Derby

Ashbourne Shrovetide Football started by 100-year-old veteran

Bill Millward turns up the ball
Image caption Bill Milward said Shrovetide Football "gets in your blood"

A D-Day veteran who started an ancient game of football on his 100th birthday has said it was one of the best days of his life.

Bill Milward "turned up the ball" for the second day of Royal Shrovetide Football in his hometown of Ashbourne, Derbyshire.

The game has been played almost every year since at least the 17th Century.

The match ended in a 1-1 draw after the Down'Ards goaled the ball late on Wednesday evening.

Image caption The crowd sang happy birthday to the centenarian before he threw the ball

Mr Milward said: "I did practice a little bit - I tried with one hand to start but it over balanced me.

"Every year you look forward to Shrovetide. It's one of them things that gets in your blood."

Day one ended with a goal for the Up'Ards - those born north of Henmore Brook, but Matthew Etherington goaled for the Down'Ards at Clifton Mill, on Wednesday.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Tuesday'y game included a spell in the river

Mr Milward added: "Best day of my life - I couldn't have had a better time of it."

He first took part in the sometimes violent game when he was "about nine or 10" and continued to play until the outbreak of World War Two.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption About 2,000 people attended the first day's play of Shrovetide Football in Ashbourne

The veteran - awarded a Legion d'Honneur last year - drove an amphibious landing craft when the allies launched their invasion of Nazi occupied France in 1944.

The crowd sang happy birthday to Mr Milward as well as the traditional renditions of Auld Lang Syne and God Save The Queen before he threw the ball into the crowd.

Image caption Bill Milward competed in the event as a "Down'Ard" having been born on the lower side of the river Henmore
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionHighlights from Shrovetide in years gone by

What is Royal Shrovetide Football?

Image copyright Hulton Archive
Image caption Players chase the ball at the 1952 Shrovetide match
  • The game has been played from at least 1667, although the exact origins are unknown because the earliest records were destroyed in a fire
  • It is played over two days on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, with it starting at 14:00 each day and ending at 22:00
  • The two teams that play the game are known as the Up'Ards and the Down'Ards
  • The actual process of "goaling" a ball requires a player to hit it against the millstone three successive times
  • The scorer is elected en route to the goal and would typically be someone who lives in Ashbourne

Shrovetide Football through the ages

Related Topics

More on this story