regular Harry Pearson takes a warm and witty journey around Britain in pursuit of the lost folk sports that somehow still linger on in the glitzy era of the Premier League and Sky Sports to find out how and why they have survived and to meet the characters who keep them going.
When Victorian public schoolmasters and Oxbridge-educated gentlemen were taming football, codifying cricket, bringing the values of muscular Christianity to the boxing ring and the athletics field, games that dated back to the pagan era clung on in isolated pockets of rural Britain, unmodified by contemporary tastes, shunned by the media and sport’s ruling elites.
Here they remain, small, secret worlds, free from media scrutiny and VAR controversies, wreathed in an arcane language of face-gaters, whack-ups, potties, gates-of-hell and the Dorset flop; as much a part of the British countryside as the natterjack toad and almost as endangered. No Pie, No Priest! travels through Britain in search of the nation’s traditional rural sports, seeking out the championship of Knur and Spell (a Viking forefather of golf) on the West Yorkshire moors; watching Irish Road Bowling in County Armagh (once a surprising interest of England cricket captain Mike Brearley), Popinjay at Kilwinning Abbey in Ayrshire, the Aunt Sally competitions of Oxfordshire, and taking in world championship Stoolball (often considered the dairymaid’s form of cricket) and Toad-in-the-Hole in West Sussex.
No Pie, No Priest! combines sports reporting, travelogue and history, and features a cast of bucolic eccentrics and many deeply impenetrable regional accents.
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Hardback, 248 pages