The origins of the sport of podex (pronounced “Puddocks”) are not clear. The sport has been a memorable part of school life for generations of boys and yet there is no evidence that podex was an MGS invention. A number of different organisations also play podex – St. Paul’s School Christian Union, Oakley Holidays, Scripture Union, Lea Abbey and Urban Saints (once known as Crusaders). What links all these organisations, save ourselves, is a distinctly Christian ethos.
The first mention of podex at MGS occurs in a 1912 edition of Ulula, as part of a list of expenditure for Alderley Camp. However, we have managed to find a reference to podex externally to MGS that dates to 1911. This reference refers to a group of boys being invited to play podex on the beach at Margate. Scripture Union, one of our podex-playing organisations, have been running beach missions at Margate from at least the late nineteenth century. It therefore seems likely that it was the Scripture Union who were running this form of organised podex on the beach in 1911. None of our other organisations, when contacted, could find any evidence of podex earlier than this. Scripture Union was formed in 1867, predating all the other aforementioned Christian organisations and the MGS camps. We know that High Master J.L. Paton set up and was heavily involved with the Scripture Union group at MGS. It therefore seems highly feasible that High Master Paton, both a committed Christian and camper, observed podex at a Scripture Union camp or beach mission and exported it to MGS.
Podex continued to be a constant presence on camps from 1912 onwards. The sport featured at Booths Hall, Deepdale, Nash Court, Bassenthwaite, Wray Castle, camps of the Hugh Oldham Lad’s Club and Scout Troops 1 and 2, as part of inter-form competitions back at school and on Scottish Trek.
But what of the sport itself? Oakley Holidays describe podex as “a cross between cricket and baseball” and it has also been compared to non-stop cricket or “a bastardised form of cricket”. However, it seems that podex has evolved differently within each organisation where it is played. We are fortunate to have a copy of “The Rules of Podex” in the MGS archive and there appear to be certain elements which are unique to MGS. For example, a batsman is out when he scores 42, and other circumstances call for a batsman to be “half out”, such as if he is out on the first ball or hits his own wickets. Podex continues to be played at Bassenthwaite Camp and it pre-dates more famous sports such as basketball and water polo.
Since writing this article, we have been alerted by Dr. Kathryn Rix to an earlier reference to Podex in the Whitby Gazette. The report states that Podex was played by children at a “Children's Special Service Mission” on the beach at Whitby in 1904. This organisation later became known as Scripture Union.