Once played widely in Cornwall, the game has similarities to other traditional football or inter parish 'mob' games, but certain attributes make this version unique to Cornwall. It is considered by many to be Cornwall's national game along with Cornish wrestling. An old saying in the Cornish language goes; "hyrlîan yw gen gwaré nyi" which translated into English means, "Hurling is our sport"
The annual hurling matches at St. Columb Major have the same status in the Cornish calendar as the 'Obby 'Oss festival at Padstow and the Furry Dance at Helston in that all three are unique customs that have survived unchanged and have taken place annually since before records began.
The traditional St. Columb hurling takes place on Shrove Tuesday and the second Saturday following. The usually rough game is played on the streets and in the surrounding countryside, between the Townsmen and Countrymen of the parish, with the shops in the town barricading their windows and doors to protect from accidental damage, which sometimes occurs.
The game starts with the throw-up in Market Square at 4:30 pm, usually followed by a large scrum. The objective of the game is to control its possession with deliberate passing, throwing, snatching and tackling. Game play in the town normally lasts no longer than one hour. During this period the two teams are irrelevant: townsmen 'deal' the ball to countrymen and vice versa. Play often stops for spectators to touch the ball, said to bring luck or fertility, or slows to allow younger players to participate.
After about an hour the ball is hurled towards respective goals that are set about two miles (3 km) apart, at either end of the town. Very often, however, hurlers carry the ball through the roads and fields that surround the town, with the aim of taking the ball across the Parish boundary. In this latter stage of the match the two sides strive for possession, and the actual "Town against Country" hurling takes place. Sometimes hurls are won by a team effort, but occasionally a single hurler may attain the ball in the town and manage to run all the way to the goal or boundary without being caught by any of the opposition.
The 'winner of the ball' (that is, the hurler that goals the ball or carries it over the boundary) is carried on the shoulders of two team-mates back to Market Square, to strains of the hurling song. Here he calls up the ball, declaring "Town Ball" or "Country Ball", depending on the side to which he belongs.
At 8:00 pm, the winner returns to Market Square to call up the ball again. This is followed by a visit to each of the public houses of the town, where the ball is immersed in gallon jugs filled with beer. Each gallon will be called up and the 'silver beer' (as it is known), is shared amongst all those present.
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