WORKINGTON is gearing up for a unique series of Uppies and Downies.

The traditional Easter game starts today (Friday) and the Downies side are expected to turn out in force after last year’s whitewash.

And on Tuesday a special commemoration will mark 100 years since the first game played after the end on World War One.

Veterans and servicemen are being encouraged to meet at 6pm before the match for a short ceremony at the Cloffocks.

Mark Rawlinson, the official ball-maker, has made a special ball to mark the occasion. It features poppies, silent soldiers and the poem In Flanders Fields.

Robert Daglish, who sponsors the Tuesday ball, said: “I’m absolutely delighted this special ball was made for the Tuesday game, I feel honoured to be sponsoring it.

“It’s a beautiful work of art and it shows the respect to the players that were there 100 years ago and those who never made it back.”

Robert has been visiting schools to show the ball and talk about the game to children.

The 63-year-old said: “These things help to keep the tradition going. Children loved it and they were amazed by the ball, at such a young age they don’t really get a chance to get close to the ball and hold it, it had quite an effect on them.”

Robert’s son, Robert Andrew, 39, will throw off the special ball on Tuesday at 6.30pm.

Before the game kicks off, soldiers from Workington’s territorial army centre will mark the 100th anniversary with a small parade.

Captain Mark Armstrong said: “The inscriptions on the ball are quite poignant Uppies and Downies is a traditional event in the area and I thing it’s a fine thing that they’re marking this occasion.”

Local poet John Hastings will also read the poem In Flanders Fields.

The game today will be started by nine-year-old Darcie Saffill. The Good Friday ball is sponsored by Townsley Boyd.

Uppie Nathan Askew, who made history by hailing three consecutive balls in last year’s series, said: “I can’t wait to get back on it, but I know I’ll be a marked man and it’ll be interesting to see what happens in the scrum.”

Nathan added that if he was to hail a ball he would hand it to Brian Fearon. Brian’s son Carl died a few years ago and when Nathan won the series for the Uppies last year he dedicated the ball to his friend Carl.

The players will be holding their annual charity night at Workington’s Railway Club on May 11 and a family duck race earlier on the same day. Money raised will be donated to Workington Town Boys’ and Girls’ Club.

Players will be at Dunmail Park on Saturday from 10am to 3pm and people will be able to buy raffle tickets, with a chance to win a ball made by Mark Rawlinson, as well as tickets for the duck race.