University Archive

Archive Item Of The Month – June 2014

“A Novel Race” (UA34/1/26)


Archive article of the month – June 2014


Whilst working as an intern at the University of Gloucestershire’s archives, I found a very unique and entertaining article titled “A Novel Race”. Written in 1894-95, this article documented a competition at a village fete that involved a group of women competing to catch a pig, with the winner being allowed to keep it.  Various amusingly specific details were written about in depth, such as the shouting of the jubilant audience as well as the determination of some of the competitors to carry on the chase. As a result of this, the article offered an alternative insight into the atmosphere of an event in a small village community, as well as making a humorous read!


Jonathan Smith – Archives Degreeplus Intern




 “A Novel Race”, by T W Lockley


MS Chelts, UA34/1/26, 1894-5


Talk about racing! I once saw a race which I shall never forget as long as I live.


It was the annual fete-and-gala day at the village of W—-, and being in the neighbourhood, I thought I would run down and see all the “fun of the fair”, and a jolly lot of fun I got too. I could see before I got to the place a large crowd of people in one corner of the field. So further I bent my steps with the intention of asking the cause, but was saved all trouble by a gawkey lout, who had just run in from another quarter, saying “Wot’s up Jim”


“Wot’s up?” says Jim, “Wha they’re a-going to let the pig out”


“Wot pig?” Says Louty


“Wha doesn’t ta know there’s going to be a woman’s race for a pig, and that as catches it has                                        it?”


This was enough for me, I elbowed my way sharply through the crowd and soon found myself beside about a dozen women who were standing in front of a pen, all gabbling, shouting, gesticulating and pushing each other, as though the fate of empires depended upon their doings that day.




This did not last long, however, for presently a man came, and saying, “are you ready, Ladies?” [as he] quietly slid over the pen door.




Instantly the noise subsided, little impediments not already [eased] aside were soon disposed of, and the lasses were toeing a chalk line before you could say “Jack Robinson”.




“One foot forward! Ready! One, two, three and away!” said the starter, as, opening the pen door, he let out a fine fat pig, pushing its tail to help it forward.


Off went the incensed pig and off went the women after it, as fast as their legs could carry them; and then arose a perfect babel of voices; encouraging, joking and advising; but the women went wildly on.




“Well done, old Snidewide! Mind your Corns”, “Belly leg it! Mary, her’s missed! Keep tha toes straight!” “Molly for ever”


“Now for it! What’s ta doing!” and a thousand other exclamations and ejaculations fell on the racers’ unheeding ears; but still the pig ran and still the whole band ran after it.




One stout old lady was waddling away right earnestly when her shoe stuck in the mud, and off it came; but she waddled on dismayed and undaunted leaving the shoe to stick. “A fat pig like your’s worth move’n a show” she thought, so she kept up as well as she could, puffing and panting like a broken-winded house, but still waddling on.




“awm not a-going to give up, t’pig may turn and then last’s first. Aw’s her a chance yet” she said, and on she went.


Some of the foremost got up to the pig, but on trying to stop it they found their mistake; the pig had been covered with soft-soap and the would-be eartops were diddled. Twist one and then another got hold but only to let it slip away and run off as madly as ever.


Long laughed the crowd at every futile attempt to keep hold, and soon first one and then another gave up the chase. One threw herself on it, grasping it round the entire hams, but it slipped away and she was left sprawling on the ground. Another tried its hind legs, but a jerk threw her hors de combat.


Some having fairly exhausted themselves gave up in despair, but stood watching the others with a ludicrous mixture of vexation and amusement on their rubicund of perspiring countenances.




The pig was now nearing a dirty, shiny, shallow pool, and the persevering ones, seeing this, were running and stumbling more earnestly than ever, now touching, but missing the pig, and now clutching the empty air, with a vehemence really side-splitting.




The pig was just on the confines of the pool when a lucky idea struck one of the women; lifting up her apron, she threw it over the pig’s back and then threw herself on besides. This made the apron (and the woman) stick to the pig’s back, which, evidently, like Gilpin’s horse,


                “What thing upon his back had got,


                Did wonder more and more”


So it made a sudden plunge right into the pond and bore her through to the other side. But she stuck fast through thick and thin and at last the poor pig, being quite exhausted with its run and its burden, gave up the contest, and lay down as quickly as its panicking sides would allow it.




Loud cheers proclaimed the lady’s triumph and the judge having declared the pig fairly won, our heroine walked away amid the plaudits of the crowd, of the half-envious, half-admiring looks of the unsuccessful ones, having first given her panicking prize into the care of her proud husband, who drove it gently home.



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