This is a view from ground level, and clearly shows the ball-places and the Cat Ring in the foreground. I have to admit that I have forgotten most of the rules of Cat. The game was played with two sides of seven players; the Feeder 'feeds' the ball from his gloved hand with a complicated set of bows, the Striker hits the ball, and the 'in-team' rushes madly around the ring to touch cat-stick to hole (seven holes) before the fielding team throws the ball to the Corner who tries to hole the ball before the player touches it with his cat-stick. I know, I know, it sounds complicated. I was quite good as a Feeder, but if you messed up on the feed, or if the striker mistimed his stroke, you could get a very nasty blow on the hand. I also often played in the out-field - the only problem there is that I could never throw the ball very far - I would throw it in, then run after it, pick it up and have another throw - then the in-fielder would throw it the rest of the way to the Corner!
This cabinet in the Refectory Ambulacrum shows a Cat-stick (towards the back, bulbous head, long thin shaft); there is also a block of wood from which we used to chop and carve our own sticks. The other sticks are battledores - this was for the game which was played on the large Ball-places in the photo; it was a kind of open-air squash. In the small ball-places, called Racquet Houses, we played the same sort of thing but used our hands to hit the ball.
The furthest Ball Place was the scene of an outdoor Mass to which the whole diocese was invited; thousands turned up but I am not sure of the occasion - I think it could have been the 150th anniversary of the founding of Ushaw in 1958 - I am sure that someone will be able to tell me (us).
What you may not be able to see on the photos are the Keep Off signs and barricades to keep anyone away from the ball-places. The whole wall is in danger of falling down. There is a sense of dilapidation about much of the Ushaw grounds, which is regrettable but understandable when there are so few students. In my next post I will tell how we used to manage the grounds in the nineteen-fifties.