Games from the Past in the Present
Included are a wide variety of games recorded from children from numerous counties in 1937-8, all of which they played, and many were given information about games from their parents and or grandparents. We would like to note a word of caution, in some games, the children advocate ‘slapping’ if a player loses and we are not recommending this practice but it has been left in for authenticity purposes only. All the material below was transcribed from the Schools Manuscript Collection.
In games where children are performing actions along with rhymes, the actions are included in brackets. Some of these games such as Horseshoe would be well suited to replicating during National Recreational Week with older children.
A child’s list of list of the games she plays
Below is a list of games that children like to play provided by a school child from Offaly. As you can see, many of the games played in 1916 are still played today such as; rounders, tig, hide and seek, Hop Scotch and so forth. All of these games from Offaly are suitable for Remembering 1916 and we hope they generate some ideas for your preparation for Play day and National Recreation week.
- Hide and go seek
- Mad bull in the pasture
- Thread, thread the needle
- Ring a ring a rosie
- Turning the wild cat
- Hop Scotch
- High hoe
- Blind Mans Buff
- Tipping on the fingers
- Jack Stones
- Snakes and ladders
- Egg and spoon race
- Match box race
- Chick a ma chick a ma chock
- Making a paper belt
- Tipping with the hand
- French Cricket
- Making card houses
- Three legged race
- The days of the week
- Bomp Bomp billy
- I am king of the castle
- Sea- saw
- Twenty five
- Begger my neighbour
- Old Maid
- Spelling cards
- Playing shop
NFC Vol 893 pg 232 (Offaly)
A favourite game or pastime on winter nights around the fire is forfeits. A small piece of stick is passed round saying ‘This is the house that Jack built’. Each one repeats this until the stick reaches the first person again, and then he or she adds ‘This is the malt that lay in the house that Jack built’ and so on, every time it goes a full round it gains another line and anyone who does nto say it correctly has to give some article belonging to himself as a forfeit. All the articles are auctioned at the end of the game. NFC Vol 907 pg 397 (Carlow)
Colours is usually played in Winter by the children. Sometimes the older people play the game as well. One person tells another that he will make him say some colour. The other person says that he won’t make him say the colour. Then they start off. The person that is trying to make him say the colours tells him to say a lot of other colours. Then he says the colour real quick and the other person says it afterwards. NFC Vol 725 pg 81 (Westmeath)
Queenie is another outdoor game, played in dry, warm, summer weather. Any number of players may take part. It is played with a ball. One plater is chosen to toss the ball. He stands with his back to the other players and tosses it. Then all the other players run for the ball. When the ball is caught by somebody, all the players put their hands behind their backs and call “queenie” The player who tossed the ball then tunes around and tries to guess which player has the ball. If he succeeds in guessing he tosses the ball again, but if he fails the player who caught the ball tosses it. NFC Vol 275 pg 300-1(Cork)
All the people stand and one person goes round to everyone and gives someone the button. Then he goes round and asks the people who has the button and if they do not know they will get a slap. NFC Vol 725 pg 125(Westmeath)
Blind Man’s Buff
We often played Blind Man’s Buff. When we are playing it we get a number of girls and put them standing in a ring. We select one of them and tie a handkerchief around her eyes. We put her standing in the middle. She goes from one girl to the other and selects one of them. Then she has to tell the name of the girl she selected. If she does not give the correct name the first time, she will get two more chances, and if she gives the wrong name the third time she will have to remain in the middle. But if she gives the correct name, the girl so named shall go to the middle and be blindfolded, and the girl already there is released and takes her place in the ring with the other girls. The game proceeds like this till we are called into school NFC Vol 823 pg 65-6 (Laois)
To play ‘High Windows’ all the children form a circle, all catching hands. One stands in the middle and calls on one to follow her and when she is caught another one follows NFC Vol 966 pg 273-4 (Cavan)
Gather a crowd of children together. Put them in a straight line. Get two big children and the two catch hands and holds them up. The line goes in underneath the two children’s arms and they are going in the two children say.
Here comes the robbers passing through, passing through.
Here comes the robbers passing through my fair lady.[The line replies]
What did the robbers do to you, do to you, do to you.
What did the robbers do to you my fair lady [ The children replies.]
Stole my watch and stole my chain, stole my chain, stole my chain.
Stole my watch and stole my chain my fair lady. [The two children replies].
Chip chop the last mans head cut right clean off.
The two children chose two different fruits. When the last child is in the ring comes up to the two children one of them asks which of the fruits will they have. Then they divide the line and put half of the line of children behind the two children’s backs. Then they draw a line, the two girls catch hands and whichever of the girls pulls the other below the line wins the game. NFC Vol 798 pg 287-8 (Dublin)
We play many nice games in the school yard but ‘Old Witch is the game I like best. To play this game ten girls stand in a row and three of them are selected, one for the Mother, one for the Servant and the last for the Witch. The other seven stay standing in a row and the mother gives them the names, Monday, Tuesday and so on mentioning every day of the week. Then the mother calls the servant and telling her she is going to Town, she gives her charge of the children and goes away. After a while the witch comes to the servant and asks for a match, and the servant says she has no match, but the witch asks her to go upstairs and look for one. The servant goes away a bit but while she is away the witch takes away some of the children and hides them. When the servant comes back the mother is there, when she misses the children she beats the servant and the witch comes and takes the rest of the children. Then the children stand behind the witch and the servant says to the witch ‘What had you for dinner today’ Drawing out one of the children the witch says, ‘I had this for my dinner today’ then she adds ‘It is a leg of mutton or she might say she had any kind of meat or vegetable. Then the child goes back to the home and when all the children have been sent home they all follow the witch. NFC Vol pg 112-3 (Tipperary)
A Local Game
‘Peggy’ is a very unusual game . It can be played by any number of players over one. The articles used in playing it are a ‘Peggy’ and a ‘Peggy stick’ . A peggy in a piece of wood about five or six inches in length pointed at the edges. The stick is just an ordinary piece of wood about eighteen inches in length and an inch in diameter. The players are divided into two sides. A hole is then made in the ground. The Peggy is placed in the hole. The first player pitches the peggy out of the hole with the peggy stick. If the peggy is caught by a player on the opposite side then the first player is ‘out’ and the second player goes in. If the peggy is not caught the peggy stick is placed on the hole. The player on the opposite side throws the peggy and tries to hit the stick, which as I have said before was placed on the hole. If the player from the opposing party hits the stick, then the player who threw out the peggy is out. If the peggy does not hit the peggy stick then the player can hit the pointed edges of the peggy three blows with the peggy stick . The player can take it as far as he is able with the ‘three blows’. If the player does not take the peggy a distance of two jumps (an average jump being about four feet) from the peggy hole then he is out. If he takes the peggy more than two jumps from the hole, he names a number of jumps, and if the players on the opposite side cannot jump the distance between the peggy-hole and when the peggy rested at the end of the third blow, in the number of jumps which the player mentioned then that number is called the score. The further the peggy is from the hole the more jumps the player gets. This goes on until all the players on the side are out. Then the other side goes in. The side that has the biggest score at the end of the game wins it. If the peggy is thrown into a bush or hedge or over the boundary then the player who threw it into or across it is out. If thee peggy is caught by the opposite side during the players three blows, the player is out NFC Vol 658 pg 159-60 (Louth)
Beds (Hop Scotch)
One of the winter games which children like very well is ‘Hop-Scotch’. ‘Hop-Scotch is played by drawing a diagram something like a ladder on the ground and each square is called ‘a bed’. The first player stands at the top of the diagram on the floor and holds a flat stone in her hand. She throws the stone into the first ‘bed’ turns up her left foot and holds on the right foot from ‘bed to bed’ and if she stands on the line she is out. Then she turns back, picks up the stone and then puts down the two feet again. She then throws the stone into the second bed and if it is thrown on the lines the person is out. Then she turns up her left foot again and goes on to the end, turns back and takes up the stone and so on and the best player is the one who does it all without a break NFC Vol 171 pg 448 (Sligo)
Rounder’s: Four persons at the least are needed to play rounder’s. There are two sides and an equal number on both sides. Coats or sticks are put on a patch of ground and are put an equal distance of about fifteen yards from one another. The coats are put according to the number playing. A coin is tossed and whichever side wins the toss, they are the side to be in first. The opposing side spread around ready for the ball. One person from the opposing side stands in front of thee side that is in, with a ball. The ball is thrown and a person hits it with the hand. If the ball is caught before it hits the ground after being struck then the side is out. If the ball is hit and not caught the person runs to the coat but if the coat is hit or the person hit with the ball before reaching the coat then the person is out . If the person is able to get all around that round would be able to get in one of the side that is out or get in herself if she got out later. The side with the greatest number of whole rounds wins the game, after each side has been in an equal number of times NFC Vol 893 pg 238 (Offaly)
A Seasonal Halloween Game
A very favourite pastime for the boys is the gathering of nuts. They are brought home and that night, a group of boys and girls gather together A boys name is put on one nut and a girls name is put on another. The two nuts are put beside the fire in a very hot place. If the two nuts jump together the boy and the girl will be married, but if the nuts separate, the boy and girl will never marry each other. NFC Vol 907 pg 396 (Carlow)
The Priest of the Parish
The Priest of the Parish’ is a great game. As many as like can join in this game. Everyone gets a name. The leader is the priest. The next is Jack. Next is Griddle, Then there is whole loaf, and Half loaf and so on. The ‘priest’ has a strap and starts the game by saying
The Priest of the Parish has lost his hat.
Some say this, and more say that
And some say it is my man Jack
Jack must answer, Who me Sir
The Priest says, Yes, you Sir
Jack answers, You are a liar Sir
The Priest will say, Who then Sir
And Jack will name some of the other players . If the person called on does not answer at once, he gets three chances. If he cannot remember his name then, he gets three slaps. NFC Vol 907 pg 398-9 (Carlow)
Another old game called Horse Shoe is played with six horse shoes. A spike is stuck in the ground about two feet in length. The men stand back twenty yards. This game is so interesting that parishes challenge each other. It is chiefly played in the parishes of Black water, Ballymure, Sereen, , The Ballogh and Castle bridge, after game is over , which ever parish wins they all go to the nearest public house, to celebrate it and very often they light large bonfires. NFC Vol pg 214 (Wexford)
We all get in a row. The girls stand out for a while. Then we all think of a colour. Then the two girls come back, one is the angel and the other the devil. The angel says “tip tap” and we answer “what do you want”. “A colour” the angel says. “What colour” we ask her. Then she guesses a colour and if the same colour was picked by one of the girls in the crowd that girl goes to Heaven with the angel. The devil comes along then and says the same as the angel and if she guesses a colour right a NFC Vol 1026 pg 176 (Donegal)
They go skipping also with ropes. They say a rhyme when they are doing this and it is as follows
“tinkir, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich-man, beggar man, thief, doctor, lawyer, Indian chief.” NFC Vol 275 pg 384 (Cork)
Another popular game is ‘corners’ and this is how it is played. Four corners are made and a child stands in each and one stands in the middle and represents a fool. The children in the corners give a signal to each other and they change places and while they are doing so the fool tries to get into an empty corner and if he succeeds in doing so the child who is left without a corner has to be the fool. NFC Vol 588 pg 138 (Clare)
A circle would be drawn on the ground and a piece of paper put in the middle of it. Each boy would have a pegging top and he would fire it at the piece of paper. The farthest top away from it would be put in the ring. The boys would then spin their tops and pick them up on their hands and knock the top out of the ring. When the top was knocked out of the ring three times it would be brought to a place called the ‘Baby House’ . Here the spike of the top would be stuck in the ground . Then each of the boys would get ten smacks each at the top with the spike of their own top. Even if the top was broken in pieces there would be no fighting NFC Vol 881 pg 216-7 (Wexford)
Hand Ball Games
Some children play hand ball by hitting it against a wall repeating these words
‘Plainy, clappy, rolly, foley, hippy, healy, toey, a jelly bag, and a basket’ and they do suitable actions as they play NFC 912Vol pg 205 (Wicklow)