What On Earth?
The World Coal Carrying Championships are annual races which takes place in the village of Gawthorpe near Ossett in West Yorkshire. Competitors must complete a one mile course carrying a sack of coal. The race starts on Owl Lane outside the Royal Oak pub and finishes at the maypole on the village green. Traditionally this takes place every Easter Monday on whatever date it falls on.
How Did This Come About?
Like many great ideas, the Coal Carrying Championships started off in the pub. Back in 1963, two men were enjoying a pint in the Beehive Inn in Gawthorpe. Their names were Reggie Sedgewick and Amos Clapham, the former was a coal merchant. Suddenly another man, by the name of Lewis Hartley burst into the pub, but did not get the reception he was perhaps hoping for.
‘Ba Gum lad tha looks buggered,’ said Reggie, slapping the newcomer on the back.
‘Ah’m as fit as thee,’ replied Lewis, a little put out. ‘An if tha’ dunt’ believe me gerra bag o’ coil on thi’ back an ‘ah’ll get one on mine an ah’ll race thee to top o’wood!’
Another man called Fred Hirst was also at the bar and overheard this conversation. He was the Secretary of the Gawthorpe Maypole Committee and suddenly he had an idea.
‘Owd on a minute. ‘We bin lookin’ for somet to do on Easter Monday. If were gonna ‘ave a race then let’s ‘ave it then, a coil race, from t’Barracks (The Royal Oak pub) t’ Maypole!”
So the World Coal carrying Championships were born and the first one was held on Easter Monday 1963.
They still take place on Easter Monday and had taken place for the past 57 years, until Easter 2020 when the UK found itself in lockdown.
The Championships consist of four categories Mens, Womens, Veterans (Over 40s) and Childrens. Men carry a 50kg bag of coal and the women 20kg. The adult races are run from the Royal Oak to the Village Green, while the children’s races are a 100 yards dash.
There are a few rules and regulations which competitors must abide by, including if a sack of coal is dropped it must be picked up again by the competitor, not anyone else. Any assistance will result in disqualification. Another is that all competitors must stick to the designated road and not take any short cuts!
The winners of the mens race win £750; the womens champion scoops £500, while the winner of the Veterans race wins £150.
Champions & Record Holders
The coal carrying world record holder is 4 minutes 6 seconds, held by David Jones of Meltham and was set in 1991. The women’s record holder is Catherine Foley from Batley, in a time of 4 minutes 25 seconds, which was set in 2011.
The 2019 champions were Andrew Corrigan from Durham in the men’s race and Jenny Muster who won the Women’s race.
Now it’s time for some Coal Carrying Action!