The Stromness Yule Log pull
The winding cobbled stone streets of Stromness in the Orkney Islands provide a fitting setting for the Yule Log pull at Christmas time.
Traditionally the Yule Log took place on Christmas Eve, with the log taken under the cover of darkness from a local garden!
This is an age old street game that was previously played in the town until the 1930s.
The Yule Log is a ‘tug of war’ competition, pitting those living in the North end (Northenders) against those from the South End (Soothenders) in a battle of strength as a large log is dragged through the streets of the town to opposing goals.
Traditionally the Yule Log took place on Christmas Eve, with the log taken under the cover of darkness from a local garden. In 1933 the Town Council officially outlawed the cutting down of a tree for the Yule Log, threatening to prosecute any offenders.
Described in ‘Stromness’ by Bryce Wilson:
“The procedure was that on Christmas Eve a tree was obtained from a local garden, invariably without the owner’s consent – this being considered part of the fun – and then usually between eight and nine the prize was carried in triumph by a motley crowd of boys and young men to Jessie Leask’s corner in Graham Place. There chains, wire ropes, or ordinary stout ropes were fastened to the ends, and the trial of strength or tug of war began – the Southenders endeavouring to force the unwieldy prize to Ma Mumph’s Pier, while the Northenders strove to drag it to the New Pier.”
“Once at the goal, with a great cheer, the tree was jettisoned in the water. Sometimes the tree was hauled down on the foreshore and burned. All shop windows and doors were stoutly barricaded, and lit only by flickering street lamps a riot of bodies, broken branches and ropes erupted up and down the main street to strident shouts of ‘North she goes’ and ‘South wae her’.
Until its revival in 2017, the game was last known to have been played 80 years prior, in 1937. Now the game takes place on Hogmanay and the log – weighing in at almost half a tonne, is sourced from a Scottish sawmill.
2018 saw the addition of the Junior Log Pull which proved to be very popular.
The Senior event begins at the Commercial Hotel and Junior event at the Pier Arts Centre lane. Each year the Soothenders and their captain aim for the Red Cross shop. The Northenders and their captain pull toward their goal at the stage area at the Pier Head. For the Juniors, the North team must try and reach the Warehouse Buildings. The South team must pull to 59 Victoria Street.
All ceremonies will take place at the Pier Head with the teams meeting there before the event and returning there after the event. The timings have the Junior event starting at 14.30 and the Seniors at 16.00pm. Musical entertainment will be provided at the Pier Head, along with refreshments and catering.
The evening will finish off with a fireworks display at approximately 17.00.
To keep up to date with announcements about this fantastic event, join the Facebook group Stromness Yule Log. We hope you’ll make it through to Stromness on Hogmanay to cheer on the Northenders and Soothenders!
Volleyball-playing, adventure loving Orcadian who studied in Edinburgh, lived in New Zealand and Singapore, and is enjoying being home.