female clog-fighting

mmm - it's interesting what you can misunderstand…

The local museum, the Whitaker, recently had a weekend of 'traditional Rossendale customs'. Although the link of some of these with Rossendale was perhaps tenuous the material was interesting nevertheless. Unfortunately I missed the weekend itself but saw a leaflet on a recent visit and my eye was caught by an apparent exhibition of clog fighting by Mrs Anna FC Smith.

Interesting. Female clog-fighting was a new one to me.

Whitaker event 200

It wasn't, of course, what it seemed.

Anna FC Smith is an artist and social historian whose work depicting clog-fighting was exhibited at the museum in a series of tasteful and evocative pen and ink drawings with added blood.

clog fighting 1 200 clog fighting 2 200

The activity was known as 'purring'. Mrs Smith describes it somewhat evocatively as having 'created a space for working men to rule their own lives and express pride and community under their own terms. The sport may have been violent, but, in the context of their lives, fighters displayed skill, sportsmanship, and bawdy good humour'.

It would be interesting to research the extent to which that was true. It would also be interesting to explore parallels with modern-day football hooliganism which could be described in similar terms.

I don't know the extent to which this took place in the area, but the Moorcock Inn on
Rooley Moor Road between Rochdale and Backup was said to have been used for bare-knuckle fighting well away from any prying official eyes.