Dwile flonking

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The English game of dwile flonking (also dwyle flunking) involves two teams, each taking a turn to dance around the other while attempting to avoid a beer-soaked dwile (cloth) thrown by the non-dancing team.[1][2]

"Dwile" is a knitted floor cloth, from the Dutch dweil, meaning "mop",[3] and "flonk" is probably a corruption of flong, an old past tense of fling.[4]


According to the Friends of the Lewes Arms, "The rules of the game are impenetrable and the result is always contested."[5]

A "dull witted person" is chosen as the referee or "jobanowl", and the two teams decide who flonks first by tossing a sugar beet. The game begins when the jobanowl shouts, "Here y'go t'gither!"

The non-flonking team joins hands and dances in a circle around a member of the flonking team, a practice known as "girting". The flonker dips his dwile-tipped "driveller" (a pole 2–3 ft long and made from hazel or yew) into a bucket of beer, then spins around in the opposite direction to the girters and flonks his dwile at them.

If the dwile misses completely it is known as a "swadger" or a "swage". When this happens, the flonker must drink the contents of an ale-filled "gazunder" (chamber pot ("goes-under" the bed)) before the wet dwile has passed from hand to hand along the line of now non-girting girters chanting the ceremonial mantra of "pot pot pot".

A full game comprises four "snurds", each snurd being one team taking a turn at girting. The jobanowl adds interest and difficulty to the game by randomly switching the direction of rotation and will levy drinking penalties on any player found not taking the game seriously enough.

Points are awarded as follows:

  • +3: a "wanton" - a direct hit on a girter's head
  • +2: a "morther" or "marther" - a body hit
  • +1: a "ripple" or "ripper" - a leg hit
  • -1 per sober person at the end of the game

At the end of the game, the team with the most number of points wins, and will be awarded a ceremonial pewter gazunder.


The earliest documented real-life game of dwile flonking was played at the Beccles Festival of Sport in 1966. According to BBC research, "No one can remember the score, although team members recalled feeling 'pretty fragile' the following morning."[6] There is a reference to the sport which predates the Beccles Festival - originating in the fertile imagination of Michael Bentine, who had a show called It's a Square World, on the BBC. A skit in one episode had explorers stumble across a group of natives playing the sport in the darkest reaches of the English countryside. The episode aired some time between 1960 and 1964, when the show was originally broadcast.[citation needed]

The organisers of the Beccles festival event were Andrew Leverett and Robert Devereux, printing apprentices at Clay's of Bungay and Clowes of Beccles, respectively, who had apparently been shown the rules on the only decipherable portion of a parchment document entitled: "Ye Olde Booke of Suffolk Harvest Rituels", which George High of Bungay claimed to have found the same year while clearing out his late grandfather's attic. The inaugural teams were formed by employees of Clay's and Clowes.

Some suspicion was cast on the game in 1967, when the Eastern Daily Press ran an article which stated that the county archivist had failed to find any mention of the game amongst the county records. Dwile flonking featured as a key element in legal hearings later that year, when assessing an application for a licence extension to cater for the dinner dance of the Waveney Valley Dwile Flonking Association. The Waveney Valley Dwile Flonking Association went on to make their television debut on The Eamonn Andrews television programme in 1967, which resulted in letters from Australia, Hong Kong, and America requesting a flonking rule book.[6]

Schott's apparently retcons the game, citing historical evidence in a 16th-century painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder: Children's games.[7]


  1. ^ Encyclopedia of Traditional British Rural Sports by Tony Collins, John Martin, Wray Vamplew
  2. ^ Brooke-Hitching, Edward (October 25, 2015). "Fox tossing and other forgotten blood sports". The Boston Globe. Retrieved October 29, 2015. 
  3. ^ "dwile", Oxford English Dictionary (online ed.), Oxford University Press, 2012, retrieved 14 August 2009  (subscription required)
  4. ^ The BBC provides photos of seasoned flonkers here [1] and here [2].
  5. ^ The Lewes Arms Archived 3 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ a b "Suffolk Going Out - Pubs - The art of Dwile Flonking". BBC. 11 September 2003. Retrieved 17 August 2012. 
  7. ^ http://www.ahs.uwaterloo.ca/~museum/VirtualExhibits/Brueghel/dwyle.html. Retrieved 15 September 2007.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]

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