THOMAS M. M. HEMY (1852-1937) - PAGE 43
ETON WALL GAME (1887)
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On site page 02, I earlier had these words to offer about this Thomas Hemy work:
Should you read the extensive article on site page 03, you will learn that the artist "painted Rugby, Eton, Harrow, the great national schools of England." And read also Thomas Hemy's own words about those works. He specifically mentions his painting of 'Eton Wall Game'. Well here it is, available for purchase from EasyArt. A hand coloured restrike etching, so I read.
And the Eton Wall Game? I have read that it is a cross between soccer & rugby, and has been played at Eton College & nowhere else in the world for almost 300 years. The first recorded game was in 1776. It is played by two teams of a maximum of 10 players, in a playing area about five metres wide & about 110 metres long, bounded on one side by a high wall. The objective is to get the ball to the end of the wall & score a goal. Exceptionally exhausting to play, it is however said to be far more skillful than might appear to the uninitiated. 'The skill consists in the remorseless application of pressure and leverage as one advances inch by inch through a seemingly impenetrable mass of opponents'. It is most unlikely that you will one day see the Wall Game in the Olympic Games or on television. According to the Daily Telegraph, 'it is generally considered to be the world's worst spectator sport as most of the action takes place within the scrum, or 'bully', when all that can be seen are the player's legs and backs for long periods of time'. The big game of the school year is played on St. Andrews Day. No one has scored a goal since 1909! But what a splendid tradition!
The above words may need revising. It would seem that at the 2002 game two goals were scored. The first goals since 1909, I believe. Read on below.
Should you wish to learn more early words about the Eton Wall Game, I have spotted that the 1913/1914 Boys Own Paper Annual, Volume 36, had an article on the subject, of at least three pages in length. From an e-Bay item in Feb. 2006 which in fact has a giant image available of the first two pages of the article. Someday, perhaps, I will find a space to get the text of those two pages on site, though it is not very easy to read via the image provided. Or better, from the BOP volume or the article itself should they ever come to hand. Out of curiosity!
An update on my earlier words.
Above I indicated that a hand coloured restrike etching of the work is available from Easyart. Well, in early Mar. 2006, a 'rare original 1888 etching', in black & white was for sale via e-Bay. It was re-listed a number of times & sold in Jun. 2006 for U.S. $185.00. The first such item I have ever seen in a number of years of searching for Hemy items. The print, it would seem, was signed by both the artist and by George Wooliscroft Rhead, the engraver, both in pencil below the image & printed within the image. A image of 22 x 16 inches (56 x 40 cm) with the overall print size being at least 26 x 19.25 inches (66 x 49 cm) - 'at least' because the print was not taken out of its frame to measure what was under the frame edge. In small print above the image is written 'London Published Jan. 1st, 1888 by Messrs. Dickinsons, Publishers to the Queen. 114 Bond Street, W. Copyright Registered.'
The vendor, ljsellers of Kansas City, Missouri, clearly did his homework on the history of the Eton Wall Game. He provided 5 images with his listing and I show here a 'composite' image with the main image (with reflection removed), a small image of the overall print (also with reflection removed) & a tiny version of an image available on 'The Economist' site (see below) which shows the game in progress. With spectators sitting on the top edge of the wall just as in Hemy's work. Absent, I should note permissions to do so. I hope I may be forgiven & if not I shall remove as is appropriate. The listing page with all the text and images is now gone, however.
The vendor's words were as follows.
The Eton Wall Game is a vigorous hybrid of rugby union and football played on a strip of ground 5 metres wide and 110 metres long next a slightly curved brick wall, which was erected in 1717. The most important match is the annual St. Andrew’s Day game which is played between a team of 'Collegers' (scholarship-holders) and a team of 'Oppidans' (the rest of the students, who comprise most of the student body). In the Wall Game, each team tries to move the ball towards their opponent's end of the playing area. In those last few yards of the lengthy field (an area called the 'calx'--which is Latin for chalk), a player can earn a 'shy' (worth one point) by lifting the ball against the wall with his foot. A team mate then touches the ball with his hand and shouts 'Got it!' Those two plays must be entirely within Calx. This also gives the scoring team the right to attempt a goal (worth nine points) by throwing the ball at a designated target (a garden door at one end of the field and a tree at the other end). A player may score a kicked goal, worth five points, if he kicks the ball out in and it hits a goal during the normal course of play. The process of getting the ball is arduous and a stalemate often ensues. This is because, in effect, the game consists of the two sets of players forming a rugby-style scrummage (called a 'Bully') in which neither team may move the ball backwards (except in Calx, where a different type of Bully occurs). The Bully is formed next to the Wall and crabs slowly up and down the Wall inch by inch until the ball emerges. Many players, particularly those whose position is actually against the Wall (the position is termed 'Wall'), lose the skin off their elbows, hips and knees. Players within the Bully shove and push each other, mostly with their bodies but also by placing their fists (actual punching is not permitted) against the faces of the opposition and attempting to lever them backwards and away from the Wall. The only fast way to make ground is by kicking the ball upfield and out of play whenever it dribbles out of the Bully - unlike most types of football play is restarted opposite where the ball stops after it had gone out, or was touched after it had gone out. The game lasts up to an hour (30 mins per half); many games end 0-0. Scoring goals is very rare; the last goal in the St Andrew's Day game was in 1909, though there was a goal scored in a scratch match (a less formal warm-up match for the St. Andrew's Day game) in October 2005 by Hector Guinness. Other matches are played, and the average year will see six "shies" scored. (In the 2002 St Andrew's Day match, the Oppidans won 2-0, with Prince Harry, younger son of The Prince of Wales, scoring one of the two shies). In the most recent St. Andrews Day, the outcome of the match was a 0-0 draw, both sides failing to score. The Wall Game is run almost entirely by boys, particularly by the Keepers of College Wall and Oppidan Wall. It is the former of these, Alex 'Trevor' Sever, who is currently the most active in its organisation; his position has in the past been held by Boris Johnson, the politician. Eric Blair (a.k.a. George Orwell) and Harold Macmillan have been other famous players of the game. Despite its renown outside the school, in fact only a very small number of the 250 or so boys in each year ever take part in the sport, unlike the lesser-known but much more widely played Eton Field Game. The first all-female Wall Game was played on July 15th 2005, by a group of lower sixth form students on a Summer School course at Eton. The final score was, alas, 0-0. Click here for an article about the Wall Game in The Economist magazine of 17th November 2003.
Eton College played a great role in the development of rugby football in England, and helped influence the development of American football. In 1873, an Eton Rugby team played Yale and insisted on 11 players per side, the first such game in the United States (games up to then had 15 or 20 players per side). A young school boy named Walter Camp was in attendance at the game, and 7 years later, as the Yale Captain and Coach, Camp convinced the rules makers to permanently change the game to 11 per side.
Note that through the link above to the Nov. 2003 article in 'The Economist', I was able to access the rules of the game, as available here, in a pdf, from Eton College. The rules, were published in 1934, & revised in 2001. Published for Eton College by Spottiswoode, Ballantyne and Co. '(Revised 1933) 1934. 12mo. 23 pp'. As you once could see via an e-Bay listing. That e-Bay item sold in Mar. 2006 for GBP 14.99 or approximately U.S. $26.25. In fact I now see that there are today, in fact, many WWW pages about the Wall Game, but the content of all of them is essentially the same. i.e. of content as above.
In Oct. 2006 another print, similar to that described above but hand-coloured, was offered for sale on e-Bay. Offered at GBP 99 or approximately U.S. $186.40. No bids however. It had 'a college ink stamp next to the sculptor's name', which I presume means next to the engraver's name. The listing image was modest & that college 'stamp' was too small to show you here.
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