HISTORY: The rules of “Canoe Pushball” as played in Marlow

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The photo here is from an old postcard in the MyMarlow collection.

We of course are lucky to have Marlow Town Regatta every year – the rowing is great….. but we think they should bring back “Canoe Pushball”, it looks lots of fun! Boats capsizing (no safety gear in sight..) watched by large crowds on the bridge – including some who have climbed up the railings – and then there’s the little dog bottom right taking it all in.

This event would have been part of the “Rag Regatta” run by Marlow Rowing Club – as a separate event from the more serious rowing regatta earlier in the year.

Marlow Canoe Pushball rules from a 1907 magazine article

Another item in our collection is an old magazine article reporting on the Rag Regatta – covering a number of events. Here’s what it had to say on Canoe Pushball:

“The chief item of interest, however, on the programme was undoubtedly the game of canoe pushball. This novel water sport is the invention of the officials of the Marlow Rowing Club. It is played with a large canvas-covered inflatable ball, and is essentially a game for swimmers only, as during the play many canoes inevitably get swamped.

The rules are for four or six canoes aside. The competitors at the start of the game are lined up each side against their own goal, and the ball is placed in the centre of the river by the referee. At a given signal all the canoes make a rush for the ball, and endeavour to force it between the goal-posts of their opponents.

Each canoe is manned by two men, the one in the stern being allowed a paddle to manoeuvre the canoe.

The ball may not be held in the hand or placed in the canoe, but it may be lifted from the water and thrown when shooting for the goal or passing. This frequently causes the upsetting of a canoe.

The game as played at Marlow lasts twenty minutes.  At half-time the competitors change goals, as in football.

Some of our readers who have enjoyed pushball on land may like to try this water game while the summer lasts.”