As we continue with my father-in-law’s stories about his childhood and teens in Waterford he remembers the two very important leisure activities that occupied the men in the summer months particular. The first is the very strict rules for Pitch and Toss and the second is for Cricket.
Chapter Five – The Rules (Woodstown) of Pitch And Toss and How To Play It
Any number can play, but six was considered a minimum because each player’s stake was two pennies (pre-decimal) and six would provide a “pot” of one shilling.
Select a level piece of ground – soft clay or sandy – out of the breeze as cross winds can affect play.
Select a pyramid shaped stone about an inch high and inch and a half at the base and place it on the ground. It must sit firmly on its base and the ground around it should be worked over to a depth of a quarter inch or so. The idea here is that when a penny is pitched to land near this stone it will not bounce but stick where it lands. The stone is known a “The Motty”.
A tall man must now mark off seven paces from the Motty to “the line”.
Each player now stands in turn at the line and pitches one penny to the Motty.
When all the players have done this the nearness of each penny to the Motty determines the order in which the player will pitch and each player is numbered.
Now the game proper begins:- each player goes to the line by number and pitches two pennies to the Motty. The one nearest the Motty is left on the ground and the other one is picked up by the umpire or “purser” who stands by the Motty.
When all the players have pitched it is mutually decided by nearness of penny to the Motty which player is 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.
All the pennies are now picked up by the purser and handed to the player who is “first”.
Now comes the vital part – the tossing! The player who is first places two pennies on a match box held between finger and thumb (the harp side must be facing upwards) and tosses them over his head so that they spin to the ground. Any penny which lands “head” side up he keeps and those which land “harp” side up are handed on to the player who is second and so on till there are no pennies left and the game goes on to the next round the players keeping the same order as in 6.
To play the game today, use a 2p coin – it is nearest in size to the old penny.
Some players would not uses a match box to toss, preferring to use the flat of 2 fingers or a flat piece of stick called a “Fecker” (for “feckin’ ’em” up in the air!).
When there was a really big school – maybe 30 men – kids and sometimes men who literally did not have two pennies, would stand in the crowd near the Motty and when a penny would “go astray” or if an argument got going about the position of the pennies, our friend would put his foot down on the delinquent coin and stand his ground for a while.
Then he would quietly inch to the back of the crowd, hopefully bringing the penny with him, when he could quickly bend down and pocket it. If a fellow could do this twice, he could have the stake of 2 pence to join in the game. This dodge was known as “Stooping” and may have been the origin of the question “how could one stoop so low?” The penalty for a stooper would be unpleasant!!
“Arguing the toss” also came from this game.
Woodstown Cricket Club
Woodstown cricket pitch was situated about a ¼ mile from the beach on the left hand side of the road to Waterford. The field itself was owned by Sir Robert Paul’s family (I believe), or perhaps the estate of Winston Barron – memory fails me here. Anyway, it was mowed and rolled regularly and was as level as a billiard table.
According to the cricket moguls of the time it was “the best pitch in Europe” and was “nice and springy” and in no way “dead to the ball” and “sure wasn’t there a good reason for everything, because at the time the pitch was laid there was an oul’ galleon ran aground on Woodstown strand and didn’t they bury the wreck under the cricket pitch and so ’tis no wonder it’s nice and springy”. Make what you like of that fable – perhaps wreckers of the time buried their evidence there – but it was without doubt a beautiful pitch.
I recall that there were matches there most Sundays during the summer and it was the place to go. All the locals would watch standing on the roadside ditch and those with no interest in the game could see everybody who was coming and going to beach.
Those who had cars – the secretary, Mr. O’Meara, had a Morris Cowley two-seater with a “dickey seat” in the back – would drive into the field and park to face the action. Their ladies, meantime, would be in the marquee setting up the tea for the teams.
Scorekeepers would sit on rugs at vantage points at the boundaries marking their (very detailed) score sheets and girls (who had the makings) would saunter along, from the gate to the far end of the field and back, pretending to be in deep conversation while they posed and covertly watched the reactions from the assembled gathering. It was really the place to be on your new bicycle.
The last time I looked into that field it was ploughed and harrowed and a crop of corn was peeping through the sod. I thought with great affection of all the lovely days I had there and I could almost hear the crowd cheering as Boundary Bill drove a ball over the trees at the far side of the road. I was on a sort of boy’s team, being two years younger than my brother Dick, who was the youngest ever to get on the men’s team.
There was also a cricket club in Killea (Dunmore East) and another at Faithlegg (Passage East) and when important matches occurred members from one area frequently helped to defend the honour of neighbouring clubs.
Descriptions of a thin man:
“You’d find more meat on the shin of a wren.”
“He’s about as fat as a hen across the forehead.”
“You’d see more meat on a hammer!”
©Geoff Cronin The Colour of Life 2005
About Geoff Cronin – 1923 – 2017
There were few jobs that Geoff could not turn his hands to, and over the years he mastered an impressive number of professional undertakings. Master baker and confectioner, mobile cinema operator, salesman, band leader, senior executive and master wood turner, storyteller and writer.
Geoff Cronin published his first book in 2005 at age 82. The Colour of Life is a collection of stories of life in Waterford during his childhood and early adulthood in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. This was followed by two further books that related tales of further adventures in Waterford and Dublin.
Thank you for dropping in today and you can read the previous chapters of The Colour of Life in this directory:
Find out how to make a snare tomorrow.