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100 not out - Liverpool's strangest sporting clash; Patronesses, prods and port... obscure world of quoits.

Byline: Mark Hookham

AFTER several flagons of fine port the wager between the Aigburth cricketers and the Childwall quoiters seemed a simple one.

Who could throw a six-pound steel ring the closest to a small iron prod over a distance of 21 yards?

Now, 100 years after the original bet, the obscure sport of quoiting is still practised and celebrated between members of Liverpool Cricket Club and Childwall Quoiting Club.

Last week, the centenary match between the two clubs ended in an honourable draw and the 1902 Doulton challenge cup remained at the quoiting club's Childwall Abbey Hotel clubhouse.

Formed in 1795, the Childwall Quoiting Club is the oldest in Britain, with its past and present members among some of Liverpool's most influential businessmen and civic leaders.

William Gladstone's nephew Ernest, Cunard Line chairman Sir John Brocklebank and members of the Bold, Blundell and Falkner families were all keen Childwall Quoiters.

Today, Barry Owen, managing director of property consultants Mason Owen is one of 12 members of the all-male club.

Club secretary Henry Pattinson said the present members uphold the same traditions as their founding fathers.

He said: ``We are very proud of our history and have minutes and match reports of games dating back to 1812, when the club first moved to the Childwall Abbey pitch.

``We play around six times a year and the game against Liverpool Cricket Club is always the highlight.

``We have a dinner at around 5pm before the game and then begin quoiting at 7pm. We then finish the evening with a late supper and award the 1902 trophy to the winning captain.''

The game involves two teams of between five and six men throwing steel rings of varying weight over or close to a prod which is sunk into a circular clay pit.

It was a popular pastime on village greens across the country in the 18th century, but is now only played in a handful of Yorkshire former pit villages and in East Anglia.

The CQC's three copper plate handwritten minute books show the club was founded by Colonel Falkner of the Liverpool Light Horse Brigade in a Bootle coffee house ``famous for its Welsh mutton and port wine''.

It soon became an exclusive gentlemen's club, where the city's traders and merchants would meet and discuss business.

Each year the club elected an honourable lady patroness, who was allowed to attend dinners, but not throw quoits.

Mr Pattinson said: ``Every year we still appoint a young lady to be the club's patroness. This is an honorary role and often theEDITORIALpatronesses are related to members or friends.''

The club drew up a list of lighthearted rules that were enforced by fining members bottles of port.

In 1854, club president Mr Hervey was fined ``three dozen bottles of the finest old crusted port'' after he ``displayed lamentable ignorance in not knowing who the lady patroness is''.

In 1906 Mr C Parker had to pay a hefty six dozen bottles for marrying Miss Dorothy Meal while she was the club's patroness. Port still plays a significant role in the modern game and this year's captain of the Liverpool cricket team, Philip Dunkley, believes it can be used as a winning tactic.

He said: ``It's accepted that you do not quoite when you are sober.

``The dinners involve an awful lot of fine food and alcohol and you can choose people to toast.

``We try and pick Childwall's best quoiters to toast and this means they drink more before the game.''

The origins of quoiting is not known, although Liverpool city council community historian, Steve Binns, thinks it was used to hone the aim of soldiers in the British Army.

He said: ``Many similar games like croquet, boules and bowls were used by army officers and the connection with Liverpool's Colonel Falkner supports this.

``This would originally have been a not too strenuous game where Liverpool's great and the good could socialise and informally talk business.''

Mr Pattinson believes the club's ethos has change very little since 1795.

He said: ``We are all close friends and enjoy the social aspect to the game.

``There are only a few quoiting clubs in the country and we want to carry on the traditions set by the members who have played over the last two hundred years.''

QUOITING - A GUIDE TO THE GAMEA GAME of quoiting is played between two teams of five or six players on a pitch 21 yards long.

At two ends of a pitch is an iron prod. Competitors have to throw quoits of varying weights as near to the prod as possible.

Each team member throws two quoits. The team with the nearest quoit to the prod wins a point for that and every quoit closer than the nearest opposition quoit.

The first team to 11 points wins the game and the best over three games wins.

CAPTION(S):

TRADITION: Philip Mitchell, Peter Jennins and Henry Pattinson and, left, Peter Jennins in action
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 6, 2002
Words:829
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