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Burnsall Feast Sports

When the Flag is up the Sports are On


The Flag on the fell Cairn on Sports day does not just get there. No, the Fitton family have been responsible for that duty since the 1930's. It was and idea of our late President Wing Comm Alec Knowles Fitton that he would put it up there as near 7 a.m. as he could. This ritual has gone on every year apart from the War years and has been continued by various members of his family ever since.

Our outgoing President Chris Fitton recalls his part of this duty:-

I don't know how old I was when I first climbed the Fell on Sports Day, possibly four or five. My father had been doing it for many years prior to the war and established it as a family ritual. The object of the exercise was to carry the flag up and put it securely into the cairn which still stands proud at the top of Burnsall Fell. Then, as now, it represented blessed relief to aching legs as the half way point round which all competitors in the Classic Fell Race must pass prior to the heart stopping descent.
Since that first time around 1948, I and assorted Knowles Fitton Kith and Kin, have climbed the Fell faithfully ever since. The group of between five and ten has included pregnant mothers, newly born toddlers, grandchildren, children, adults up to their late 70's together with boyfriends, girlfriends and occasionally somewhat reluctant strangers who, full of ale in the Red Lion the night before, having heard of the annual pilgrimage swear they would join us and more often than not, did.
This motley group would always assemble around 7 a.m. outside the car park hopefully with the flag. The flag is and always was, the great problem. No one can ever find it.
Committee members provide storage space for the various accoutrements of the Sports Day, and the night before it is all brought down to the Green. As often as not the flag is missing. Over the years it has taken the shape of an old cream bed sheet, a St Georges flag, and for many years a National Benzole Flag, God only knows where that came from..
Sometimes there is a pole but no flag, and sometimes there is a flag but no pole. We take whatever bit or bits we can find back home the night before, and pray for good weather otherwise someone's car gets wet inside because the pole has to be carried through the sunroof.
We take with us a camera and a small flask of whiskey carried for medical reasons and always consumed, for no apparent reason, at the top when the flag has been securely installed.
The route we take never varies and we have a breather at the top of the field where, cloud permitting, we can all admire the view. We reach the summit around 7.30, hopefully admire the view a bit more and stick out our chests and say to each other that we should do this more regularly. We never do.
The top of the Cairn is then dismantled, the flag pole nudged down the middle and the stones replaced. The flag is unfurled with much ceremony..This is when we descend the Fell falling into the Red Lion around 8.15 after first meeting the President, Len Horton who is always up and about prowling the Green and looking anxiously at the sky.
Tradition insists that we all have a glass of beer after our mammoth exertions. In truth I'm doubtful whether any of us enjoy it but by God that's never stopped us. We return home for a vast and well earned breakfast. Filling our mental diaries that there is another 12 months before we have to do it again. I offer up a prayer that whoever brings down that flag gives it to someone who can remember 12 months later, what he did with it.

Chris Fitton has now retired his position as President, having moved out of the area after many years of service. We have an eminently qualified new President in Martin Scriven, but the job of placing the flag is up for grabs. Who knows, it might pass to a new dynasty! In the meantime the job falls to our stalwart Chairman, Alan Stockdale as does so much.