Valerie Gommon Midwife’s Blog

Olney Pancake Race

Posted on: February 25, 2009

Yesterday I attended a Pancake Party kindly hosted by Samantha Tobin of Red Apple HR Consultancy.  We met up prior to the race then walked the short distance into the town to watch the race.

The race itself was quickly over, a motley bunch of women of all ages who did fantastically well to run the 415 yard run from the Market Place to the Church starting at 11.55 a.m and over by 11.56!

According to tradition the Pancake Race at Olney in Buckinghamshire, England, was first run in the year 1445. It was run on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent and (so the story goes) started because a woman was using up her ingredients before Lent and cooking pancakes when she heard the church bell ring … she didn’t want to be late for church and just ran out of the house to the church with her frying pan in her hand!

Female participants must have lived in Olney for at least 3 months and be at least 18 years old. Competitors must wear the traditional costume of a housewife, including a skirt, apron and head covering and must of course carry a frying pan containing a pancake. The winner, on crossing the line, must toss her pancake and she is then greeted by the verger with the traditional kiss of peace. The race is immediately followed by a Shriving service in the Parish Church when the official Olney and Liberal prizes are presented.

In 1950 the race became an international event. A challenge was received from the town of Liberal in Kansas, USA, where they had the idea of starting a similar custom. Olney readily accepted the challenge and, in a spirit of international goodwill and friendship, the two towns now compete annually and prizes are exchanged. The race is run on a timed basis and the winner declared after times are compared through a transatlantic telephone call from Liberal to Olney.

Yesterdays race in Olney was won by Jane Hughes in a record 62 seconds – wow, but Tasha Gallegos managed to run the Kansas race in 57.9 second so the overall prize went to Kansas.

So not only did I have a good time, but met some interesting people – Frances McLoughlin from Affinity Learning, Trisha Page from AG-Gifts, Penny Tomlin who is planning her new virtual PA business and Jo Jordan from Olney 100 – but we also raised funds for the Spinal Injuries Association and had our photograph taken with Mark Lancaster MP!!

It is a great event, and I would recommend you visiting next year – we certainly are already planning another Pancake Party.

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