More from the museum’s Salisbury Journal photographic archive, together with Alan’s wonderful commentary…..


If you go this web link

you can watch a video of Michael O’Brien tossing a sheaf of hay over 63 feet high to obtain the Guinness world record.

Hay bale tossing, sheaf tossing?  I’m not sure of the correct name, but toss rather than throw.  Toss is height, throw is length along the ground.  The Salisbury Museum photograph, here, is of such a tossing competition, taking place locally.  I think somewhere around Harnham.  The photograph was scanned from a glass plate negative made by Wilfred Chaplin, probably before 1950.  Note, no TV aerials on the chimneys, the style of clothes and other clues.   I like the ingenious construction using guide ropes to keep the two poles vertical, and a rope and pulley system for changing the bar height.  I don’t know if the bale had to be weighed each time before it was tossed.  There are several bales on the ground (far left) waiting and ready, probably pre-weighed.   The spectators are at the far right watching something else taking place.  Was the tosser, in this photograph still wearing his hat, practising or maybe performing for the camera?  He does appear to have taken his jacket off but I can’t see where he has put it.  Maybe there were a number of rural sports taking place on this field.  There are three lads with at least one bicycle, sitting over against the embankment, a possible flood defence?  There is a notice attached to one of the vertical poles but unfortunately it is just too indistinct for me to read.  Could it say 1¾d a throw?   I suspect that the lad in short trousers, standing with his hands behind his back, is the official observer watching to see if the bale goes over the bar.  How many photographs did Wilfred take before he succeeded with this one, with the bale high in the air?

I have never witnessed such a tossing competition.  I suspect that an eight pound weight bale of hay, plummeting groundward from 40 feet or more, might not fit in with today’s local safety standards!

If anyone has witnessed such a tossing competiton locally, I would love to know the details.

Alan Clarke