Sporting Objects

one Swimming Medals

Swimming Medals

A truly sparkling collection of medals won by Joan Jackson nee Varco of Fowey.  This collection has been chosen to represent Cornish women’s sporting achievements, something being celebrated through exhibitions and recordings at St Ives archive and elsewhere.  Joan came from a sporty family, being the daughter of local football legend Percy Seymour Varco (1904-1982) who played for Aston Villa, Queen’s Park Rangers and Norwich City.  Varco, whose footballing appearances were greeted with chants of ‘Give it to Varco’, returned to Fowey where he was mayor in 1953 and 1955.
See the medals at Fowey Museum

two Wrestling Trophy

Wrestling Trophy

St Wenn’s Chapman brothers were the champions of the wrestling circuit in the early 20th century; wrestling being a sport popular in mining and china clay areas at this time.  This splendid trophy was won by Sidney Chapman in 1913 and shows two wrestlers in action on its lid.  Another two-handled presentation cup of 1911 and a prized wrestling belt won in the Newquay Championships of 1912-13 are also on display.  Sidney Chapman migrated to Montana in America and these interesting relics of this distinctive Cornish sport were given to the museum in 1989 by his family.
See the trophey at Royal Cornwall Museum

three Velvet Rugby Cap

Velvet Rugby Cap

Penryn was one of the first places where rugby was played in Cornwall. It was allegedly introduced there in 1871 by a local watchmaker who had played for Blackheath in London.  Made in Scotland, this black velvet cap with gold trim and tassel has the red letters P.R.C. embroidered on it for Penryn Rugby Club.  It belonged to C. Abrams of Penryn and must be of similar date to his football cap dated 1921-22.  Caps like these were first used to identify different teams in football and rugby with caps being awarded to players.  Today the number of ‘caps’ shows how many times a player has played in international matches.
See the Cap at Penryn Museum

four Hurling Balls

Hurling Balls

St Ives is one of only two places in Cornwall where hurling is still played on an annual basis and so these balls are part of a living tradition.  Unlike St Columb Major, St Ives balls had to withstand sea water as the game is played on the beach in February.  Older balls with mottoes in Cornish or English survive in the collections of Penlee House and the Royal Cornwall Museum.  In 1638-9 St Ives’ first recorded hurling ball – a  silver ball with an applewood core - cost almost as much as a small cow.  Cornish hurling resembles rugby more than Irish hurling which is closer to hockey.  
See the hurling balls at St Ives Museum

five Bob Fitzsimmons Cartoon

Bob Fitzsimmons Cartoon

Helston-born Bob Fitzsimmons (1863-1917) won world championships in three weights and still won fights when over 40 years of age.  All this was achieved in America.  Helston has a fine collection of Fitzsimmons’ memorabilia including this cartoon clipped from a magazine.  This drawing commemorates the moment when Bob Fitzsimmons knocked out Jim Corbett in the 11th round to win the world heavyweight title on 17th March 1897.  The queues to get in to the Carson City venue went several times round the block.  Helston Museum also owns a souvenir walking stick from this event with an ivory carving of both boxers on the handle.
See the cartoon at Helston Museum

six 1855 County Cricket Ball

1855 County Cricket Ball

This attractive artefact shows the Cornish arms with 15 gold bezants on one side, and commemorates the County Championship match held on August 3 1855 where Hayle beat Launceston.  Hayle were champion cricketers in 1855 and it is likely that the club had the ball gilded and painted, with the inscription ‘The County Ball’, to hang up at the end of season dinner.  Cricket is first documented in Cornwall in 1773 at Falmouth and thereafter some of the best teams were based on Cornish landed estates with professional coaches employed.  By 1856 all towns with populations over 2,000 (except Saltash) had a cricket team and from 1856-70 many of the best players in the country toured Cornwall starting in 1856 with a game at Hayle which cost £115 to put on.  
See the ball at Penlee House Museum & Art Gallery

seven Football Boots

Football Boots


In the late 1950s and early 1960s the Roseland parish of Gerrans was football mad.  These boots and colourful cup date from this time or a little earlier.  With leather uppers, studs and soles they look as if they have come straight off the football field and mud still adheres to their soles.  At Gerrans some ex-footballers claim to have in-growing toenails from playing football four or five times a week.  Mr F. Perryman was one of the team and won 19 medals and a cup while playing in the Cornwall Junior Football league in 1959-61. By contrast, at St Agnes Museum there are a pristine pair of football boots which were never worn.  

See the boots at Gerran's Heritage Centre


eight American Softball Bat

American Softball Bat

Symbolising the lengthy preparations for the D Day landings in Cornwall and the camaraderie of the Second World War, this American softball bat was given to Tony Tonkin when a boy by an American soldier camped out at Presingoll.  On the 5th and 6th of June 1944 the American troops moved out of Cornwall in order to take part in D Day and many did not survive.  The softball bat was made at Louisville in the USA.  Softball is a descendant of American baseball, played with a larger ball, smaller pitch and underhand bowling.  This  game goes back to 1887 and the term softball was coined in 1926.  Baseball itself was a popular game with migrating Cornish miners in North America. 
See the bat at St Agnes Museum

nine 19th Century Tennis Outfits

19th Century Tennis Outfits

Impossible to choose between Odessa Tomlin’s lawn tennis skirt from Lostwithiel and the lace dress and blazer worn by early 20th century tennis players in Launceston.  Odessa’s striped wool tennis skirt has voluminous pockets on either side which held three tennis balls each.  This meant that games could be reasonably continuous.  Lawn tennis was one of the few sports considered suitable for women in the late 19th century and in some places replaced archery in popularity.   Both sports had the advantage of showing off a woman’s figure, though the length of the tennis costumes ensured that there would be little danger of showing an ankle during play.
See the outfits at Lostwithiel Museum and Lawrence House Museum

ten Ben Ainslie's Laser

Ben Ainslie's Laser

This was the boat in which Ben won his first Olympic gold medal at Sydney in 2000.  Measuring 4.23 metres or 13 foot 10 inches in length, this laser was placed on long-term loan to the NMMC shortly after Ben won his medal.  Born in Macclesfield in 1977, Ben joined Restronguet sailing club at Mylor aged eight and was educated at Truro School.   Describing himself as a sailor, very bad golfer and wannabee pilot, Ben’s sporting success continues with gold medals in the larger Finn class in 2004 and 2008.  Despite a spat with a media boat late in 2011, Ben remains a real inspiration for young Cornish sailors.   
See Ben's Laser at National Maritime Museum Cornwall