|Abstract||My recollections of Peldon's contribution towards the sport of Tug-of-War by John Hawes
My first experience of competing in a Tug-of-War competition occurred at the East Mersea village Fete' during early August 1973. At that time I lived in West Mersea, so I was over the border so to speak. I hadn't gone there with the intention of joining seven other guys on the end of a rope, but all was about to change when I was approached by Steve (Sid) Vince, a familiar Mersea character. Being six feet tall and weighing in at thirteen stone, Sid obviously singled me out as a likely contender and in no time briefed me on the team objective, which was to haul an opposing team of eight guys 12 feet, and as with any sport, there is a skill to be learnt and rules to adhere to.
Each team has a captain or coach, first duty being to approach the judge and offer a friendly hand shake to the opposing team's captain; in this instance, representing a team of 'handy' looking guys staying on the Cooper's Beach caravan park.
With most venues, there always looks to be a 'good end' and a 'bad end', bad means appearing to be an uphill slope that could make a climb up Mount Snowdon look like a 'piece of cake', only joking.
To decide which team has which end to start, the judge tosses a coin for each team captain to make a call of heads or tails. The winner then chooses what in their opinion the good end is. Both teams are then required to march up and stand next to the rope, once in position, each puller allows an arm's length space between each team member.
The judge, fully in command calls out, "are you ready Peldon?" "Yes," they reply. Again, the judge commands, "are you ready Coopers?" "Yes," they
reply. The judge then calls out. "Pick up the rope, (a slight pause), take the strain!" Each team in unison gives out a loud cry of "YES," as they
slam the heels of their left boot hard into the ground, whilst applying equal tension on the rope so in theory there is little or no movement at this point on the rope. If the rope marker is not in line with the ground marker, the judge will direct whichever team has an advantage to "give a little.""" The tension begins to build, all the team members have their eyes on the judge's raised hands in anticipation of, "PULL!" with an immediate drop of his arms. Both team's drop and lean back whilst slamming their right boot hard into the ground.
Should each team be of equal strength, the team members settle back on the rope. A chant begins to build, push - tight, push - tight, push - tight, the rope ever so slightly swaying to the left and the right. Why chant 'push', when the idea is to pull the rope? It's because you push the heels of the boots, shuffle stepping inch by inch backwards ... until the team with the best technique wins, Peldon, hopefully.
It's not all over yet. After a quick breather, the judge calls out, "change ends," the whole episode being repeated again. Tug O' War is the best of three ends, all teams trying to achieve 'two straight', as in winning the second pull after changing ends. Ah, ha, but what happens if each team takes (wins) an end? The judge will call the team captains to call on the toss of a coin for the deciding end. Remember the good end / bad end scenario. I've participated in many 'pulls' throughout my tug-of-war career, when the toss of a coin has won the match.
On that particular Saturday afternoon, there were more than two teams. For the life of me, now approaching fifty years later, my memory isn't what it was as will become even more apparent on other occasions during this article. What is certain, it began a twenty year involvement for me in tug-of-war, you could say, "I was hooked," 'hook' being a 'slang' term for the number eight or 'anchor man', the guy on the end of the rope.
This sport is more than sport, there is camaraderie amongst all the teams, furthermore, I made, and I have remained in contact with countless friends involved at one time or another with the sport right up to this present day.
Pictured above, 'The Peldon Rose' team pulling at East Mersea Fete'. Front to back, Peter French, Paul (Dino) Wheeler, Mick (Urko) Cook, 'Skidger' Green, Roger Cook, - ?- , John Hawes, Steve (Sid) Vince. What at first might not be apparent is the fact that none of the team members actually lived in Peldon, they are all Islander's, with the exception of Mick Cook. He had moved to live in Colchester at the time, although he returned to the Island every week day to work for Mersea builders, G, A, Cock and Sons. The bond with Peldon is their habitual drinking in the Peldon Rose public house.
A number of pubs in the area during one time or another had a tug-of-war team which either took the sport seriously or more often than not would show up at an event after a Saturday lunchtime 'session'. There were some very competitive teams around though, especially those representing the various 'Young Farmers Clubs'. Maldon, Gosfield and Southminster in particular put out very strong sides.
Other teams that I remember were the 'Lords', from 'The Lord Nelson' public house situated off Hythe Hill in Colchester, and much further away form over the border in Suffolk came 'The Sweffling Swifts'. With other teams taking the sport seriously, the Peldon Rose had no option other than to take up training on one night each week.
The Rose didn't have the large parking and bar areas as it does in this present day. There was an area of grassed land behind the pub where team members could split into equal numbers to pull against each other. On one occasion, someone had an idea to pull against a tractor which was about the size of a grey 'Fergie' or Massey 135, not with its engine running and in gear, but just sitting there with its brake off. Hard you may think, but no. It surprised me how easy it was to pull. Plan 'B', apply the brakes. This time it was a struggle, but it was a surprise to find that even with locked wheels, the tractor could be skidded along the ground. The Rose team were ready for anybody!
Outside the Peldon Rose, the team proudly displaying the four trophies won during 1973 or 1974. Back row, left - right. Andrew Taylor, -?- Roger Cook. Front row, left - right. John Hawes, Mick (Urko) Cook, 'Skidger' Green, Paul (Dino) Wheeler, Steve (Sid) Vince. Peter French for some reason, missing.
At some of the more popular fete's and country shows around Essex, there would often be six, seven or maybe more teams, all out with the hope of winning a trophy. Some of the venues had featured tug-of-war during the afternoon's entertainment for generations, but during my twenty years' experience, sadly either the venue or the teams began to disappear.
Some of the following are popular fetes and shows that I recall. The Five Parishes Show, (goes without saying) Mersea Lifeboat Fete, East Mersea Fete, Tolleshunt D'Arcy Flower Show, Tolleshunt Knights Fete, Nedging and Naughton fete, Maldon Festival of Sport and Southminster flower show, to name only a few.
West Mersea Lifeboat fete above in 1973. The venue has since been built on and is now the site of Kenston Court on High Street, diagonally opposite Tesco. The usual team in action, this time once again with Peter French at number one.
After a few successful seasons representing the Peldon Rose it was decided sometime before the end of 1976 that a team of semi-rowdy tug-of-war pulling guys were not really in keeping with the pubs increasing upmarket popularity. Looking back through older and wiser eyes, I can understand the reason. Only thing for it, 'pick up the rope', and move a mile further on to another welcoming public house, 'The Peldon Plough'. Due to my planned future marriage and a house renovation, I had been absent for two years from the tug o' war scene, but returned for the 1979 season to join a revised team that included Alan Gordon along with a three other new recruits.
Another change was the formation of an Essex tug-of-war league sponsored by Essex County Newspapers. Inaugural teams were The Globe, Paxman's Wasps, Peldon Plough, Purleigh Queen, Southminster Y.F.C., the R.E.M.E., the Spread Eagle and Wickford Y.F.C. The league was looking like providing serious competition.
Peldon began regular Thursday practice nights on the village playing field, and before too long had established a really professional looking gantry within the boundary hedge. This consisted of two vertical ex-telegraph poles with a cross piece at the top from which a pulley was suspended. A wire rope extended up and looped over, one end attached to a large oil drum filled with concrete and additional removable steel weights, the other end looped around another ground anchored pulley. The free end of the wire rope was then attached to the heavy hessian rope used for competitive pulling as well as training purposes. Regrettably, I don't have any 'still' photographs to hand; however, video footage is available on Peldon's 'Facebook' page.
Training was more than a few practice pulls against the 'barrel', a warm up beforehand was essential. At the time Ian Proctor was the team's coach. I will leave you to imagine grown men doing 'spotty dogs', star jumps and 'bunny-hops'. Oh, and of course, sit-ups, press ups and the 'fireman's lift'.
Running around Peldon's playing field was also compulsory. I personally hated running, therefore the occasional extended run was not my favourite past-time. From the playing field, up though the footpath to the top road, across the common to Abberton then right at the Langenhoe Lion down the Mersea Road then a right at the Rose back to Peldon's playing field. I think we were all a lot fitter (and younger) back then.
Back now to some serious pulling, and we're not alone. Peldon had some of the biggest mosquitos I've ever had the dis-pleasure of meeting. As big as sparrows they were, I kid you not. As much as the mossies' annoyed us, our team's enthusiastic chanting accompanied by occasional bad language often annoyed nearby residents, sorry.
Serious training and professionally organised completions required respectable team kit. The Peldon team wore matching under-arm padded blue rugby style shirts, shorts, football socks and modified steel heeled ex-army boots. All the local competing teams 'dressed for the part', not just for the new local league, but events such as the Tendring Show featured in this newspaper cutting from July 14th 1979.
Pulling from number one we have, Clive (Laddie) Ladbroke, Mick Cawdron, Jerry Woolf, Mick (Urko) Cook, Steve (Sid) Vince, Roger Cook, John Hawes and I'm sorry to say, I can't recall the name of the anchor man in this instance.
This popular event was run under T.O.W.A - A.A.A rules. Teams from far and wide that included The Earl of Essex, Hitcham Hornets, Mildenhall and Reedham Vikings had travelled to compete at this event. The Earl's and Reedham had once represented England in National events. Peldon learnt a lot from this standard of competition. Keeping the steel edges neatly filed and sharp was a regime I witnessed the Reedham guys taking meticulous care over.
'Tacky', a type of glue, and legally permitted in the sport was another lesson soon to be learnt. Applied to the hands it aided grip on the rope considerably. I mentioned camaraderie in the sport, if one team lacked tacky, another team would readily offer some over if they had some going spare. Two problems with tacky, you can't roll your own cigarettes and only petrol can get if off when the competition has ended.
Sometime ago in another article I had written at some length about the recipe and procedure to make 'tacky' at home. Here in brief, and don't try this at home is the basic's. Acquire some maize starch (colophony powder), then mix it with boiling petrol. I will say no more on the matter, only to say, if a team member had singed eyebrows when you next meet up, it was their turn to make the tacky! Complete records of the 1979 Essex County Newspapers league are not available; however below is a transcript from an Evening Gazette newspaper featuring two league pulls which appeared on July 20th 1979.
Injury blow for leader
"Injury hit Southminster slipped briefly in the Essex County Newspapers sponsored Tug-of-War League, but still heads the table by 12 points. At Paxman's pull held at the Stanway Rover's five-a-side football tournament held last weekend, Southminster had to face the hosts in the first match. It was not an ideal draw for either side as both needed maximum points. Paxmans took the first end with Southminster taking the second, but Paxmans won the decider for a 2-1 victory. But with Purleigh and Peldon Plough pulling well, the league could still be in for a few surprises. Result of Paxmans pull. (1) Paxmans 11, (2) Purleigh 8, (3) Southminster 7, (4) Peldon 4, (5) Globe 0.
Wickford staged their league pull at the Hanningfield Show on Sunday and leaders Southminster gained quick revenge over Paxmans. Result of Wickford pull. (1) Southminster 14, (2) Paxmans 11 (3) Wickford 9, (4) Purleigh 8, (5) Peldon 3. League positions. (1) Southminster 50, (2) Paxmans 38, (3) Purleigh 24, (4) Wickford 20, (5) Peldon Plough 14, (6) Spread Eagle 5, (7) Globe 0."
The picture above is the Peldon line up at the Hanningfield Show. Not the best picture, one guy is missing and at the time of writing, I cannot recall everyone's name. Stepping in from the left is our team coach on that day, Robert (Hoss) Gosling (R.I.P.) and then from left to right on the rope is. - ? -, John Hawes, Steve Vince, - ? -, - ? -, then there's Mick Cook and Alan Gordon.
Of the various completions the Peldon Plough tug-of-war team attended, one event was always special. Pictured below, the Five Parishes Show has been a popular event for many years, and it was Peldon's home venue on August 18th 1979 for the newly created Essex County Newspapers tug o' war league.
I noticed the caption says, 'champion team'; the previous editorial didn't suggest champion; however Peldon did win the 660 kilo league a year later.
From number one. Roger Cook, Jerry Woolf, Alan Gordon, Mick Cook, Baz?, possibly Steve Vince, then ?, ?.
Every now and again there would be some light hearted exchange of banter. Peldon Plough often travelling throughout Essex, and not all the team members owned a car. I would often squeeze in two or three other pullers, all except one would usually contribute towards some petrol money, except Mick.
"What about a contribution towards some petrol Mick."
"But you would be going there anyway," Mick would reply.
"What about the times you catch a bus from Colchester to Peldon on training night, do you tell the bus driver that you don't see why a fare has to be paid, telling him or her, the bus is going past Peldon, whether you're on it or not?"
R.I.P. Mick, a great character.
The event pictured below is from the Evening Gazette dated September 10th 1979. Apart from being a fun-day, it may have been Paxman's league venue. The editorial mentions Paxman Wasps and Paxman Bees, on some occasions they could put out two teams.
The 1980 season would once again feature the Essex County Newspapers sponsored tug-of-war league. A major difference for this season would be the introduction of an additional weight limited competition of 104 stone /660 kilos. The unlimited catchweight category remained as before, but how would fare play ensure that eight guys combined weight was no more than 660 kilos?
Someone had the idea to acquire a set of 'Avery' scales as would be seen in many scrap yards. These scales had the usual balance arm with suspended weights and a sliding smaller weight to make the finer adjustments. There was enough room on the scale's platform to accommodate four guys at a time, so not too difficult to add the combined total for eight guys. The scales were an unusual sight when seen being towed to venues mounted on a trailer.
The following Evening Gazette editorials describe the 1980 league season.
The next photo features the Peldon Plough being assisted by two of Paxman's regular pullers. This event is taking place during 1980 at The Land Settlement Association which at the time was a consortium of growers who provided salad products for Marks and Spencer, as well as other food retailers. Roger Cook at the front is being encouraged by team coach, Ian Proctor.
The previous photograph was taken in the back bar of the plough and it shows off the trophies won by the Peldon team during the 1980 season. Back row, left to right. Roy Goulding, Mick Cook, Ian Proctor (team coach), Kevin Felton, Mark Moore, Clive Ladbroke. Front row, left to right. Roger Cook, John Hawes, Steve Vince, the Plough's pub Landlord, and then John Fell.
1981 was to begin a time of change for the Peldon Plough tug-of-war team. Usually, training for a new season would begin around Easter time, but this year, training began in January.
The team was extremely fortunate for the kind offer by Peter Wormell to use of one of his barns at Langenhoe Hall Farm. The team assisted by Keith Gould (R.I.P) set about installing a wooden slated base over the concrete floor. This resembled a very wide, horizontal ladder about 40 feet (13metres) long. This provided a more than adequate foothold whilst pulling the rope against the elastic force of a couple of tractor tyre inner tubes. One end of the tubes was secured around a sturdy post, the other attached to the free end of the rope.
As was the case during normal spring - summer training, a warm up was even more appropriate during the cold winter nights. The adjacent farm road started off the Mersea Road, past the farm complex, then off towards the military firing ranges over by Fingringhoe marshes. I cannot recall the winter run on a freezing cold evening being anything remotely approaching what could be called 'FUN'! There were some moments to bring a wry smile to the face though, not only a smile, but ice crystals around the eye brows and nose.
I have an amusing memory of John Fell running with a simulated military heavy back-back. Not filled with rations and munitions, I hasten to add, but some spare metal weights which usually attached with others on a bar. In was not so much the sight, remember it was dark, but it was the 'clang - clang sound emanating out of the cold, distant darkness accompanied by his occasional cries out of pain and discomfort.
This early period of training would prove to be extremely beneficial because Peldon as a team had made the decision to compete in the Rosedale winter training league which was run under the jurisdiction of the Tug-of-War Association, (T.O.W.A.) competing under the rules of the Amateur Athletic Association, more commonly known as the '3 A's'. Mick Cawdron at this time was the club secretary.
The league took place over a period of four weeks running from mid-March into April. The downside was the long distances the team was required to travel to the various venues, anywhere from the remotest wilds of Norfolk to south of the Thames into Croydon. There can be no place on Earth more enjoyable to pull a rope against half a dozen other teams whilst the snow is driven across the fields in a horizontal blizzard, than in Outwell, near Wisbech - I'm lying !
The Peldon Plough Tug-of-War club badge designed by John Fell during 1981.
To ensure fair play at T.O.W.A. events, a professional set of scales was made available. The scales had the appearance of a flat platform, and if my memory serves me correctly, measured something like 3 feet x 5 feet. These dimensions enabled eight guys to stand and be weighed at once. To meet the required weight category, lighter / heavier guys would be exchanged on the scales. To avoid crafty team member weight substitutions, each member was ink stamped on the leg or arm with a unique code number. (No cheating).
Of course, matters never always ran smoothly, sometimes the chosen eight guys just couldn't make the weight. Often the judge would call out, "Peldon, you're 9 kilos over," or something along those lines. Only thing for it, head off for a run around the field and a forced call of nature to lose those additional kilos or stones. Eight guys return to the scales and if you've never seen eight guys tippy-toeing in unison onto a set of scales, then you would have been in for a treat. The judge often would call out, "Peldon, you're still 2 kilos over." Nudity is prohibited on the scales, or anywhere else for that matter. The team coach would call out, "if you're wearing pants under shorts, take them off, and your socks, watches etc." Back on the scales again, hoping the judge will call, "stamp em up." Phew!
There are very few trophies in my cabinet, which provide recollections of winning the big T.O.W.A. competitions as a team, but all in all, very enjoyable times especially visiting the Reedham Vikings venue. A trip on a chain driven ferry, and in the evening, they had a clubhouse for late night refreshments.
After competing in the winter league, time once again to prepare for the 1981 Essex County Newspapers tug o' war league. Seven teams entered,
namely, Halstead Young Farmers, Heckford Angel, Heybridge Swifts, M.C.T.C., Paxmans, Peldon Plough and 40th Field Regiment. New for this season, there were to be two maximum weight categories, 640 kilos and 680 kilos, the unlimited catchweight now being dropped from the competition. The league was to be held out of T.O.W.A. jurisdiction; therefore the teams would be using their trusty ex-scrapyard scales, rather than the professional association scales.
Some background information for the M.C.T.C., or to provide the full title, the Military Corrective Training Centre. These guys were instructors at the notorious army detention centre for military 'wrong-doer's'. There's no denying, the instructors were fit and strong. Often, stories would be related about inmates having to move a heap of coal, sweep up under where it had stood, and then replace the heap back into its original position. Whether that's fact or not I can't say, but I did witness some inmates having to replace the divots by hand back into the ground torn up by the tug-of-war boots.
The 40th Field Regiment were gunners, and they had a very loyal following. Their wives/girlfriends could deafen the other team's supporters by repeatedly chanting 'COME ON FORTY' throughout the time their team was on the rope.
Another team worth mentioning is the 47th Field Regiment. They were a much calmer side, but after an earlier winter league, were posted back in Germany. They were a great help to Peldon by letting the team have some use of the Multi-gym facilities in the barracks. Their main-man was simply known as 'Q'. When the regiment left the U.K., they presented the Peldon Plough with a miniature replica of their Regimental Insignia. It had the pride of place behind the bar.
Evening Gazette newspaper editorials featuring the 1981 E.C.N. league follow.
The line up on the rope from number one are, Stafford (Staf) Chipperfield, Mick Cawdron, Kevin Felton, Jerry Woolf, John Plumb, Mick Cook, Fred Plumb, Andrew Taylor, Steve Vince, John Fell and John Hawes.
The Evening Gazette editorial above pictures the Peldon Plough Tug-of-War team outside the Barn Restaurant, formally known as The Hall Barn Country Club. Bill Tucker, who's also mentioned in the editorial, contributed regular articles for the Essex County Newspaper group. He had once written about a tug-of-war completion held in Colchester Castle Park. His description of the day really gave a feel for the conditions on the rope. Briefly, as I recall, it was an extremely hot day, Bill realistically described how the teams were pulling under extreme conditions made worse by the sun blazing down on everybody straining on the rope with sweat streaming from their exhausted bodies. Blood stained hands or something similar may have also featured?
This newspaper article appeared in the Evening Gazette, W/C March 8th 1982. It features the Peldon Plough team members for the coming year, and the trophies that were won during 1981. In the team photo, there are four new regular pullers, Fred and John Plumb who had previously pulled for the Southminster Y. F. C. and Stafford (Staf) Chipperfield who had previously pulled for Heybridge Swifts. Andrew Taylor who had once helped out on the original Peldon Rose team marks his return to tug-of-war, completing the line-up.
The editorial mentions Tendring and Saffron Walden, both events which were attended by A.A.A. / Tug-of-War Association teams. Also mentioned is the forthcoming Winter Training League, starting at Leytonstone. Not exactly what could be called a local event? Other events planned throughout the year included the Orsett Show (Near Thurrock), Prince Arthur at Edmonton, Plessy's and British Aerospace near Croydon and the more local Tendring Show.
The team above that competed in the Saffron Walden open tug-of-war event. Back row, left to right. John Plumb, Steve (Sid) Vince, John Fell, Andrew Taylor, John Hawes. Front row, left to right. Mick (Urko) Cook, Fred Plumb, Clive (Laddie) Ladbroke, Mark Moore, Kevin (Kevvy) Felton.
The event was attended by Lincoln's home team, also Wicken Reds and the Earl of Essex. Another team worth a mention, although not present on that day is Prince Arthur. Like the Earls, the two teams were from an Irish background and incredibly strong. Their work was also a coincidental form of training; they manually hauled Telecom cables through the underground ducting pipes in London, rather than use a mechanical winch. Both teams had a certain 'charm'.
The Earl of Essex would more often than not arrive in the nick of time for a competition weigh-in and then finish tying up their boots by the side of the rope. They always made pulling appear naturally easy in an almost casual way.
The Prince Arthur team were much the same. At their venue in Edmonton, there was a very large covered van, in the back was best described as, ample Guinness. And why not provide your own mobile bar?
The East of England where the events took place was classed as 'Area 5' in the Tug-of-War Association manual. Out of the 50 teams listed, Peldon at one time or another had competed against 30 of them.
Peldon pulling at the 1982 Tendring Show. The tug o' war is organised under T.O.W.A jurisdiction. Here, John Plumb is offering encouragement to Stafford (Staf) Chipperfield. This competition once again attracted the top teams from the East of England area 5, sadly, Peldon only managed to take a second place.
Shortly after the Tendring Show it was time once again for the Five Parishes Show. For many years there had been a special couple in attendance, local Tiptree farmer, Bob Lofthouse (R.I.P.), accompanied by his wife. Bob judged the tug o' war competitions in a fair and impartial way for many years with his wife keeping the scores.
Thinking back to Mick Cook, another of Peldon's team members unknowingly was to create a story that also always pops up at tug-of-war reunions.
Whenever Peldon travelled either to the wilds of Norfolk or the built up areas of Croydon, it was customary for the domesticated team members to take an ample packed lunch to pass around after the competition was over. Kevin (Kevvy) Felton lived at home along the top road in Peldon with his parents.
Now, Kevvy rarely brought any food along with him, except on this one particular day. "My mum has given me a cheese cake to share out amongst us all." Thinking back, a cheese cake in those days was an unusual item of food. Was it a savoury meal or a dessert?
The competition went on throughout the afternoon, concluding as was usual around half five. After the team had cleaned up, sat down, and set about sharing out their various contributions towards a late lunch, the call went out. "Kevvy, where's the cheese cake?" After some rustling in his kit bag, out came a medium size cardboard box. There was hushed anticipation, Kevvy opened the box ... and out fell three or four packets containing ...., the separate ingredients to make a homemade cheese cake! The fact I've just typed this, must be what memories are made of.
Just another quick one. Mick Young, one of the teams newer and built like the proverbial could do with losing a few pounds in weight. "I will go on a diet," he remarked one day. At the next competition, he sat down to his packed lunch of a whole chicken, a pack of tomatoes, a lettuce and a cucumber. He sat down to finish off a meal fit for a family of four. He did eventually lose weight though.
Mick young locked in at anchor towering above John Hawes, Mick Cook and Eric Soames. Four other pullers are out of sight in front of Eric, or were they actually required on the rope? This Evening Gazette editorial is for the Five Parishes Show held on August 20th 1983.
The previous Evening Gazette editorial was to create publicity for a large event arranged to take place at Hawkins Road during July 1983. Peldon had put on this training demonstration for the press, also offering advice to prospective teams. Competing on the day of the event, one of my lasting memories is of a huge mobile crane with its jib extended at full height. It was the first time that I had witnessed bungee jumping at close hand.
All these years later, it's difficult to recall the exact dates for some of the far away competitions that Peldon competed in.
Date or no date, this particular event is worth reminiscing. The Essex A.A.A tug-of-war championships were held at the athletics ground in Harlow. Peldon didn't win, but a long term friendship was built up with a team from North Weald. Although having a tug-of-war team, their main sporting interest was Cumberland Wrestling. They led us to believe that they were competitors of Olympic standard. Whether they were or not, the live bouts between themselves were interesting to watch, all's well until some of Peldon's guys decided to have a go. Stick to tug-of-war lads.
One of the highlights of 1985 season was a sponsored lorry pull by the combined teams from Peldon Plough and Foundry Arms from Colchester. The aim was to raise £1500 for Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital by manually hauling the artic unit from the Queens Head to the Peldon Plough public house. The newspaper article above provides the finer details.
The 1986 Five Parishes Show revived some interest in the tug of war season. Teams, that I recall included Peldon (obviously), North Weald, Mistley Quay, The Alma from Copford and a team from Witham. The Peldon Plough that had worn padded blue rugby shirts for many years, now turned out wearing shirts with alternating marron and dark green bands inter-spaced with a contrasting yellow. A good omen, maybe, Peldon took the trophy.
This newspaper editorial above features the sixth annual Tug-of-War Gala which took place at Woods Leisure Centre on September 21st, 1986. Peldon wasn't placed. However, I can identify Peldon team members, John Fell at number seven and John Hawes as anchor in the top right photo. Pulling at number four in the centre of the same picture is Jeff Syrett (R.I.P.), who had been a regular Paxmans team member for many years. There's also Peldon team member Stafford (Staf) Chipperfield at number two helping out Paxmans in the bottom right photo.
I should mention the fact that under tug of war rules, a team is allowed to borrow a maximum of two pullers from another team. This especially applies in the weight limited competitions when heavier guys need substituting for lighter guys or vice-versa.
Another popular completion that took place around the same time in 1986 was the Walton-on-the Naze Lifeboat fete'. This event attracted T.O.W.A. teams from all over the East of England. It was also one of the first events that I recall with women's teams competing to a really professional standard, as they still do to this present day.
The Peldon team had been joined by Terry Peach who for many years regularly pulled at anchor for Paxmans, and then some time with a pub in Colchester called the Foundry Arms. Bruce Spooner and Steve (Uggy) Clarke who until recently pulled for the Thatcher's Arms, a pub in Tolleshunt D'Arcy also took up the rope. Hoss Gosling (R.I.P.) was the team coach for this competition. It proved to be a tough, late afternoon's pulling for all the teams involved, including Peldon, who sadly weren't placed at the end of this event. There is some extensive video footage on Peldon's 'Facebook' page; however there's no 'still' photography available to my knowledge.
All in all, 1986 had been an enjoyable season; however things were about to change, Peldon didn't appear in the 1987 T.O.W.A. member's handbook. Furthermore, thinking back to the time when Area 5 had 50 registered clubs in 1981, there were now only 18 registered clubs in 1987.
It's difficult to say why the sport had begun to lose support, maybe the top teams seemed unbeatable at times whilst other teams struggled to keep up with the ever increasing time devoted to training which gradually introduced a lack of enthusiasm. I had by this time witnessed on occasions some of the regular winners from the elite teams almost casually collecting their individual winner's trophies or medals, only to throw them into their kit bag followed by a dry comment, "I've got boxes of medals under the stairs."
On July 20th 1987, Bruce Spooner, Steve Vince and John Hawes appeared with others in an Evening Gazette photo, the caption, "members of the Queen's Head tug-of-war team take the strain." It appeared as though Peldon might be losing its grip?
A Video film taken during 1988 depicts enough guys practising on the rope to make up almost two teams pulling up the barrel at Peldon's village playing field, directed by Brian (Cuddles) Cudmore showing off his coaching skills. There were some Peldon regulars and a lot of new guys, including Nick French. The team was now well and truly, 'The Queen's Head', if only I could remember all of their names.
It's impossible to list every competition that Peldon representing both the Rose and the Plough had won or came runners up during the period from 1973-1987; however, the individual TEAM medals that I have provide some clues.
1974 - winners, Tillingham Flower Show
1977 - winners, L. S. A. Foxash Estate
1979 - winners, Tolleshunt D'Arcy Flower Show?
1980 - winners, E. C. N. Tug-of-War league, 660 kilos
1980 - winners, Orsett Show
1981 - winners, Tolly Ales Open
1981 - winners, E. C. N. Tug-of-War league, 640 kilos
1981 - winners, E. C. N. Tug-of-War league, 680 kilos
1981 - winners, U. E. A. Festival
1981 - runners up, Colchester Gala
1982 - winners, U. E. A. Festival
1982 - runners up, Orsett Show, 680 kilos
1982 - winners, Maldon Festival
1982 - winners, Maldon Festival
1982 - winners, D. H. H. S.
1982 - runners up, Debenham Fire Rally, 720 kilos
1982 - runners up, Debenham Fire Rally, catchweight
1983 - runners up, Essex Farmers
1983 - winners, U. E. A. Festival
1983 - winners, Tolleshunt D'Arcy Flower Show
1983 - winners, D. H. H. S.
1986 - winners, Five Parishes Show
1986 - winners, L. L. F. C.
1987 - winners, L. L. F. C.
Considering the majority of shows, and fetes didn't present mementoes to individual team members, I ought not to complain, however. There are also seven Tendring Show medals. These do not mention the year, winner or runners up. With dedicated training beforehand and pulling effort put in on the day at that prestigious show, there's not much to show for it. A few details engraved on each medal wouldn't have gone amiss. 1981 was certainly a good year; the team had 34 winners or runners up trophies by the end on the year displayed on the shelf behind the bar of the Peldon Plough public house.
The Peldon Tug-of-War Club throughout all that time was liked, well-known, sometimes respected and on the rare occasion, controversial. If anyone can fill in the gaps, missing events or names, please contribute. It's better to write something up for debate, rather than to have written nothing at all. I'm going to make an exaggerated guess and say that in the region of 50 individuals at one time or another pulled their part for Peldon. And now as I approach 70 years of age with almost a tear in my eyes as I finish this article, I'm proud to say I was ...one of that team.