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Traditional Welsh Sports in the Eighteenth-Century


Cnapan is a traditional eighteenth-century Welsh sport practiced with the traditional British warlike sports, such as wrestling. Similarly to these warlike sports, cnapan would be a great way to excersise bodily strength.

There are two forms of playing cnapan, the first being known as settled or standing. This form would be played five times a year in Pembrokeshire; the first at Bury Sands between the Nevern and Newport parishes, on Shrove Tuesday; the second between the Meline and Eglwyswrw parishes at Pont Gynon on Easter Monday; the third between the Penrydd and Penbedw parishes at Pwll Du in Penbedw on Low Easter Day (the Sunday after Easter Day), the remaining two were held between Cemais men and Emlyn men at St Meugans in Cemais, the first on Ascension Day (the sixth Thursday after Easter Day), the second on Corpus Christi Day (the second Thursday after Whit Sunday). The last two games were by far the most important, attracting crowds more often than not, exceeding two thousand.

The parishes would meet at one or two o'clock in the afternoon. After a shout was given for the match to start, the men would gather together and take off most of their clothes and leave them in a heap where they would be watched over by a keeper. The game of cnapan is far to rough for men to wear clothes on their back, as they will more often than not, be torn to pieces.

The ball, which is called cnapan, is made of wood, and is boiled in tallow so as it is slippery and very difficult to hold. This ball would be tossed up into the air, and the person who caught it would throw it to their team member. There are no goals to be scored, and the game is declared over when the ball has been carried so far that there is no hope of it returning to its starting position that night. The cnapan can travel half a mile with three or four throws which is why it is able to travel so far, with the fifteen hundred men chasing it. There are scouts who are to keep infront of the cnapan in whichever way it goes to keep charge of the play. The horsemen would also have responsibility for the play, as they would have to make sure that no player would run off with the ball. However, if violence were to develop during a match, the horsemen were not allowed to be involved, as the men were barefoot and were at risk of being injured by the horses.

Other matches would take place between gentlemen on holidays or Sundays. The gentlemen would divide themselves into parishes and try and score the highest amount. After the matches, merchants, mercers, and pedlers opened up their stalls and sold meat and wine for the players and the spectators to buy.

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