Feather Balancing from Rye – 4

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!

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The other record holders are Roger Byrom, who won 76 feather balancing on the finger contests between 1816 and 1852, including two years 1832 and 1845 when he won all five. Elspeth Hodgkins won 63 feather balancing on the nose contests between 1876 and 1901. Hodgkins admitted that she had a big nose and might have been drowned in former times as a witch, but she didn’t think it was all down to her mighty snout: “the most important thingge is to practice and have good balance; watch the feather at all times and respond to its gyrations with slow deliberate movements. Never panic and never sneeze as your chances will disappear.” This is good advice as Hodgkins’ time in the 1891 Sparrow feather balancing on the nose contest of four hours and 23 minutes is still a record.

The 100-yard race record is 32 seconds in 1767 by Derek Boyle using a peacock feather. He explained his success as follows: “Aye were given a shortish fether with a sharpp pointe and I thought to meself, Derek, I thought, this here fether will fall off unless ye hold yer finger at an anggle so I did and I was able to walk quitte quickish and won.”

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