I know you’re curious, so let’s start with the pronunciation. Is it, literally, ‘Ulg-ham’? Or maybe ‘Ulf-ham’? Or is it a silent ‘g’, perhaps? Well, you’re getting closer. It is, in fact, a silent ‘l’, giving us ‘Uffam’, as I’m sure all you locals know! Place-names and their pronunciations never cease to fascinate, do they? And in case you’re still a little puzzled, the literal meaning of ‘Ulgham’ is ‘the hollow frequented by owls’.
The way in which the village’s name is uttered is one of two things which have always fascinated me about the place. The other is the repeated reference to Ulgham in the early history of football. It doesn’t take long to find the very basics of the story via Google, which, to save you the trouble of looking yourself, go something like this …
Records show that one of the earliest references to the sport of football (i.e. seeming to indicate that the ball is kicked rather than carried or otherwise propelled), dates to 1280 and the village of Ulgham, Northumberland. The source (the Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, Vol.1, p.599) reportedly states that Henry, son of William of Ellington, was killed while playing at ball with a large number of friends. In the course of play, he ran fatally against David le Kell’s (or le Keu’s) dagger, which pierced his belly.
In my hunt for further information, I have been unable to trace the story back through any of my books (or the Internet). I’d love to learn of the finer detail. Can anyone help?