Standing Stones & Silver Balls
The Shearing Gang is largely set around the mystical Hurlers Stones, high on Bodmin Moor.
The Neolithic stones, located at Minions, have a long and mystical past and consist of three adjacent stone circles, whilst to the west is a pair of outlying upright stones standing close together, known as the Pipers.
The central circle is the best preserved of the three and all the stones are made of granite, hammered smooth. Their exact purpose remains a mystery, but is thought to be ceremonial and they have been placed very carefully so that they align with nearby cairns, the massive barrow at Rillaton and further stone circles. Some archaeologists have noted how they align with the sun and one of the brightest stars in the northern night sky, named Vega.
Their name too is something of a mystery. Local legend identifies The Hurlers as men who were turned to stone for playing the ancient game of hurling on a Sunday. The two isolated stones of the Pipers are said to be the figures of two men who played tunes on a Sunday and suffered the same fate.
Hurling was played widely across the county until the 19th century and there is a saying in Cornish, "hyrlîan yw gen gwaré nyi", which translated into English means "hurling is our sport". It uses a ball made of sterling silver which is hammered into two hemispheres and then bound around a core of applewood held together with a band of silver.
In the 21st century the game survives in matches at St Columb and St Ives, and as part of the beating the bounds ceremony at Bodmin.. In the former, the match has been traditionally played between the Townsmen and the Countrymen and requires the teams to get the ball into one of the goals, around two miles apart, across fields, roads and woods, by passing, tackling and throwing. Play often stops for spectators to touch the ball, said to bring luck or fertility.
The game is now played very much for fun and the only known fatality in the sport goes back to 1705, at Camborne where 'William Trevarthen is buried in the church with the entry in the parish records of "Being disstroid to a hurling with Redruth men at the high dounes”. That is, unless you believe the legend of the Hurlers’ Stones…