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North Cheshire Family Historian

The Bowling Contest
by Ray Hulley

Picture the scene. The autumn mists had covered the valleys with a light grey blanket and the cows were huddled together against the cold chill. The sheep had sought the shelter of lower pastures to avoid the wintry blasts that blew straight through their thick overcoats on the hills. There was no sign of any domestic animals - they had commandeered the warmest spot in the house long ago!

In Macclesfield town centre the picture was quite different. The shops were aglow with their latest displays and although it was early evening, there were still plenty of window shoppers braving the cold evening. The windows of the Bate Hall Hotel in Jordangate were brightly lit and the sound of clinking glasses, happy laughter and excited chatter came from the public rooms. It was 22nd October and the night of the cup final - the one occasion that every indoor bowling fan from miles around had waited for over the past 3 months. The Macclesfield Bowl was crammed to full capacity, with the supporters of each side - Butley Rangers and Poynton Wanderers - eagerly shouting for their own sides and favourite players in them.

The match, which was the final of the North-East Cheshire Amateur Bowling Challenge Cup, was a local derby and a very heated affair. Each group of supporters had thrown insults at each other during the entire proceedings and the effects of alcohol had gradually been getting more apparent as the night wore on. The result was in doubt right up to the last end, and it took a final shot by Butley to settle the match. This last minute decider was the last straw for Poynton. After the judge, Richard Normansell, had declared Butley Rangers the winners, Richard Hurst jumped over the small barrier separating the protagonists and made a dive for Thomas Addle of Butley, the nearest 'enemy' to him. Immediately this galvanised all the other Butley and Poynton men into action and the place was in mayhem for several minutes until the local constables, Laurence Hulley, Roger Broster and Thomas Etchells, sorted out the battle and separated the fighters.

"What I want to know is, who is going to pay for the damage to all my furniture?" said Roger Falowes, the owner of the Bowl. "Seats and tables don't come cheap, you know. This is the last time I'll allow this match to be held in my place - there's too much at stake and it just isn't worth it. It was the same last year with Sutton Rollers and Dukinfield Throwers and I should have learnt my lesson then. Talk about being a service to the community - trouble is the community won't damn well pay for all the damage when it is caused by their own drunken hooligans." "We can't interfere with what is a civil matter, Mr. Falowes" said constable Hulley, "We have to take our friend Hurst down to the station and nick him for being drunk and disorderly. I suggest you get the money from him - if he's got any left after Peter Legh and John Andrew have finished with him in court tomorrow morning, that is!

While we're on about court matters, Mr. Falowes, perhaps you could just let us have sight of your bowling licence. It will save us time when we do the writing up for the case".

Roger Falowes suddenly looked worried and splattered "It' s - it's around somewhere - I saw it only last week when I was checking the stock. When I find it, I'll drop it in to you". Constable Etchells eyed him suspiciously, but didn't offer any comment in view of the situation. Besides, he didn't want to sort out another battle - this time with an irate, red-faced six-footer built like a brick outhouse.

The night quickly enveloped all those hardy souls leaving the Bowl and the Bate Hall Hotel, where John Stopford the landlord, was busying himself with the cleaning up before putting all the lights out. Another good night's trade, he thought; roll on the next bowling final! The last of the Poynton supporters (except Richard Hurst) disappeared towards Bollington on the way back to the warmth of their homes. The resident owl on St. Michael's church gave one more forlorn hoot before swooping into his belfry nest. The October night was cold and still; the dark clouds raced across the full moon and Macclesfield was asleep at last.

Author's Note

When did this tale unfold? - last year? 1990? Did it actually happen? The following entries from the Macclesfield Portmote of the Borough Court Rolls of 1548 and 1555 will help to convince the doubtful reader.

1-2 Edward 8 (1547 - 1548)

The xxii day of October Ryc Hurste (xiijd) of Poynton made affre of Thomas Addle of Buttlay at the bowling alley.
(Richard Hurst was fined one shilling) (Public Office reference SC2 313/9 membrane 16)

1-2 to 1-3 Philip and Mary (1554 - 1555)

Item we do fynd Roger Falowes for kyping of one bowlying allye unlawfullye.
(Public Record Office reference SC2 314/1 membrane 14)

Richard Normansel of Bollington, Laurence Hulley of Dynes mosse, Roger Broster of Sutton, Thomas Etchles, Peter Legh and John Andrew also appeared in the same Court during this period.

The moral to this tale is that, with a little imagination, the past can easily be brought back to life. Family historians who search through reams and reams of registers, rolls, depositions and all kinds of written documents have exceptional opportunities to re-live the past. This has been my small contribution to uncovering two minor events in the history of Macclesfield and district and hopefully will encourage other to follow suit. All it needs is a little imagination!

The above material is Crown Copyright and is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office.

Ray Hulley


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