How Cornwall’s pasty made it over Twickenham’s posts
Truro’s Grant Champion, (inset), kicks the final conversion in Cornwall’s 1991 County Championship win; and the pasty that was hung from the Twickenham crossbar held aloft by Thomas Hill, with the help of Graham Hill, Brian Chenoweth and Milly Edwards
4th April 2021
By Gareth Davies
Local Cornish rugby historian Billy Hunter takes Voice chief sports writer Gareth Davies down memory lane
The first time I saw an attempt to hang a pasty on a rugby cross bar was in the 1950s. I was sitting on my dad’s shoulders and it was at the famous ‘Hellfire Corner’ at Redruth’s Recreation Ground. Cornwall were playing someone, but I can’t remember who it was.
Three old boys came stumbling out of the crowd, over the crush barriers and formed a human pyramid to reach up and hang a pasty on the crossbar. They were very smart, with black suits and hats – I think they had been drinking, unsurprisingly, but it raised a cheer amongst the crowd and I’m pretty sure Cornwall won, too.
Before this, I can recall the story of the ‘Three Lakes Pottery Pasties’ in which Three Lakes of Truro had given one pasty to Truro RFC (which they have still got) and one to Cornwall’s opponents of the day. A third pasty was hung on the cross bar and this was duly struck by the ball and smashed.
Fast forward to 1989 and after Cornwall’s famous County Championship win over Durham in 1908, the Duchy had lost four further finals.
After previous disappointment, I was sitting in the bar up at Truro and our first, second and third teams had all played. We were all waiting for the result of their clash against Warwickshire with the winners going to Twickenham to play Yorkshire.
News filtered through that Cornwall were off to the final and this would mean an early start with a long bus trip, tempered slightly by a day of drinking and singing for Cornwall. There was also chaos and confusion and a very late end to a momentous day.
There was also the possibility of hanging a pasty on the cross bar adorning the hallowed turf of rugby’s headquarters Twickenham.
In a flash, the plan was hatched. I would make a three-foot-long pasty – nice and big for the crowd to see. We would have sticks to carry it in and a curled rope to throw over the crossbar to hoist it up.
Simple I thought. I just needed two more idiots to help me! The first two that sprung to mind were my brothers, but they warned me that we would be probably be locked up for attempting our ambitious stunt.
So I roped in a daft prop and a stupid second-row in Brian Chenoweth and Graham Hill. With our luxury ‘N’ registered bus decked out in black and gold and Cornish tartan, off we went. The three pasty men wore Truro RFC jumpers, 150 ties and Cornish kilts – what a sight. The pasty men were ready with a giant black and gold pasty, striped carrying sticks and curled hoisting ropes. A few beers later, lots of singing and we arrived at Twickenham.
We went to the North West corner I think, and a little cockney chap took our tickets and said we’d never get on the pitch. Well, we tried when we went through the stewards watching and ran for the posts. Chenoweth got tangled in the ropes and the cry of ‘arrest them’ went up. The crowd went mad, and Hiller started shouting but the stewards prevailed and we were led off to watch from the stand a fifth loss since 1908.
Cornwall missed out in 1990, but we were in the final again just a year later. This was some trip and some madness. The story goes that the RFU asked Cornwall’s Bill Bishop if they had a band to play at Twickenham.
Bill replied to this request that we had a very fine ‘Marine Band’ so on that fateful day in 1991, the band were there and so were we.
We went to the North West corner again and the same little cockney chap said: ‘I remember you lot, you got arrested last time so don’t try it again. But if you do try and go on the pitch, good luck.’
It seemed as if fortune was with us and the crowd noise was crazy so when the Marine Band marched by, so we tagged on the end.
There were four of us with Hiller’s young lad Tom who was about four and the three of us hatched a plan.
Tom and Hiller would set a diversion for the stewards whilst myself and Chenoweth would go for the posts again. Luckily, the Band caused so much mayhem that we saw a gap and went for it.
Chenoweth once again got tangled in the ropes, but for a few glorious seconds, the pasty hung on the Twickenham posts. No matter what happened, we had done it.
Of course, the best was still to follow as Cornwall went onto win an extraordinary game of rugby in extra-time to defeat Yorkshire at a packed Twickenham, while Cornwall was empty on April 20, 1991. Proper job all round.