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Tales of stoolball from the Women’s Institute

‘West Sussex as seen through the eyes of the WI’, has some excellent articles including ‘Village Stoolball’ by Enid Dunlop from the Funtington and West Stoke Women’s Institute (WI).

She recalls how she started playing in 1917 and how the team travelled to away matches in a horse-drawn wagonette driven by a farmer, who also acted as umpire when they got to their match.

Later on she tells how the local coal merchant invested in a motor coach as a sideline to his business, which enabled the team to go further afield for away matches. Away games became an “outing” with at least one stop on the way home to “treat the driver” and buy fish and chips for the family’s supper. That really brings back memories.

She goes on to relate that the blacksmith’s wife and her three buxom daughters who possessed “remarkable hitting power” were amongst the keenest and best players. However, on one occasion when the umpire from the opposing team gave one of her daughters out, she disagreed with his decision:

“You wasn’t out Gert!” she bellowed from the scorebox. “You stay in!”

“She is out and she goes” asserted the umpire, swivelling on his heel to address the pavilion.

“Don’t you dare come out, my gal!” threatened the irate mum, but finally their captain had to intervene to pour oil on the troubled waters and the match continued.

There is a lot more to this most amusing article, and it’s worth contacting your Women’s Institute to see if their records have any local history about stoolball. This book was compiled from information supplied by every Women’s Institute in the county, and there may be similar publications for Hampshire, Surrey and Kent produced at the same time – 1975. There may even be some photographs because over the years they have produced postcards featuring local scenes.