Girls and Boys on the Pull

Llanboidy,north of St Clears, Carmarthenshire deep in Welsh speaking Wales. Bigger and better than most villages, it still has a pub and a shop and even a hotel which mysteriously is sometimes open. Its own toilets and playing field, church and chapel. But its fame comes from its synonymous cheese and its tug of war team. Our friends Caroline and Nick have a cottage just outside the village and we have been going there for thirty years. Though last week was only the second time in twenty years. This time we were determined to see the tug of war team.The Lamb’s shelves buckle with the cups and there was a time the village claimed to be world champions.
We were lucky they were competing in nearby Hermon that weekend. We were off. An hour’s drive through Carmarthen’s back roads to the village. No signs were up so I asked in the shop. Never heard of it. Oh come one you must know it’s a big event. I asked someone in the street they didn’t know. I rang a door bell no one was in. Then another said, you know there is more than one Hermon? A rush to the map. Another hour in the car and we were at the correct Hermon Pembrokeshore which is only a few miles from the cottage! And I had thought the villagers were stupid, how they must have laughed.
But it was worth it. Five villages including Hermon,Llanboidy,Pentregalar and Llangolman sent men and women’s team of different weights. And pull they did. This was rural sport. The pitch was slightly sloped so they team pulling up hill always had a disadvantage. But each bout was pulled over two ends. And how long it took to pull the other over the line was timed.
In the middle was the obligatory referee in his smart blazer, tie and cap and he signalled the off. Pull, steady, dig in lads. Red faces, slipping to the ground with effort. Teeth barred.One more, dig in together. All were wearing heavy duty skiing boots. Gloves are not allowed but resin and back supports are. No bout took longer than two minutes and some were so one sided that they were over on thirty seconds. Well done boys, well done. Three cheers for Hermon.
This was fun for all the family, they came with their picnics to watch their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters . Small kids with pop,pop with his mates,the lad in the team. Hard working farmers, weather beaten all. In fact some of the girls on the rope were good looking, one could see them running no nonsense pubs in later years.
Each team had a coach who coaxed and yelled them on as he might a cow about to give birth. Come on my beauties, one big push and its yours. Or some such, as it was all in Welsh I could not be sure. But this was pure amateur sport. No swearing, hand shakes and three cheers after each match. And of course chips and burgers for sale. Llanboidy won the men’s prize but didn’t enter the women’s competition. When we asked in the village why no women’s team we were told “No call for it.” Certainly no room for any more cups on the pub’s shelves

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