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Entire town lines streets for funeral of man who dedicated his life to making ball for ancient game

Hundreds of mourners, standing six feet apart, lined the streets to pay their last respects to the villager who made the balls for their medieval football game. 

John Harrison, 80, made the centrepiece for Ashbourne’s Royal Shrovetide match in Derbyshire for 41 years but died last month.

The historic game which Prince Charles helped kick off in 2003 has been played there since 1667 and sees teams try to score into goals three miles apart.

Hundreds of mourners lined the streets, pictured, in the historic market town of Ashbourne on Monday to pay their last respects to the villager who made the balls for their medieval football game

John Harrison, pictured, made the centrepiece for Ashbourne's Royal Shrovetide match in Derbyshire for 41 years but died last month

John Harrison, pictured, made the centrepiece for Ashbourne’s Royal Shrovetide match in Derbyshire for 41 years but died last month

Players take part in the Royal Shrovetide Football Match in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, last year

Players take part in the Royal Shrovetide Football Match in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, last year

Prince Charles was carried shoulder-high through the streets of Ashbourne, pictured, on a visit to the town in 2003

Prince Charles was carried shoulder-high through the streets of Ashbourne, pictured, on a visit to the town in 2003

Mourners of all ages kept their distance and carried balls, pictured, as they came to remember John Harrison in Ashbourne on Monday

Mourners of all ages kept their distance and carried balls, pictured, as they came to remember John Harrison in Ashbourne on Monday

Coronavirus restrictions meant Mr Harrison’s church couldn’t let anyone in for a service – so instead the entire village including local firefighters in full uniform formed a guard of honour.

They maintained the correct level of social distance as they lined the streets from his home up to his resting place a mile away on Monday afternoon.

His cortege passed them as they bowed their heads beside fire trucks for the former firefighter.

Ashbourne Mayor Ann Smith helped organise the incredible show of support calling on the ‘Shrove-tide family’ to ‘come together, social distancing rules adhered to, to say goodbye’.

His wife Christine was unable to leave the house to see the tribute, because she is self-isolating, according to the Derby Telegraph.

She told the site: ‘It was overwhelming, I can’t tell you. We’ve had so many cards, flowers, well-wishing messages and texts. It’s been wonderful.

Coronavirus restrictions meant the local church couldn't let anyone in for a service – so instead the entire village including local firefighters in full uniform, pictured, formed a guard of honour

Coronavirus restrictions meant the local church couldn’t let anyone in for a service – so instead the entire village including local firefighters in full uniform, pictured, formed a guard of honour

Competitors from the opposing teams, the Up'ards and the Down'ards, reach for the ball during the annual Royal Shrovetide Football Match in Ashbourne, last year

Competitors from the opposing teams, the Up’ards and the Down’ards, reach for the ball during the annual Royal Shrovetide Football Match in Ashbourne, last year

Mr Harrison's cortege passed through Ashbourne on Monday, pictured, as people bowed their heads beside fire trucks for the former firefighter

Mr Harrison’s cortege passed through Ashbourne on Monday, pictured, as people bowed their heads beside fire trucks for the former firefighter

Crowds in Ashbourne on Monday, pictured, gathered to remember Mr Harrison, who was a key part of the historic game, which Prince Charles once helped kick off in 2003

Crowds in Ashbourne on Monday, pictured, gathered to remember Mr Harrison, who was a key part of the historic game, which Prince Charles once helped kick off in 2003

‘John had a good set of principles that he lived by steadfastly and they never changed. He was a very unassuming man, just went about his business. He didn’t need to be in the limelight. 

‘There are a lot of things that he’s left, that we can remember him by. The Shrovetide balls he’s made and the houses he’s built.’

The Royal Shrovetide Football match dates back to the 12th Century and is played on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday from 2pm to 10pm.

The goals are three miles apart and hundreds of villages from the hillside, known as the Up’ards, take on those from downhill, dubbed the Down’ards.

The game is also known as hugball because hundreds of villagers move the ball in a massive scrum between goals.

Ashbourne, where mourners gathered on Monday, pictured, has hosted the Royal Shrovetide match for centuries

Ashbourne, where mourners gathered on Monday, pictured, has hosted the Royal Shrovetide match for centuries

The game, pictured being played in Ashbourne last year, is also known as hugball because hundreds of villagers move the ball in a massive scrum between goals

The game, pictured being played in Ashbourne last year, is also known as hugball because hundreds of villagers move the ball in a massive scrum between goals

Ashbourne Mayor Ann Smith helped organise the incredible show of support on Monday, pictured, calling on the 'Shrove-tide family' to 'come together, social distancing rules adhered to, to say goodbye'

Ashbourne Mayor Ann Smith helped organise the incredible show of support on Monday, pictured, calling on the ‘Shrove-tide family’ to ‘come together, social distancing rules adhered to, to say goodbye’

The Royal Shrovetide Football match, which the people of Ashbourne, pictured, remembered on Monday, dates back to the 12th Century and is played on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday from 2pm to 10pm

The Royal Shrovetide Football match, which the people of Ashbourne, pictured, remembered on Monday, dates back to the 12th Century and is played on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday from 2pm to 10pm

Each team attempts to carry the ball back to their own goal and if it is ‘goaled’ before 5.30pm, a new ball is released and play restarts from the town centre.

The game has been known as Royal since 1928 when the then-Prince of Wales and later King Edward VIII turned up the ball – and suffered a bloody nose.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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