Pall Mall – the Gentlemen’s Game


 The Times reports the opening of the refurbished Floriana Mall. The article’s title includes the phrase “knights playground” and further down we find that:

Originally, the knights used to practise sports, including gymnastics, at the Mall but a few years after the arrival of the British, Governor Sir Alexander Ball decided to change it into a garden.

There might be more to this than simple gymnastics. In fact the word Mall originates from a 17th century gentlemen’s game known in English as Pall Mall or Pele Mele in French. I am sure I heard the Maltese expression “palju malju” but I am not sure as to what it means nowadays*.
The earliest documented evidence in English is found in the 1568 Cal. Scot. Papers – [Mary was playing at Seton] “richt oppinlie at the feildis with the palmall and goif”.

In the Online Guide to Traditional Games we find the following description:

“The game was played on a huge strip of land, in this case about 1000 yards long and so was more like golf than Croquet – players took great swings at the balls in an effort to hoof them as far along the pitch as possible. The object was to finish by hoicking the ball through a raised hoop using a different spoon-like tool which was adapted more for accuracy and less for power like a putter in the game of Golf. Although there were different variations knocking around across Europe, the earliest printed rules are from Lauthier in 1717.”

For more information scoot over to this site. It would be interesting if a less amateurish historian than a blogger like myself who simply dabbles in trivia were to look into this in more detail. I am sure that if the Knights actually played the game we would have found evidence of either the costs of the equipment in some inventory or of the equipment itself.

* Possibly related to PELL MELL


2 responses to “Pall Mall – the Gentlemen’s Game

  1. Interessanti Jacques.

    The game bears a passing resemblance to Basque pelota. Minus the ridiculously oversized glove of course.

  2. Pingback: Jeu de Paume « j’accuse

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