AS the New Year approaches thoughts of Ashburnians turn to the next great event of significance: Royal Shrovetide Football.
In 2007 the ancient game will be played on Shrove Tuesday February 20 and Ash Wednesday February 21, with Robert Shields of Parwich and Bob Hudson of Ashbourne having been invited to start the respective games.
FOR Robert Shields it will be a case of following in the footsteps of his father - the ball was turned up by Donald Shields on Shrove Tuesday 1994.
Robert Shields is joint managing director of Longcliffe Quarry and chairman of Vital Earth Ltd, with its new Ashbourne plant opened in October designed to convert tonnes of green waste into a new compost. In 2005-06 he was Derbyshire's High Sheriff, again emulating his father who was holder of this oldest secular office under the Crown in 1989/90.
Educated at the former Ashbourne PNEU School, a private school at Long Whatton, St Anselm's School, Bakewell, and Oundle School near Peterborough, Mr Shields completed a four year geology course at Edinburgh University before spending a gap year in Australia.
He became a management trainee with Tilcon (now Tarmac) and, after working at its various quarries, joined the family business of Longcliffe Quarry in 1979, which had been started by his great-grandfather, the late John Gillies Shields. He also ran the Breedon Quarry which went public in 1933 to raise capital to develop the Donington Racetrack.
Longcliffe currently produces powders and granules mostly for the glass and animal feeds industries, for carpet backing, Wellington boots, paints, ceramics and glazes.
The Longcliffe group also includes a small quarry and a small concrete plant both in Scotland; a waste recycling business in Derby and the newly formed Vital Earth Ltd on Ashbourne Airfield Industrial Estate which recycles garden and kitchen waste, turning it into a new range of UK-sourced, peat-free, fully-organic compost.
Outside of work Mr Shields' hobbies are fly fishing and game shooting and he has a great interest in river habitat and is on the board of the River Deveron Salmon Fishing Board. He also formed the Deveron River Charitable Trust through which children are educated in protecting and taking an interest in the creatures and insects of the river and encourages them to keep the water clean and unpolluted.
Mr Shields and his wife Alice live at Parwich Hall and they have a family of five children - John, Emma, Elizabeth, Eleanor and David.
BOB Hudson of Frith's Cottage, Market Place, is Ashbourne born and educated. A former pupil of the Ashbourne Church of England Boys' School under Mr Barnwell and later Ashbourne Secondary Modern School, Bob was Gold House Captain along with Maureen McCallum.
On leaving school in 1954 he joined the family business of the Green Man Garage and Harrison Transport Co Ltd as a coach painter and vehicle refinisher, at the same time attending Derby College of Art for four years to study painting and decorating. Through this he attained Final City and Guilds - First Class in the autumn of 1959 and won the W G Sutherland scholarship award for his final year's work.
After three years' deferment because of his apprenticeship, Bob was called up for National Service in August 1960 and selected for the RAF. He was stationed in the UK throughout his two years as a Signals Operator at Cardington, Bridgenorth, Calne and Henlow.
He returned to Ashbourne to work for Norman Moore Ltd, part of the Moores of Ashbourne group, and was involved in decorating and re-furbishing contracts all over the UK.
In 1968 he left his decorating tools behind to join the expanding firm of JCB as an assembly line operative and eight years later was accepted into the JCB demonstration team and the famous dancing diggers, travelling the world demonstrating the full range of JCB products.
In 1980 he moved on to the staff side and after holding various positions moved to Singapore in 1996 to work for JCB Asia Pacific as district sales manager for Indo-China, covering Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar and Sri-Lanka.
He returned to JCB Headquarters in 1998 to assist in launching into Europe the new JCB Teletruck and the following year took early retirement after travelling more than a million air-miles (without points!) for JCB, visiting more than 60 countries.
Since retirement Bob has involved himself in the community, often seen helping to raise bunting, erect Christmas trees or flags for different organisations and for various occasions.
He is currently President of Ashbourne Ex-Servicemen's Club, secretary of Ashbourne Crown Green Bowls Club with whom he bowls in three teams, Trustee of the Empire Club and willing volunteer whenever Ashbourne Lions or the Highland Gathering need a commentator for their events. He is also a Derby County season ticket holder.
As a child and young man Bob was a regular suppporter of Shrovetide as player and follower, but this became virtually impossible when he moved to JCB and in later years when he spent so much of his time abroad.
But his connections in Portugal have proved invaluable as far as Royal Shrovetide Football is concerned. For the past seven years, through his JCB contacts and especially Richard Collett of Marston Montgomery and JCB Portuguese distributor Motivo of Lisbon, they have been able to supply Shrovetide ball maker John Harrison with cork shavings to stuff the balls. According to John these are of the finest quality and perfect for the job . . . and the committee has enough cork in hand to fill the balls for the next eight years.
Bob says he is "totally shocked" at being asked to turn up the ball, but "very proud and honoured," and "humbled" at being selected from the many candidates who may have been considered.
Bob has one son, Marc, 38, who is a landscape gardener and lives in Leiston, Suffolk, with his wife Karen and their eight-year-old daughter Lilith.
They will be coming up for the game, but that is nothing unusual. Bob explains: "There are two things that Marc will not miss coming home for and that's Shrovetide and his own birthday."
Bob expects to have a party of about 26 at the lunch.