Nipsy is an old South Yorkshire game similar to Peggy and Billet, children's games played all over the North of England, BUT and a very big but! in the Barnsley area it was and is a man's game.
Played on an individual basis from well before 1900 - a Long Knock competition, during the 1940's the game was codified and the team game developed. Leagues were running in the Barnsley and South Yorkshire areas in the 1950's and 60's, the last league starting in 1980 up to 1990 or there abouts.
at the photo of me on the local field gives an idea as to the sizes of the stick and nipsy.
The nipsy is the small round object on top of the up turned
Note the bad photo! making me look like I have a face
like a full moon
Note the bad photo! making me look like I have a face like a full moon
The stick is made from a single piece of Hickory, one of the toughest and most intransigent woods to work into the general shape of a golf club, hence the derogatory name of "Miner's Golf", made by the player himself - or somebody daft enough to make them for him.
Originally made from a road pick shaft, its oval cross section at
the business end made a perfect head for the stick but later railway
brake sticks were found be better as they were thicker in the head area. Due
to the thickness of the head end (approx 60mm thick whereas the road
pick shaft gave a maximum thickness of 45mm) this became important as it was
found that if the head was pressed in from a thickness of about 60mm to 25mm, a more
durable head was made.
The presses used took many shapes, the majority hardly touching the thickness but all players wanted a “pressed” stick.
few attempts my last press was made from 2” steel plates, with four 15” x
1¼” UNF bolts, thrust bearings on each with 4” captive nuts welded to the
base plate. A real beast that could shove the head in to the thickness of
a twenty packet of cigs, using a ten foot length of pipe and a 1” drive
socket for the 1¼” UNF bolts. Setting this in a vise in the
Maintenance shop of a local factory where I was employed as a
Pipefitter/welder, I spent many an hour (on the night shift) pressing my
This was not the ultimate! Barnsley used to surrounded by coal mines and in each pits blacksmiths shop was a rail straightener, a press with a hydraulic ram 8” in diameter that would press the heads in very easily BUT all this technology was kept secret from all but the honoured few.
combined with steaming the wood for three hours in a length of 4” pipe
before pressing, fashioned a stick with a head that would last a season,
whereas others would shred up after a few weeks.
|Making the Tackle||
After pressing came the task of making the stick. Total length varied to each players preference but from 24" to 32" was normal with a head about 4" long tapering into the shaft, again the photo makes this more clear.
Hickory has what is termed a locked grain, very difficult to work with normal woodworking tools, the cost of which were beyond most players pockets in any case. So other equipment came to the fore.
Rasps were used to rough the shape out and
then using broken glass and a good eye, the stick was scraped to
a final finish. The use of the workshop lathe (also on the Nights) made it a lot
easier, although when trying to take too big a cut, the stick would bounce
out of the centres, chasing me out of the shop.
As Lignum Vitae and Permali are far too hard to use woodworking tools, the nipsy is made by fileing or grinding (the fitters at the local pits always knew when Nipsy was back in fashion as they had to re-dress the grinding wheels on the pit top regularly) into the shape of a pigeons egg with a flat on the long axis - this made it sit on the up turned brick, the end was then chamfered off about two thirds toward the rising end. This caused the nipsy to "rise" when chipped correctly with the stick. Painted white with enamel paint, it was ready to use.
The last piece of equipment needed was a brick, not your common or garden one with three holes in, but one that was more robust, I believe that is known as an engineering brick. Getting a good one could make a player. The top had to be perfectly flat with no shine (chalk was used to dull it anyway) Each player tended to guard his brick jealously, refusing to allow anyone else its use, some like Joe Doyle (White Bear, Worsbrough Common) fitted it in a frame and took it with him where ever he played. Terry Hodson (White Bear, Worsbrough Common) was a ornamental stonemason, hence his white marble brick.
Ron Dean the team captain of the Engineers at Higham started to use a slightly longer brick. As it tapered over its length it was thought to be from a brickwork arch. The arguments caused by him using it lead to a special rules meeting. Arguments squashed, Ron used it to the end of the league.
|Rising the Nipsy||
Getting the nipsy to where you can hit it is "The Art of the Game" All players spent hours honing their rising - take that as you will but unless you had confidence in the rise, you would never make a Nipsy player. Some players hardly rose the nipsy at all, Ron Darlow for instance, others like Pete Woodhouse rose them to past shoulder height where they would hit them. Probably the most extreme style of rising was Keith Steeples who after chipping the nipsy up would turn completely away from it, wind up his swing and spin round and really wallop the nipsy.
below of Wilf Scholey in action give an idea of what is involved.
| The Records
Over the years records were achieved and broken, the change to metres in the 1980's league rather than yards gave much to argue about but not having access to previous leagues score books, the following are accepted as the current records.
Although huge hits have been
made in practice, to qualify as a record the hit had to be made in a match
or a Long Knock competition. The record single hit is acknowledged at 208 yards by Joe Cooke of Monk
Bretton (in the 1960's?) and the highest match total (7 hits) is 1061 metres
achieved by Frank Lenthal , whose
opponent in the match was Keith
Steeples who scored 1016. The only time that scores totalling over
1000 metres were attained, a truly magnificent score by both