The annual Tossing the Cricket Stump contest in Cockermouth dates back to 1856 when cricket first came to the town. Three local vicars had visited the Scottish Border Games in Galashiels the previous year and seen the tossing of the caber contest there.
Inspired by the athleticism of the Scots – and some beer according to the gossip-mongers – two of the vicars attempted to lift the caber. One, Hugh Fotheringham, suffered a ricked back, which left him unable to preach for six months. The second vicar, Abel Soames, lifted the caber and tossed it into the air. Unfortunately his caber didn’t land properly and rebounded backwards, hitting him on the head and rendering him unconscious. His final words were reputedly “I thought this only happened to beavers.” He was laid to rest by the third vicar, the strict Methodist Ebenezer Wesley, who was tee-total.
In Soames’ honour it was decided to hold a commemorative contest every year that would provide a skilful and yet safe test for local people. It was deemed appropriate that this test should involve throwing something. Tossing the caber was ruled out and the only pieces of straight wood in the town, other than trees, were the cricket stumps, so it was decided to hold a stump throwing contest.
As in caber tossing the objective is not how far you throw the stump but how straight it lands. The contestants hold the stump by the sharp end with both hands and throw it up into the air with enough momentum so that the blunt end hits the ground and then topples over so that the sharp end is pointing away from the thrower.