Hill Sledging


When I was a youngster, we used to play near a disused railway line that led into a dark tunnel that, so rumour had it, was built by a number of my relatives. However, when I pushed Jeremiah Tonkin downed a steep hill near the line I was surprised at the response. As Jeremiah slid, face down, along his chest and at high speed down the hill we seemed to have all been hit by the same idea. This was a significant moment in local historyas Skelmersdale Hill sledging, which should be an Olympic sport, was created here. By the time Jeremiah reached the bottom of the hill, his clothes had been ripped from his chest and the tree that brought his high speed decline to a sudden stop had taken out three of his front teeth. It took him a good half hour to reach the top of the hill again, his return being delayed by Janet O'Keefe throwing stones at him. Once he reached me, he swung with a left fist, then a right fist, followed by a kick and then a head butt. Out of the four he connected with just one and, like any other kick in the balls, I was left doubled over. As I stood clinging my stones, thinking that I had lost one for ever, I could see him loosing his footing on the top of the hill. Taking advantage of this, I charged, tripped over my jelly legs and lunged towards him. As I was about to hit the gravel lip of the hill, he fell beneath me so I grabbed hold of the school tie that was, by this time, about the only item of clothing on his torso. As he hit the gravel, we seemed to take off down the hill. It has always amazed me that, as a youngster, you are able to learn new skills very quickly. I found that by pulling at the tie and digging my heels allowed me to steer the descent. Although Jeremiah hands often got in the way, the trip down the hill was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life up until then. Given all my newly learned skills of steering a downhill vehicle, I still couldn't avoid the tree that had brought Jeremiah to a sudden stop on his last descent.

While waiting for Jeremiah to have one his own teeth removed from his chin in the hospital, I wrote up a number of rules for the new downhill sport. On the advice of Jeremiah I decided that a wooden or cardboard sledge was preferred to a human one and that you were given points for artistry and how well you could avoid some of the trees towards the end of the run. When ever anything out of the ordinary was executed by a skilled sledger, I made sure that this was referred to as a Jezza. This was in honour of a boy who had lost not only his three front teeth, but several of the lower ones too while trying to save one of his best mates from coming to a rather similar end. It took a good while for me to forgive him for kicking me in the balls, but he forgave me pretty quickly after I loosened his tie at the end of his second run. Since I left Skem, I have only heard through the grape-vine what happened to Jerry. Apparently, he now lives in Spain as a cabaret singer in a gay holiday resort.

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This page contains a single entry by Bobby Beamer published on February 20, 2004 5:07 PM.

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