Miscellaneous Sports

[Ancient Sports Contents]

Dundee Courier, Monday 1st January, 1934, p.10. 

ANCIENT FIFE GAMES TO-DAY 

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Kirkcaldy and Wemyss Contests 

   At Kirkcaldy and Wemyss this morning two ancient Ne’erday games peculiar to the respective places will be played. 

   On Dominic’s Green at Ravenscraig Park, Kirkcaldy, the game that will be played is called “A Bawbee She Kyles.” The origin of the game is obscure, but the procedure and rules of play are simple. 

   On the green – which is now, and as far as is known always was, a rather bumpy unkempt and undulating grassy plot – there is made an enlarged saucer-like hole. Towards this hole an iron ball is rolled, and if it enters the hole she has “kyled.” 

   The name of the game is derived from the fact that the spectators used to take on bets as to the result of each player’s effort. 

   The familiar cry of a century ago was “A bawbee she kyles,” and immediately someone would take on the challenge with an answering “A bawbee she doesn’t.” 

Original Ball 

   With the passing of the “bawbee” as a familiar token of exchange the cry changed from that to “A ha’penny she kyles,” and now – this being a reckless age – it is “A penny she kyles.” The old name sticks, however. 

   To-day the game will start shortly after ten o’clock, and it will be played with the original cannon ball, which is specially allowed each New Year’s Day to be taken from Kirkcaldy Museum for the purpose. 

   At East Wemyss they call their game “The Yettlins.” It is played on the rocks – or rather “the skellies.” 

   The game is played with a 23 oz. steel ball with a handle attached, and in several respects resembles the favourite Highland games sport of “puttin’ the ball.” 

   There is a draw among the competitors for their “turn” to throw the “yettlin.” The winner is he who throws it the greatest distance. 

Distance of Throw 

   The untrained novice may manage to throw the ball 50 or 60 yards, but quite a common feat among the practised veterans at Wemyss is 150 yards, and over 200 yards is not unknown. 

   The history of this game is hid in the shades of antiquity. There is awarded still to the winners a medal which was struck in 1847, and that is the earliest tangible record of the game’s existence. 

   It is almost certain, however, that the yettlins is a sport of very much greater antiquity, for it has all the elements of a sport which would be popular in the primitive days of “might is right.” 

   The game can only be played at certain periods of the tide, and to-day it is expected that play will start about 9 a.m. and continue for two hours. 

Dundee Evening Telegraph, Tuesday 1st January, 1935, p.1. 

YETTLINS MATCH POSTPONED 

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Ancient Sport at East Wemyss 

   The ancient game known as the yettlins, which has been played at East Wemyss for fully 200 years, has been postponed owing to the rocks on the beach being covered with debris which has been deposited from reconstructed houses nearby. 

   The game is played with an iron ball weighing 22 ozs., and flung by means of a strip of canvas wound round the ball and attached to the wrist of the thrower. 

   The competitor who can manage to cover the distance, approximately 500 yards, with the least amount of throwing is declared the winner. The medal now presented to the winner dates from 1849. 

Fifeshire Advertiser, Saturday 5th January, 1952, p.5. 

NOBODY TURNED UP FOR ANCIENT GAME 

“A Bawbee She Kyles” 

   NEW Year’s Day, 1952, was unique in one respect – not a soul turned up for the ancient game of “A Bawbee She Kyles,” played in the Ravenscraig Park from time immemorial. 

   Nobody followed the old custom of calling at the Museum on Hogmanay to borrow the 8 lb. iron ball used in the sport. 

   Only a handful of spectators turned up last year to witness the game, played on Dominic’s Green, a rough grassy slope overlooking the Forth. 

   The object is to roll the iron ball into any of the nine holes, arranged in groups of three. The players bet as to whether or not the ball will “kyle” – that is, drop into a hole. 

   Needless to say, penny stakes have replaced the bawbee, but it now looks as if the annual Raith Rovers v. East Fife game has drawn the spectators and players away from this ancient sport. 

   But it hasn’t always been like this, as our photographs show. 

Aberdeen Evening Express, Friday 21st July, 1978, p.5. 

   SCOTLAND’S recent football defeat could soon be erased by victory in another sporting world championship – the ancient and noble art of haggis hurling. 

   The second of the championship’s ten heats will be held next Thursday in Dufftown, the highlight of their gala week. 

   The event will be attended by Mr Robin Dunseath, secretary of the World Haggis Hurling Association, and Scotland’s foremost Chief Hagrarian, Mr Neil Scroggie. 

   It is Mr Scroggie’s job to ensure that the haggises are in order and the rules obeyed. He must also inspect the hurling pitch and report on the “going” to the hurlers. 

   Mr James Murray, chairman of the Dufftown and District Games Association, said: “People have entered this heat from as far as the south of Scotland. But we don’t know just how many haggis hurlers we’ll have as anyone can turn up on the day.” 

WORLD RECORD 

   The world record of 149 feet 8 inches was set last year in Fochabers by Evan Clark. The first of this year’s heats, held in Birmingham, was won by Englishman Frank Muir with a hurl of 88 feet. But Mr Murray has no doubt as to the quality of the Dufftown hurling. 

   “I think the world champion could well be in danger,” he said. “The hurling haggis is 1½lbs for the official event. But I’ve seen people in Buckie hurl 120 feet with a 2½lb haggis.” 

   Buckie butcher Mr Alex Stewart is providing the haggis, made to a recipe handed down from his father. 

   “This is the most unusual request I’ve had, and I’m delighted to be asked,” he said, but added wistfully: “Of course, we’d prefer people to eat them rather than throw them away.” 

   Mr Dunseath, probably the world’s leading authority on the ethics of the sport, explained that the haggis must be aerodynamically sound and must not burst on impact. 

YELLOW CARD 

   The Clerk of the Heather rules each hurl “fair” or “foul,” and hurlers can be shown the yellow card, as in football. They can also be shown the red card for a dangerous or indecent hurl. 

   “You sometimes get an indecent hurl when the hurler is wearing the kilt,” said Mr Dunseath cryptically. 

   He felt unable to say at this stage whether Scots would outshine other nationalities in this revival of a traditional Scottish sport. 

   “However, we should have the answer by next year,” he said. “The association has had requests to organise competitions in North America, Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria and Singapore.” 

   Only one problem threatens to mar the event. Some Dufftown residents are afraid that visiting tourists may misunderstand the nature of the sport. 

   “They may think the hurled haggises are grouse and shoot them down,” said one man. “And a trigger-happy mob is something the gala week can do without.” 

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