The history of Scarborough's Boxing Day traditions - and when they're happening this year

Scarborough is home to several quirky Boxing Day traditions that hundreds turn out to watch and take part in each year.

By Corinne Macdonald
Monday, 23rd December 2019, 2:10 pm
Updated Monday, 23rd December 2019, 2:11 pm

Fishermen v Firemen Charity Football Match

The football match started in 1893 to raise money for the children of five Scarborough fishermen who drowned at sea aboard the Evelyn and Maud and has been going on ever since.

The very first match was held on Christmas Day at the Ebor Football Ground at the top of Prospect Road when 1,500 spectators attended and the firemen won.

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Fishermen v Firemen. Picture JPI Media.

On that day the people raised 9 pounds, 11 shillings and 6 pence.

The Firemen originate from those who stoked the boilers of steam powered engines rather than the fire service.

In 1901 the Silver Cup was presented by George Alderson Smith which is still used today and in 1904 the teams started to wear the colours they continue to wear now.

The fishermen play in white and the firemen in red.

The mile of pennies. Picture JPI Media.

In 1908 the Mayor first kicked off the match - a tradition that continues.

The only rule is that the players' top hats must stay on - if a player loses their hat the other team is awarded a free kick.

This year the match will begin at 10.30am after the teams march through town accompanied by the Comic Band.

It should be finished by midday and will raise funds for the Fishermen & Firemen's Charity Fund which nowadays provides help for the elderly and infirm during the winter.

The raft race in the harbour. Picture by Paul Atkinson

Mile of Pennies

As well as the football match, there is a ritual building of a mile of pennies along the foreshore.

This is a long standing tradition which also raises money for the Fishermen & Firemen's Charity Fund.

It begins on the kerb outside the Lifeboat House and continues along the seafront.

Ladies Day

There are various explanations for this tradition but the most common is that the pubs started opening on Boxing Day so the fishemen's wives' could go for a drink after working so hard to prepare Christmas.

It's now habitual for the town's women to get dressed up and head to the seafront - where pubs open at 11am - and enjoy a tipple, although these days both men and women usually get involved in the festivities.

Crazy Raft Race

For many years the Sub Aqua Club have organised the raft race in the harbour.

Teams compete with rafts they have built themselves in a bid to be the fastest round the course.

Things are made more difficult for the contestants at the start line where both opponents and the watching audience throw eggs and flour at the rafts.

This year the race will begin at 12.30pm in the Harbour.