An ancient sport revived sees the townspeople compete against each other
There were angels battling demons as the dramatic event spilled onto the streets of Redruth
It was good versus evil and north versus south in a Cornish town yesterday (Saturday May 28) as an ancient sport was revived, reimagined and re-enacted, pitting locals against each other in a dramatic battle . Organized by Golden Tree Productions, the team behind Man Engine, this first Hellish Kernow The event was a ‘Hurling to Goal tournament’ at Redruth Rugby Club, which spilled out into the town center in theatrical style.
The ancient Cornish sport of Hurling to Goal is a very old form of rugby, or rather, rugby is a modern version of hurling. Although the tradition of throwing the silver ball still survives in some Cornish towns such as St Columb Major and St Ives, the goal throw has more in common with the rules of rugby, with two teams on a pitch, only permitted to passing the ball back, and aiming to cross the line with the ball before being tackled.
Accounts of throwing at goal in Richard Carew’s 1602 “The Survey of Cornwall” suggest that the sport, played with a heavy metal “silver ball”, is the earliest known example from anywhere in the world where the ball must be passed upside down.
Knowing that a plen an gwari – a large circular arena where people would have watched games and hurling matches – once existed in the area of Redruth Rugby Ground and the nearby street, Plain-an-Gwarry, the Golden Tree Productions team wanted an event that brought together the ancient sport of hurling with all the drama of a Passion Play.
This meant that good had to fight against evil. Thus, using divisions based on the medieval “hundreds”, Redruth was divided into quarters. Residents living north of the city have become demons. Those who live in the west have joined the Tormentor team. To the south of Redruth were the saints, while the crew of the angels were made up of easterners.
After meeting at their respective headquarters to assemble and practice their moves, the teams headed to the resurrected plen an gwari on the rugby pitch.
Will Coleman of Golden Tree Productions pointed out that this first Hellfire Kernow was really a trial run, to see what worked and what didn’t. The team hopes that next year there will be adult hurling matches played with a silver ball. But for this inaugural tournament, each team’s matches were played by students from Redruth School using a soft silver ball and played in pitch, for insurance purposes.
Before each match, teams would perform a ‘garm vresel’ – a battle cry to intimidate the other side, similar to New Zealand rugby’s Haka.
As befits such a day of drama, the final again pitted good against evil, Demons versus Saints, with the Saints ultimately taking the tournament on a rock, paper, scissors decision and winning the trophy of the day – the real money. bullet that was made for Hellfire Kernow and will hopefully be used in future games.
Once the hurling was over, the four teams then marched through Redruth, taking their colleagues to their respective headquarters around the town, before returning to the rugby pitch to light fire sculptures and perform a final round of shouting of war.