A ROUSING cheer greeted Shrove Tuesday turner-up, John Tomkinson as he held aloft his ball at one of the largest ever Shrovetide Luncheons.
More than 570 people gathered into the main hall at Ashbourne Leisure Centre and a jubilant air of anticipation filled the sports hall as the diners enjoyed the now traditional three-course meal which was preceded by rendition of the Shrovetide song and grace said by the Rev Canon Geraldine Pond.
Chairman of the Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Committee, Brell Ewart, presented Mr Tomkinson with an engraved crystal goblet which is given each year to the turners-up by licensees at The Wheel and this year’s Ashbourne Mayor and Mayoress, Steve and Sue Bull.
A new book on the history of Shrovetide by Lindsey Porter was also presented to Mr Tomkinson along with specially designed cufflinks given by town centre jeweller C W Sellors.
Mr Ewart welcomed guests to the luncheon, including civic dignitaries, visitors from Japan and gave a special acknowledgement to Bob Dyer and Stuart Lees for their efforts in raising funds for the game through the sale of specially commissioned Royal Crown Derby ornamental balls.
Mr Ewart said: “It is 215 years since the first game between the Clifton and Sturston mills and we do thank Lindsey for his little bits of information that are so precious to us here in Ashbourne.”
Mayor Steve Bull stood to introduce the turner-up, joking that Mr Tomlinson had asked him to not to mention him, his family or his business. He said: “So that’s about it then, I can go now!
“On behalf of the town council I’d like to say how much we appreciate the work that goes on by the committee, the player’s committee and the marshalls.
“It is the most important event and any Ashburnian can be proud of it.”
Mr Tomkinson spoke of his wife, Sandra and children Andrew, Nick and Roberta, describing how he had served an apprenticeship as a builder before becoming self-employed in 1965.
Mr Tomkinson and his wife worked together to build up the business which became a true family concern when their son Andrew joined the company.
Mr Tomkinson said: “We constructed Ashbourne Golf and Ashbourne Bowls clubhouses as well as the swimming pool and sports complex at Bloor Hall.
“Our family means everything to Sandra and me. We are very proud of them.
“Today we are all here because of the game of Shrovetide.
“My early interest was from my school days when I was conceited enough to think I could join in.
“Most of my friends were Down’ards so I became a Down’ard. Another good reason for being a Down’ard was because no one seemed to know where Sturston was.”
Mr Tomkinson recounted the night he scored a goal in 1971 before being led from the leisure centre to join the small group of men who have had the dual honour or both goaling and turning-up a ball.
Mr Tomkinson added: “Most Ashburnians would agree with me; being asked to turn up the ball is the biggest honour the town can bestow.”