Handing out a bit of stick on the beach

Pictures Martin Bostock'Action from the Ross-hockey game between the Pelicans (pink) and the Spread eagles.
Pictures Martin Bostock'Action from the Ross-hockey game between the Pelicans (pink) and the Spread eagles.
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Every time the unique sport of Ross Hockey is played on the beach to the north of Cleveleys, staff and pupils at 168-year-old Rossall School are recreating a piece of history, unique to Rossall.

Each spring they go head to head and stick to stick to play ‘Ross Hockey’, a no-holds-barred variant of hockey, which is played on the beach at low tide, using a hazel stick, a hard wooden ball ... and few rules.

The school’s founding fathers invented this tough, beach-based amalgam of two of the country’s most popular school sports, rugby and hockey, and it’s been played every year since Victorian times.

The tradition was kept alive this month, as our pictures show, though the match was disrupted by the weather.

In the 19th century Ross Hockey gave pupils a real opportunity to settle a few old scores with their schoolmasters, and the game earned a reputation for being brutal.

And, even today, when health and safety issues are paramount, Ross Hockey is still not for the faint-hearted.

Says headmaster Dr Stephen Winkley: “Prior to joining the school I had heard of ‘Ross Hockey’, but it was only witnessing this sport that I realised why it has survived as a tradition for a century and a half!