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East of England English Country Backswording Tournament

Oyster Fayre Cup 2009


All goes to plan for “The Spider” man!



Local man Tony 'The Spider' Major from Clifton, Bedfordshire, ensnared victory again for the second year running at the East of England English Country Backswording Tournament at Colchester’s famous Oyster Fayre, held in Colchester Castle Park on the 6th and 7th June. Tony the 2008 Oyster Fayre Champion returned to defend his title against seven crack-cudgel players from across the Shires.


Backswording an ancient sport.....


English Country Backswording is an ancient English sport which dates back for centuries and was played throughout middle England. It derives from the practice of the single handed Backsword/ Broadsword. English Country Backswording is a traditional stick fighting sport where two players fight using wooden cudgels, applying their swordsmanship skills. Traditionally the first player or 'Old Gamster', as they are known,  to raise a "hinch" (inch) of blood or more above the eye line on their opponents head wins the bout. In Backswording bouts today the winner is the player who is the first to score three strikes (Bloods) to their opponents head.  The Aisle O'var Backswording Clubbe, founded by Peter Holland, has been reintroducing the traditional sport of Country Backswording to the English Shires over the last 10 years. The event held at Colchester Oyster Fayre is one of several regional tournaments which are held throughout the year, culminating with the UK English Country Backswording Finals at  The Uffington White Horse Show, Oxfordshire over the August bank holiday weekend.


Oyster Fayre Cup Results


The Oyster Fayre being an outdoor event had been at the risk of being a wash-out this year due to predicted weather reports, thankfully this was not to be the case and the weather throughout the whole weekend was fabulous, apart from a minor down pour on the Sunday morning which did not effect the tournament in anyway.


Competitors for the weekend were:




Tony 'The Spider' Major

Steve 'The Bulldog' Williams

Tina ‘Long Meg’ Holland

Chaz ‘The Groo’ Albrighton

Jack ‘Wolfbain’ Reynolds

Tom Reynolds

Barry Voice

Andrew McDowell


West Country Shin Kicking-


Steve 'The Bulldog' Williams

Tina Holland

Paul Edwards


Chief Stickler:


Emma Boast


Secondary Sticklers:


Jed Pascoe

Chaz Albrighton



Fighting in the first of the quarter-finals on Saturday morning were Chaz Albrighton and Barry Voice. The fight was vigorous with a lot of high tempo exchanges. The bout was won by Barry, ensuring him a place in the semi finals on the Sunday morning. Up next was Jack Reynolds and Tony Mager, Jack received several well placed blows on his torso from 'The Spider' during the bout, but fought back valiantly and gained a 2 bloods to nil lead. Tony seeing the place in the semi finals slipping away dug deep and used his skill and dexterity to level the score to 2 all. Again exchanges were fast and furious, until finally Tony scored the winning blood and a place in the semi final.


Next up in the afternoon session were Tina Holland and Tom Reynolds. The tempo and speed of play was a joy to watch and this was reflected by the enthusiasm of the spectators. In the end only one could go through to the semi finals and in this case it was Tom Reynolds. The last quarter final of the day was fought by Steve Williams and Andrew McDowell. Steve a former Oyster Fayre Cup Champion proved a formidable opponent. Andrew put up a brave fight and almost lost through a knock out but regained his composure and soldiered on. However Steve won the bout decisively.


Sunday Semi finals


Before the semi finals began unfortunately Tom Reynolds had to withdraw due to illness, so his place was taken by his brother Jack Reynolds who was the best runner up from the previous day. The first semi final was fought between Steve and Barry both fighters held their ground during what turned out to be a memorable match. The winner at the end was Steve 'The Bulldog' Williams securing himself a place in the Final. This was followed by the second semi final between Jack Reynolds and Tony 'The Spider' Mager. This was the second time they had been drawn against each other in the tournament. The exchanges were a joy to watch and the on looking spectators applauded the high quality of skill displayed by both players. However the in end the match was won by ‘The Spider'.


The Final


The afternoon session began with the Bronze medal bout between Barry and Jack, it was a hard fought contest, Jack received an actual blood but after time out he was allowed to continue but even then with most of the crowd behind him for fighting so courageously Barry Voice won the Bronze Medal.


Now the stage was set for the Grand Final, between the former 2007 Oyster Fayre Champion Steve 'The Bulldog' Williams and the current 2008 Champion Tony 'The Spider' Mager. By this time the spectators were nine rows deep, poised to see who the eventual Champion would be. When the chief stickler announced it was time to bout the audience erupted in cheers of support and encouragement for their chosen fighters. Both fighters flew from their positions with cuts, thrusts and counters at speeds which are rarely seen. The first to score a blood was Steve which was shortly followed up by a second blood, leaving Tony 2 nil down.  By this point the crowd was in a frenzy, with the traditional chant of ‘blood, blood, blood!' echoing across the whole of Colchester’s Castle Park. Tony realizing he was only one blood away from losing the tournament, needed to put everything he had into the remaining bout and within a short space of time managed to score 2 bloods himself leveling the match. Everything now rested on a single blood.  With the crowd behind them both the players took the fight to a higher level.


The spectators were on tender hooks as strike after strike was warded and countered. Then during a blazing exchange Tony  'The Spider' Mager scored the decisive winning blood, to triumphant cheers from the crowd.

“The Spider’s little girl Freya holding her daddy’s cup”


In the end Barry Voice took Bronze, Steve 'The Bulldog' Williams took Silver and taking the Oyster Fayre Cup and gold medal for the second year in a row was Tony 'The Spider' Mager.


Running alongside the Backswording tournament was also a smaller but just as hard fought, West Country Shin Kicking tournament. The fighters in the tournament were Steve 'The Bulldog' Williams, Tina Holland and Paul Edwards. The Final score at the end of the weekend placed Tina in the Bronze medal position, followed by Steve 'The Bulldog' Williams in Silver and the Gold went to Paul Edwards.

Winners from left to right - Tina Holland, Steve ‘The Bulldog’ Williams, Paul Edwards, Tony ‘The Spider’ Mager and Barry Voice.


Thanks and congratulations go out to all participants, video footage of the tournament will be uploaded in due course.


To read

‘The Saga Of Oyster Fayre

a poem by Chaz Albrighton click here