Aunt Sally is played by throwing wooden sticks, from behind 10 yard line known as the ‘ochee’, at a wooden model of an old woman’s head, the ‘dolly’, on top of a dog-legged metal spike. The aim is to try to knock it off without hitting the spike. If successful it is known as a ‘doll’; however if the spike is hit first, then the score does not count and is called an ‘iron’. Each team consists of eight players. Each turn consists of six throws.
It is played mainly pubs in and around Oxfordshire some bordering counties and hardly at all elsewhere. It is an extremely popular game, taken very seriously and there are numerous leagues. The inaugural Aunt Sally Singles World Championship took place in 2011 at the Charlbury Beer Festival in Charlbury, West Oxfordshire.
It has been suggested that Aunt Sally goes back at least as far as the 17th Century. However, the earliest known references to the term Aunt Sally only go back to the mid 1800s eg Charney in 1861 (see newspaper clip below).
The English expression ‘to put up an Aunt Sally’ is used to mean a person or thing set up as an easy target for criticism or an idea to be knocked down.
Aunt Sally: Charney Champions – The Chequers Team
Iain McGregor, David Sibbert, Richard Podd, Steve Taylor
Tony Fitzgibbon, Joe Ody, Steve Lambert, Gary Mills
Winners Section C, 2013
Earliest record of Aunt Sally in Charney
Reading Mercury Saturday 27 July 1861
CHARNEY.- The annual village feast took place last week, and was of an unusually orderly character. The festivities were brought to a close on Thursday, the 18th, with a treat to the school children, given by the Rev. G. W. Minns, curate, and the neighbouring farmers. After perambulating the parish, the children betook themselves to a field in the occupation of Mr. Beesley, and soon entered upon the various amusements provided; cricket, swinging, and Aunt Sally had each their votaries ; the latter lady was especially attractive, and received anything but delicate attentions from the juveniles. While tea was being served. Professor Moseheles’ glee, “The Village Chorister,” was creditably given by a part of the choir. The day closed with evening prayer at the church; after which an appropriate sermon was delivered by the Rev. H. Waddington, of Longworth. There was a large attendance of visitors, and we must congratulate the parish on the success of their exertions, and the hearty goodwill which prevailed among all present.