Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Arsenal Gentleman’s Weekly Review

A slight departure this week, as we talk not of Arsenal, but of our most recent foe in this regrettably forgettable of seasons, Burnley Football Club. I present below the unheard history of this historical club and its roots in the criminal and feckless gangs of this most bereft and depressing area of Lancashire.

This area of Great Britain is referred to in the writings of Bede, known as The Venerable Bede, (c. 673 CE – 735 CE).

“To that godforsaken land, known to the local inhabitants as Boonley, has no Ealdormen and thanes. The unfortunates there cannot make fire, and when one is lit, they run to their caves, screaming as if the pit of hell is opening for them. Even in the wintry storms of rain or snow they are unable to make fire and so a great many perish. In fair weather, it seems they utter a low sound, like that of dairy cattle, but beyond this no conversation can be had, for they know not English, or Friesian, Norse or High German. They merely emit animalistic grunts regardless of circumstance. When fighting incomers, a regular occurrence, they are silent when one of their own people is deemed to be winning the fight, by fair means or foul, but when the newcomer appears to return the blows, a great cacophony of booing can be heard. No churches in the area as Satan is in each and every one. Many cows.”St. Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People

In the Domesday Book, the record of the “Great Survey” of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086 by order of King William the Conqueror, we can find reference to Burnley thus:

“The King (William) holds in demesne Burnley (in lordship – that is, by and for himself; he has not let it out to a sub-tenant). Boomar (an Anglo-Saxon) held it in alod (freehold) from King Edward. (There is) Land for use by 6 ploughs. The villans (villagers) are of bad character, as are smallholders. All make a sound like a cow and have no language. There is Meadow and Woodland for (feeding) 70 ugly pigs. At the time of King Edward (1066) it was worth 100s, and afterwards (when William acquired the manor) and now (1086) it is worth 50s and declining in value due to the reluctance of the villans (villagers) to work hard. There are a great many noisy cattle.”

We know that Burnley Football Club formed by the youth club of the church of St Moanin, on Whine Road in 1882, the local vicar, the Reverend La Ment. He noticed that the young people of the district had invented a game, in which various street tough gangs would imitate the ‘lowing’ sounds of local pedigree cattle such as the Aberdeen Angus, the Belgian Blue, the Limousin and the Charolois cross. They would engage in often violent confrontations over which gang were the supreme cow-imitators. The gangs in question were The Cattle Market Cowmen, The Springfield Mill Moo-ers, The Healey Heights Groaners, The Rose Grove Complainers, The Whittlefield Whingers and The Stoneyholme Snivellers.

There were frequent skirmishes between the factions, which could go on for days at a time,
with young men just booing at each other in the street, night and day. These ‘boo battles’ became a kind of endurance event, with gangs finding new and exciting things to boo at. Outsiders, milkmen, washerwomen, farmers, cats, dogs, fish, trees, clouds, lampposts, carrots, chimneys, drain covers, birds in the tree, babies and horseshoes all were considered fair game, and received a never-ending barrage of booing.

Reverend La Ment, being a good Christian man, decided to harmonise the area, bringing calm unto the unwashed hoodlums and putting an end to these week long booing matches. He bought the district’s first leather football, and after thirty or so of the local illiterates had booed at it for a week, taught them the basics. They much preferred kicking the ball from a stationary position, and when playing other teams from the local area, would kick the opponent as much as the ball, yet when on the receiving end of a bit of the rough stuff, the booing would recommence to a deafening degree.

Yet the crucial difference now was that the cow-like utterances were directed at Booh-nley’s foes rather than at each other. And so a style of football and football supporting was born. One in which any amount of physical contact can be meted out by one’s own team, but as soon as anything is returned, the moaning and booing and whinging begins – and then does not stop for 90 minutes and beyond.

It is occasionally effective, never ever pretty, and the fatal flaw is that it conflates support for one’s own team with hating someone else’s, but it does get you to equal points with Arsenal Football Club.

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