sector of the website contains information, publications and
illustrations concerning the ancient history of the related games colf
(kolf), crosse (choule), golf and mail (pall mall) and the possible
relationship between these European club and ball games.
The Italian traditional games of fiolet and rebatta
Geert Nijs, France
The game of fiolet
Since time and age, a
club and ball game called 'fiolet' is played in the Italian region of the 'Valle
d'Aosta', a very mountainous region surrounded by the highest peaks of the Alps
in the extreme north-west of Italy, bordered by France and Switzerland.
The fiolet (ball) used
to be a pebble stone with one flat side. Today, the boxwood fiolet is covered
with nails to achieve a weight of 35-40 grams. The ball has an oval form at one
side; the other side is flat. Nowadays, also aluminium fiolets appear in the
teams of each one or several players play against each other. In turn,
they try to hit the ball into the field. They place the ball with the
flat part upon the pira. With the thick end of the club, they give a
smart rap on the end of the ball. The ball then spins upward, and the
player tries to hit the airborne ball as far as possible into the
field, holding his club with one hand. Depending on the 15 metres
stretch where the ball comes down, the player receives a number of
points. The further he hits the ball, the more points he receives. When
all players have had their ten or, depending on the kind of tournament,
more attempts, all points of the individual players or the teams are
totalled to decide which player or team is the winner.
Today there are
roughly 450 active fiolet players. The game is played mainly in spring. The
most important meeting is the team 'Spring Championships' starting around the
second week of March and finishing at the beginning of May. The main individual
tournaments are the 'Baton d'Or' championship held on 1st May and
another single contest held in mid-May.
July 1924, the 'Federaxon Esports de Nohtra Tera' was founded, the first
association for several traditional games, being part of the nationwide 'Federazione
Giochie e Sport Traditionale'. Today the final of the championship is played in
Brissogne on 1st May. The winner receives the 'Baton d'Or. The game
is played during spring after the snow has melted and before the weeds start to
grow and the cattle enter the meadows again. A certain Mr Germano Cheillon
d'Allein, born in 1873, explained: "I played fiolet already during the
last years of the previous (19th century, not only with my friends
but also with much older players."
The game of ‘la
A similar game, 'la rebatta', is played in the
same region of the Valley of Aosta, be it in different communities. Also in this
game, players hit an airborne ball with a club as far as possible into the
field. They play with a rebatta (boxwood ball) with a diameter of 28 to 30
millimetres, weighing 25 to 40 grams. The ball is covered with iron or copper
nails and painted white to retrieve it easier in the field. Nowadays, the
players use also aluminium balls with some dimples.
The wooden lever has
the shape of a pipe. The bowl of the pipa or fioletta (pipe) has a small hollow
in which the rebatta is placed. When the player hits on the stem of the pipe,
the ball will jump up to be hit as far as possible into the field. The club is
100 to 140 centimetres long, made of ash wood and has a cylindrical part at one
end, the matchocca or masseta.
The player holds the
baton with both hands in a reversed baseball grip. It is interesting to see
that the left arm is straight and the other bent arm is not 'flying' but hold
close to the body. It looks like a rather flat golf swing. The playing field is
a triangular stretch of grass up to 250 meters long and approximately 60 meters
wide at the end. This field is divided into stretches of 15 meters. Each
stretch stands for a certain number of points. The farther you hit the rebatta,
the more points you earn. In a tournament, each team has five players. Every
player has twenty attempts, the so-called batua or tsachà. At the end of the
tournament, the points of the teams are added up to decide which team is the
The tournaments, both
team and individual contests, are held during spring when the snow has melted
and before the cattle take over the meadows. And again in autumn, when the cows
have returned to their sheds. This sport has approximately 400 players divided
into fourteen sports clubs. Like the fiolet players, these clubs are members of
the 'Federaxon Esport de Nohtra Tera'.
Information derived from:
Knur and spell & nipsy
As a young boy some seventy years ago growing up in
Yorkshire, there were two games of which I was vaguely familiar, which I feel
sure you will have come across in your researches. They were both played in the
coal mining area where I was living.
The first was known as knur and spell and played by
the more prosperous people who could afford the equipment. It consisted of a
spring-loaded device which, when released, threw a small round object into the
air, which was then struck with a stick. I believe from memory that distance
seemed to be the main object, but what the rules were, I am not familiar.
The second was a poorer version of knur and spell,
which was known locally as nipsy and sometimes shinty. This game was played
without the expensive launcher but comprised a small hard piece of shaped wood
with one end shaped into a rough point. The player tapped the pointed end,
which caused the mouse as it was called to flip up in the air from where it was
then struck with a stout stick.
Both games could be played on any spare bit of ground
and did not need special playing areas. They were known as poor man's golf, and
they helped to pass on a few hours and make life and times a little more
The picture in the 'Afterword' of
CHOULE - The Non-Royal but most Ancient
Game of Crosse, representing a group of players with special bats
around a small seesaw, shows people playing a game called 'nipsy'. This game
was pretty popular, especially in southern Yorkshire in England. In the areas
around Bolton and Barnsley in Lancashire, people still play variants of the
The game is a kind of 'longest
drive'. The player places the ball on one side of a small seesaw and hits it on
the other side. The ball will jump up, and the player hits with his bat the
ball as far as possible into the field. The little stake is one of a series for
measuring the distance achieved. Good players can hit the ball as far as 200
meters. The shape and size of the bat and the rules of the game vary from
region to region, as do the little seesaws.
In the Picardie region in
northwest France, a variant of the game was popular in days long gone, under
the name of 'jeu de la tapette'.