Thursday, 2 February 2012


If Candlemas Day is clear and bright, 
winter will have another bite. 
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, 
winter is gone and will not come again.

Candlemas is today, 2 February, 40 days after Christmas and the point equidistant between the winter solstice and spring equinox.

Fantasy Bob assures his readers that Candlemas day is of intense interest to cricketers, for it is traditionally the day that Doughty Groundsmen the world over come out of hibernation. If it is cloudy when the doughty groundsman emerges, it will leave its burrow and fire up the heavy roller (see footnote), signifying that winter-like weather will soon end. If it is sunny, the doughty groundsman will see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will continue for 6 more weeks with implications for the start of outdoor nets.

In the USA they do not have Doughty Groundsmen to assist them in this way, so they have imposed this duty on a groundhog, the next best thing in their eyes. It is not a perfect replacement. Groundhogs are indifferent at manning the heavy roller, but are highly skilled at the hibernation side of things.

Groundhog Day is a big thing in some parts of the US. The largest celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania which received widespread attention following the success of the 1993 film Groundhog Day. In that film a cantankerous reporter has to live through the same day as time stands still.

Had that film been set in a cricket playing country it could well have been entitled Doughty Groundsman Day, which FB thinks has a certain ring to it. It could have told the story of a time loop where a touring cricket team found themselves repeating the same experience of being bowled out on a spinners' track again and again. But such a story might have seemed too unlikely, even for Hollywood.

There are those who hold that all these fixations reflect a pagan tradition – which is not to say that Doughty Groundsmen are necessarily pagan although that might account for a lot. The Celtic Sabbat of Imbolc, which was celebrated in pre-Christian Europe at about the same time of year as another occasion to drive out the darkness. The US celebration has its origins in German traditions and the belief that it was when bears and wolves came out of hibernation.

Purification of the Virgin by Hans Holbein
The pagan tradition has elided with the Christian calendar, for Candlemas derives from the practice whereby a priest on 2 February blessed candles for use throughout the year, some of which were distributed to the faithful for use in the home. This in turn reflects that on the 40th day after his birth Jesus was first presented to the Temple in Jerusalem and his mother purified. The Bible says that he was recognised by a holy man Simeon who called him a light for revelation. So the day has a focus on light.

At one time in Scotland children took candles to school on Candlemas day, but as gas and then electric light were introduced and the need for candles receded they took money instead with which the teacher bought cakes or sweets. The child taking the most money was designated Candlemas King or Queen for 6 weeks during which they could rule an afternoon as play time and let others off punishments. FB has to confess that although he went to school in Scotland during the late middle ages he never encountered this custom. He therefore missed the opportunity to mandate cricket practice on his class mates. More's the pity.

Footnote - FB would like to stress that his reference to the heavy roller here is purely for artistic effect -  he is fully aware that any proper DG would not turn first to the heavy roller on coming out of hibernation.  Nevertheless he expects comment from designated representatives of DGs the world over to point out his poor understanding of their art.


  1. As he looks outs on a frosty but bright Candlemas morning. he who must not be named tells me that there will not be an immediate start to ground preparation work. Rather than retreat back into his burrow, however, he is taking the opportunity for a brief interlude in warmer climes - though, contrary to a previous assertion by Fantasy Bob, he does not fly south for the whole of the winter.

    He also tells me that he has already fired up the heavy roller, and the other machinery, within the last few days, though not with a view to using it immediately but just to keep it going thus minimising the risk of a failure to start when it is needed.

    He envisages that rolling will start soon after his return but not, as Fantasy Bob points out with the heavy roller in the first instance. FB should note that there is likely to be a call for volunteers to pull the light roller on a suitable weekend in a month or so. As FB is a regular respondent to such calls, he who must not be named looks forward to seeing him then.

  2. Many thanks - FB has been in the gym all winter preparing for his encounter with the jokily named light roller.