The history of the yellow car game can be traced back to the
early 1600's and to the carters who used to transport the harvested
rape seed from the Cotwolds across country to the barges that
would carry the rape across to Dublin. It used to take the carters
anywhere from 3-5 days to get to Bristol and as the country
roads of that time were barely tracks it was not unheard of
for carts to overturn and even be raided by bandits and highwaymen.
At this period in history fledgling industries in Dublin very
much depended on the rape seed to see them through the winter
and when the barges would arrive in Dublin full of the yellow
crop, the dock workers would punch each other on the arm in
appreciation for a successful crossing of the Irish Sea. This
seemingly inncocent punch on the arm passed on back to Bristol
and dockers there would punch each other when the full carts
arrived full of crop from the Cotswold fields.
(Constables' The Haywain 1821 - Constable
was a avid player)
Although the initial punch to the arm had no real meaning,
superstition took over. People would start to punch each others
arm when they saw the empty carts leave Bristol as a way of
wishing the carters a safe journey home. People in villages
along the route would punch each other when the empty carts
passed through, although this time not to wish them a safe journey
but symbolising thanks that the farmers had been able to sell
their crop and would have enough money to buy food for their
families over the colder months The carters, a superstitious
bunch of men, began to get wind of these yellow cart punches.
By the 1700s it was commonplace for wives to punch their carter
husbands before they set off on the journey to the docks, the
punch would usually accompany the phrase "keep 'em safe". Upon
returning to the farm with an empty cart and full purse the
carter would (gently) punch his wife and say "I kept 'em safe"
before handing over his full purse and accepting a jug of foaming
nut brown ale.
The yellow cart punch slowly became the yellow cart game through
the children who after seeing the superstitious punches, but
having no idea of what they symbolised, would start punching
each other every time they saw one of these yellow-stained rape
seed carts. And so it expanded, from carts, to carriages and
at one point even yellow painted narrowboats were a part of
the whole phenomenon.
By the 1800s, the yellow cart game had almost died off, although
it was still being played with vigour in the Cotswolds, almost
everywhere else it had stopped mainly due to the shipping of
rape seed had been almost eradicated due the introduction of
the mass produced and cheaper sunflower and vegetable oils.
However, the yellow cart game was soon to make
a huge return to the public eye when in 1829 George Stephenson
built (and painted yellow) his famous stream train Rocket. From
6-14 October of that year, Stephenson entered the Rocket in
the Rainhill Trials, a competition to select a new locomotive
to run the line between Liverpool and Manchester.
Half an hour before the rocket was due to take
to the tracks, his wife Elizabeth, interupted an interview Stephenson
was giving with a newspaper jounralist and punched him on the
arm. He looked round aghast, saw it was his wife that had struck
him and cocked his head in question. His wife just smiled and
replied "Yellow cart luck". Sure enough all the other competitors
in the trials broke down and Stephensons Rocket was the runaway
winner. All the papers wrote of his sucess but the more shrewd
reporters wrote feature pieces with headlines like "One punch
secures Rocket victory" and "A Lucky Yellow Triumph".
Elizabeth Stephenson had heard of the yellow cart
game as a child when she visited the Cotswolds and the seed
had lain dormant until she set eyes on her husbands yellow rocket
for the very first time. From then on, every yellow vehicle
was in the game. Boats, carts, trains, buses, planes, tractors
- even handcarts and childrens ride-on toys were the reason
millions of people sported arm bruises. Surprisingly, even the
famous Mallard express train, built in 1938 was initially painted
yellow for luck, but the railway company ordered it repainted
before it went into general service after a child who was standing
on a platform as the Mallard thundered past on a test run was
punched and fell on to the rails.
By the late 1960s many modes of transport had been filtered
out of the game until now only cars remain as the official targets
of the, now renamed, Yellow Car Game. And it is only going from
strength to strength. There are many myspace and facebook pages
dedicated to the game, you can find videos on youtube and there
is even an unnofficial fanclub. The mens magazine FHM reported
in 2005 that two yellow car enthusiasts were arrested by police
and charged with violent conduct as they played the game...
on Fifth Avenue, in New York. Think about that, nasty!
(New York Taxis)