Feather Balancing from Rye – 3

Excerpt from the book 40 Humourous British Traditions. Is British humour your cup of tea? Britain has many well documented, yet strange traditions. This book describes 40 more traditions in a similar vein, all of which are less well known. Get ready for interesting characters, thought-provoking ideas, and strange events – all of which are fiction!


Ted Corbett was the big winner of 1674, winning the feather on the nose balancing contests for all feathers apart from the chicken one, which was won by Brian Moult in a time of 23 minutes and 18 seconds. There was controversy in the sparrow feather balancing on the finger contest when the winner Barry Piggott was accused of cheating by Jem Mace, who claimed that Piggott was using glue to help the balancing. Upon close inspection it was found that Mace was correct and Piggott was banned sine die. From this time each contestant has to shake hands with the Shaking Judge before starting to balance his feather – if any foreign substance is found then the contestant is banned for 10 years.

There was also a problem in the 100-yard race when Albert Smythe was found to have carved his sparrow feather so that it sat more snugly over his finger. He was banned for life and a new rule was introduced: “due to carvinge, whitlingge, altering, and cheeting of highest order, from this daye forthe ye 100-yarde race will only involve ye folkes who have no connexion to there feather.” What this means is that people are allocated a feather by the Handing Out Judge at the start of the race.

The tricks contest of 1674 was won by the astonishing Oliver Allan, who even to this day holds the record for the number of tricks victories at 46. Allan was able to balance a feather on his finger, throw it lightly into the air so that it landed on his nose, and from there cajole it onto his elbow and then down his arm to his finger.


Published by Julian Worker

Julian was born in Leicester, attended school in Yorkshire, and university in Liverpool. He has been to 94 countries and territories and intends to make the 100 when travel is easier. He writes travel books, murder / mysteries and absurd fiction. His sense of humour is distilled from The Marx Brothers, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and Midsomer Murders. His latest book is about a Buddhist cat who tries to help his squirrel friend fly further from a children's slide.

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