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Why Do We ‘Kick The Bar’?

kicking the bar aberystwythThere are many odd things about Aberystwyth, ranging from the colourful people who call the town their home right through to some of the strange local traditions dating back a number of years.

And the most popular of these traditions is ‘kicking the bar’ at the north end of the promenade by Constitution Hill.

But why do we do it?

In fact so much mystery surrounds the tradition, and there are so many theories as to why it goes on that even the Daily Mirror did an article on it in 1984!

Theory 1 – You Kept Me Waiting:

A number of people believe that kicking the bar dates back to around 1910 after the opening of Alexandra Halls. With the men and the women living seperately, the men used to wait outside Alexandra Halls for the women to leave so that they could accompany them in to town, and perhaps get better acquainted with them. In order to pass the time the men used to pace up and down the promenade, kicking the bar when they reached the very end. A slight twist on this practice was the kicking of the bar for good luck before a date with a girl.

Theory 2 – Just Hanging Around:

In the days of hanging, Aberystwyth had its gallows based on the sea front. These gallows were once believed to have stood at the base of Constitution Hill, and were supposedly surrounded by the spirits of all the people who had been executed over the years. If you look into this further you will find that the gallows were actually located a few hundred metres to the south of Constitution Hill, where the covered seating shelter now stands. However, it is thought that in the late 1800′s many people kicked the bar in order to ward off evil spirits.

Theory 3 – The Royal Connection:

When Prince Edward (later Edward VII) and Princess Alexandra visited the town in 1894 they enjoyed a stroll along the promenade at Aberystwyth. The story goes that when he reached the northern end of the promenade, Prince Edward spotted that the lace of his shoe had become untied. In order to tie his shoe lace, he had to place his foot on the bar at the end of the promenade and bend down to reach. After this the people of the town began to kick the bar because of its somewhat distant but much appreciated ties to royalty.

Theory 4 – That Was Lucky:

In 1938, on Friday January 14th Aberystwyth was hit by a great storm which destroyed much of the promenade, pier and seafront. During the storm a local boy called Evan Moore was unlucky enough to be caught out outside Alexandra Halls by a huge wave. The wave swept him out to towards the beach, until his hand caught something solid below the surface of the water. Evan Moore’s life was saved by the bar at the end of the promenade, which was stuck fast in the concrete. Luckily he was able to cling on to the bar until someone nearby saw him and came to his rescue. This reinforced the bars reputation as a good luck charm, and people supposedly kick it for good luck as a result.

Theory 5 – Give Me A Good Degree:

Amongst the students of Aberystwyth it is common practice to kick the bar to ensure that you pass your degree. A kick with one foot ensures that you pass your course, where as a kick with both feet means you should be getting that much sought after first class honours degree. However, a kick with both feet is also likely to lead to you falling over the other side of the promenade and on to the rocky beach below.

Theory 6 – Outbreak Of Illness:

In the 1920s there was a large outbreak of tuberculosis at Aberystwyth University. Students who had contracted the disease were reportedly made to walk up and down the whole length of the prom, and had to kick the bar as proof that they had walked from end to end. A kick three times with one foot then the other is supposed to ensure your safe return to Aberystwyth in the future, to repeat the act again. Many people therefore kick the bar to ensure good health.

In fact, the kicking of the bar became so important to the town and was so widely known that the bar was actually stolen. During a RAG week in the 1950′s the president of the Swansea Students Union along with a group of Swansea students descended upon Aberystwyth and took the bar during the night. The students of Aberystwyth gave chase and the bar was eventually returned.

What ever the reason for kicking the bar, you can be sure that it has stemmed from a number of different events and superstitions and that different people do it for different things. However, you can rest assured that what ever the reason may be, it will remain firmly entrenched in the ways of the town and its people for many years to come.

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