Was this the first football international?
Keen on football, the
good folk of Bewcastle district challenged the Armstrongs, a colourful
Border clan who lived on the Scottish side, to a football match.
Almost all, that is.
A local dignitary, Mr. William Ridley, a stickler for political correctness, was unhappy at this fraternisation with the enemy and he was determined that the match should not be played.
With some of his friends, he laid an ambush for the Armstrong team so as to dispose of the opposition even before the match had began.
But the Armstrongs got a tip-off and, bringing along some two hundred of their supporters, they laid an ambush for the ambushers.
In the ensuing encounter, Ridley suffered sorely.
It is reported that one
of his supporters, John Whytfield, was so cut up that his ‘bowels came
out, but were sewed up again.’
Ridley himself came off even worse.
Thus ended what was almost certainly the first Anglo-Scottish International.
Final score: Two dead, including Ridley.
The game of football steadily increased in popularity and matches took place in many Border locations.
On one occasion, a notable game was played between the men of Yarrow and the men of Ettrick.
was quite an event as each side produced a team of a hundred men.
During one of the more intensive encounters, a voice was heard to say,” Never mind the ball, let’s get on with the game!”
Football is still a passion in the Borders but now usually less physical.