Film ID:
NEFA 22027



Visitor Tabs


Tyne Tees Television reporter Alister Harrison covers the historic annual Shrove Tuesday ‘mob’ football match in Alnwick, also known as ‘Scoring the Hales’, played between the parishes of St Michael and St Paul. It’s a sporting spectacle with very few rules and no-holds barred tackling, which takes place in the Pastures and River Aln. This filmed report was broadcast on the regional news programme Northern Life on 22 February 1977.

On Shrove Tuesday the Duke of Northumberland’s Estate Surveyor, David Graham, waves off the contestants from the battlements of Alnwick Castle. On a misty day the villagers and contestants make their way down the road from the castle to the Pastures. The Duke’s piper Tom Matthews leads the town folk down the Peth and across the Pastures towards the River Aln.

Harrison’s voice-over explains that ‘This is no ordinary football match. The goal is just 4 foot 6 inches in width, but they are 440 yards apart.’

A man hands over the ball to a teenage boy wearing Skinners jeans and Doc Martin boots who kicks off the ball to start the game. The crowd of hundreds race off after the ball across the muddy grass towards the small garlanded goal. A goal is scored. Some of the men celebrate and start to walk back for the second kick-off.

A man throws the ball high into the air and the scramble for the ball begins again. One young man falls onto his back in the mud. The crowd battling for the ball includes one teenage girl. There’s a lot of farcical rough-and-tumble between players. The flared jeans are getting muddy and an older chap falls backwards.

Another ‘hale’ or goal is scored. The ‘referee’ takes down the name of the young scorer.

Players are slipping all over the place on the muddy pasture. The large crowd of spectators and competitors gather beside the River Aln after the game, some young men now bare-chested. A few of the men dive into the river and swim after the ball that has been kicked into the Aln and a mad scramble begins in the water to get the ball and carry it to the opposite bank. A bare-chested seventeen year old Steve Fannon (?) walks back with the ball as the other soaked competitors shake themselves off.

[The Duke of Northumberland's Piper Tom Matthews (1971-1982) took on the position after Jack Armstrong retired due to ill health.]