International Tug of War Day

Above: The team competing indoor in February 2020

Friday 19 February marks “International Tug of War Day”. Not necessarily something to make the average member of the public sit up and take notice, however perhaps more would if they knew that England and Great Britain were amongst the most successful countries in the world at the sport and that one of the most successful teams in the country is based in Cheshire – from the small village of Bosley.

Alex Brown coaching the team during the 1960’s

The history of tug of war goes back hundreds of years, but in more recent history, the sport was in the Olympics up until 1920, after which it remained an organised sport under the auspices of the Amateur Athletic Association until the Tug of War Association was founded in 1958.

At this time, a lot of athletics clubs, working mens clubs, army regiments, police forces, towns and villages and factories all had teams, with many good teams coming from Staffordshire and Cheshire.

Bosley – Winners of the first TWIF European Title

An industrial area with a surrounding rural hinterland meant that there were lots of hardy miners, steel workers, farmers and quarry men who were used to physically demanding work meant that there was a large number of physically strong people for which tug of war suited their particular aptitudes as well as offering an opportunity to socialise. Of course, local rivalries then flourished, providing clubs with the competition they needed to spur them on to the top.

The Bosley tug of war team was founded some time after the Second World War around the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.

2019 National Indoor Tug of War Champions

The club was originally founded by Alex Brown. Born on 31st March 1915, Alex first got involved in tug of war through a local young farmers team at the age of 17 before going on to set up his own team with some neighbouring farmers. The team were known as “Cookies Eight” for a few years, before changing their name to Bosley Farmers. The team later appointed Sam Holland as trainer and coach, who was a school master before moving to Bosley to work in the transport and garage trade.

Bosley mixed team at the 2019 national championships

Training originally consisted of putting a rope around a huge oak tree, fixed through a system of pulleys, and attached to one end of the rope were 18 milk churns filled with sand, which the team lifted up and down. After two years with Sam Holland in charge, the team had won every competition in the North Midlands, and then affiliated to the Amateur Athletic Association (“AAA’s”).

Affiliating to the AAA’s meant that the team had to abide by official rules, and took training more seriously. The time soon came when it became too expensive to run a successful tug of war club, so in 1957, they adopted Wood Treatment Limited as their patrons and sponsor. The team then changed its name to Wood Treatment Bosley tug of war club. In 1958, the Tug of War Association was formed, and Wood Treatment Bosley was one of the founder members of the Association. In 1959, Wood Treatment Bosley won its first national AAA’s catchweight title at the White City Stadium in London, overcoming defending champions New Haw and Woodham in the final, which was Wood Treatment Bosley’s first title in what turned out to be a long and successful era for the club, which saw the club win 20 consecutive AAA’s titles from 1958-1978. Wood Treatment Bosley won its first Tug of War Association national catchweight title in 1960.

1969 European Champions

The first European Tug of War Championships were held in Malmo, Sweden, in conjunction with the Baltic Games in August 1964, and Wood Treatment Bosley were invited to represent England at 720 kilos. This was the first international event organised by the Tug of War International Federation, and the first organised international tug of war competition to take place since the last tug of war contest was held at the Olympic Games in 1920. The 1964 champions consisted of teams from England, Holland, Sweden and Denmark. England won the gold medal without losing an end, and started another long line of international success for the team. Trainer and Coach Sam Holland then retired from full time coaching, but remained involved in the club in an advisory capacity. Alex Brown then became coach, and won national and AAA’s titles in his first season. Wood Treatment Bosley then went on to represent England at the second European Championships held at the Crystal Palace stadium in London, overcoming Switzerland, Sweden, Holland, and Northern Ireland to win their second European title. The club then went on to win a further 9 European titles whilst representing England, the most recent coming in 1999.

Bosley won its first of two world titles in 1975, when the first world championship took place in the Netherlands. The team was now coached by John Hollinshead, and then added a second world title in South Africa in 1976. Bosley won the 1981 European Title in Folkstone, England, but sadly did not appear in the 1982 season, as many of the original pullers were getting older, and went on to retire.

1966 European Champions with Pat Pheonix (Elsie Tanner) of Coronation Street

Fortunately, the club re-established itself, winning the national championships at 680 kilos in 1985, and then went on to win the 1985 UK title at 680 kilos. Wood Treatment Bosley continued as a team since, still being a force on the tug of war circuit, but did not win another national title until 1998, winning the 680 kilos and catchweight titles and went on to win European Gold in 1999 and World silver in 2000. After 2001, the club had another short drought of gold medals before winning national titles in the 2007-2009 seasons, silver and bronze medals at European and World Championships and a bronze medal representing Great Britain at the World Games.

In more recent times, the club claimed two gold medals at the national indoor championships in 2019 before the Coronavirus Pandemic struck in 2020.

Over the time of the club’s existence, the club has won 75 national gold medals (50 outdoor and 25 indoor), 43 AAA titles, 8 UK titles representing England, 13 national league gold medals, 18 inter-county titles representing Cheshire, 11 European titles and 2 world titles representing England and a bronze medal representing Great Britain at the World Games.

The sport has certainly evolved since the early successes experienced by the Bosley tug of war team, with mens, ladies, junior, under 23 and mixed competitions now taking place. The team still competes at a good level today, and for the first time in 2019, competed with ladies in the team in the mixed weight class at the national championships. The club very much hopes to be back on the rope when the Government allows, and is always looking to welcome new members to the team to keep its successful traditions alive.

If you wish to get in touch with Bosley Tug of War club, then you can find them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter by searching for @bosleytugofwar, or you can contact Alan Knott on 07976 591222 or email Further information about the sport is also available on the Tug of War Association web site at

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