Dating back over a 1000 years, Cornish Hurling is one of Cornwall’s oldest traditions. Of precise origin unknown, the game originally involved Cornish countrymen and townsmen competing in a particularly physical, ‘rough and tumble’ pursuit of a silver ball. Made up of applewood coated in silver and of cricket ball-sized proportions, the ball would become the object of fierce competition, with competitors grappling to keep it within their possession and eventually claim victory.
These days, the game has become all but lost to history, with only St Ives and St Columb Major, near Newquay, continuing the tradition once a year. In collaboration with the St Ives Feast, Cornish Hurling, or Hurling the Silver Ball, is a key part of the day’s festivities. Celebrating the anniversary of the consecration of the Parish Church of St Eia, the patron saint of St Ives, in 1434AD, the feast enjoys live music and processions throughout the day.
A great way for kids and big-kids alike to get involved in local celebrations, the St Ives Feast encourages young people to learn about Cornish traditions and folklore. Townsfolk and children sport ivy in remembrance of St Eia, who is said to have crossed the sea from Ireland on a boat made of ivy, and at half past ten the mayor 'throws up' the silver ball, blessed in the holy well of St Eia, to begin the games.
If you’d like to get involved, Cornish Hurling is a great way to enjoy festivities within the community and revive Cornish tradition. While on Shrove Tuesday in St Columb Major men compete for the ball, competitors in St Ives are now largely made up of children and teenagers, so there are opportunities for all the family to get involved. It’s also worth noting that, should a member of the audience wish to handle the ball, the game will be paused – as the ball is traditionally thought to bring health and fertility!