Penybont and District Local History Group Notes 7TH December 2015 Main Topic: Games We Used to Play – Rev. Geraint Hughes

Once again we had a good turnout for this fun event at the end of the year. Geraint led the session and reminded members about the ‘homework’ they were to do in thinking and writing down games they used to play as children. He also thanked his highly qualified assessors, Marion and Jennifer who were, as he spoke, scrolling through the lists of indoor and outdoor games that had been drafted by the assembled group.
Mary indicated that the topic was highly appropriate as a national survey suggests that the LD1 postcode area came out as the ‘happiest’ place to live in the UK???? (In the famous words of Michael Howard – “Poverty Works”, or something like that)
Geraint started by reminding the group that games in the past were much more gender specific, and that girls and boys seldom played together. School playgrounds were divided in to Boys and Girls areas. Geraint never even met a girl as he attended a boy’s only school!
Girls tended to play with dolls, doll’s houses, prams, doctors and nurses, dressing-up, wearing high heels, and had an interest in learning wild flowers.
Boys, by contrast, (in Geraint’s mind) were interested in dens, trees, tree houses, skates, slides, fishing, rabbiting, collecting, bird’s eggs, and stamps. Bird’s eggs raised a few eyebrows but as Geraint remembered it was ok in those days to collect a single egg, making sure there were others to hatch out from goldfinches and even kestrels. Stamps and collecting in general was a particular past-time of Geraint’s. He is particularly proud of his Christmas stamps which go back to 1966. More recently he was shocked and delighted to find out that the 50p piece is a modern day collector’s delight. Some are already quite valuable. A 2011 wheelchair volleyball coin is already worth £200. There is also interest in the £2 coins and a 2007 Commonwealth coin featuring England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is worth £250.
Collecting of all kinds was a passion – cigarette cards, train numbers, autographs, feathers, shells, fossils.
Geraint’s obvious delight in the relatively passive collecting arts was counterbalanced by an equal desire to engage in the ‘killing arts’ so enjoyed by young boys of the time. These included: bows and arrows; cowboys and Indians; cardboard shields; catapults; pea shooters; sago bombs; itching powder; rose hips; and tracking, catching and killing almost anything! The Scouts perhaps gave some order to this rampant killing and encouraged collecting and looking after tadpoles, but it also aroused a certain enthusiasm for more explosive games. Exploding caps on the top of double decker busses to make girls jump gave particular pleasure and led on to experimentation with potassium permanganate and tin can carbide devices.
Gosh there was so much to do and some of these activities had some educational value, Geraint’s expertise and skills developed through skimming stones; making and following paper trails, making dams, playing hair and hounds, learning about knots, building crystal/cat’s whisper radios, building bonfires and roasting potatoes.
The girl’s, not to be out done were meanwhile engaging in pastimes some similar to the boys but favourite activities included: skipping; hop scotch; rhyming songs and games; throwing balls against the wall and catching games; puppet theatres; and decorating almost anything.
Underpinning some girls games were worrying rhymes such as:
“Be good
Be a good girl
Choose a good husband
Be a good wife!”

But then to counterbalance this you might have:
“When you get married
When you get lost
Pick up the poker
And say “I’m the Boss!”

Geraint then turned to our esteemed Assessors who had selected, from the numerous games listed on the sheets filled in by the members. a few games to be discussed.
From Llandegley a game called ‘London’ was identified as a variation on a game played much more widely in the playground. One person faced a wall and spelled out LONDON while the other people attempted to creep around the wall. The object of the game was not to be caught moving. In another part of the country this was called ‘Creep Mouse’.
Another local playground game – Office Office AH – which involved children climbing on the backs of other children and then being shaken off.
The Assessors were surprised to note that Mary, of good Baptist stock, had listed roulette and betting on horses, as some of her favourite pastimes.
British Bulldog featured widely as a game usually played in a Hall. A small number of children would take up the space in the centre of the Hall. The other children would assemble at one end of the Hall and then the object of the game would be to get past those in the middle to get ’home’ to the other end of the Hall. Each person caught would add to those in the middle for the next run.
The War was an significant feature in childrens’ play activity in this period just after the war. Those in the group talked about how bomb sites became children’s play areas and places to find shrapnel. Tanks would feature strongly in these games. Paper planes were a great source of fun, at which point Geraint made one and it flew ever so well around the room.
With all this talk of war games the ladies reminded us of the joy of cotton reels which could carouse around the floor with a simple match and elastic band. They could also be converted into a tool for French knitting. Alongside this type of knitting there was great fun to be had with making a Cat’s Cradle.
Jennifer attended Llanbister School where there was no playground. This did not inhibit the children. The Hare and Hounds Game was regularly played over a very wide area with no boundaries. Often they found themselves half a mile from the school.
New Radnor did have a yard but this did not stop children heading off to the brook to play.
The group was getting excited by now and great lists of games that were suddenly recalled began to flow. There were lots of ‘tag’ games, whipping tops, mushroom and carrots, sometimes leading to broken windows. Bar skittles, jacks and even hula-hoops got a mention.
The group then calmed to hear a description by one of the lady members of making a whistle from a twig of Rowen with a pocket knife. Start by removing the bark, cutting the top off, making a notch, hollowing out the twig, making a slit, and putting the top back on.
The group then turned to some indoor activities, such as: Hangman, and Jean regaled us with:
“The Big ship sails on the Ally Ally Oh
The Ally Ally Oh, the Ally ally OH
Oh, the big ship sails on the Ally Ally Oh
On the last day of September”

But before we could get into “Oranges and Lemons”, Humph brought us back to Boy’s games and the Illegal things that were all part of growing up.
To his own shame he remembers collecting some small examples of Roman pottery from Castell Collen. Cardboard milk bottle tops were an attraction, and there were certain activities associated with Woodbine and Capstan that maybe should not be mentioned?
Mr Thomas of Llandewi was not too happy with boys pinching apples.He was ok aout the cider apples but the attraction was to get the eaters when he was not looking.
Then we got on to ‘marbles’ and of course there were different games that people played. But it was the names that people had for different marbles that captured the attention of the group.
Local names included:
• Crystal for clear marbles
• Bulls eyes for opaque marbles
• Twirls for ones as described
• Rainbow for multi-coloured ones
With marbles exercised it was time to sing!
We started with a variation on; One, two, three O’Leary which went on
Five, Six, Seven I saw sister Sarah
Eight, nine, ten, Sitting on a pomperero,
Eating a …………

And then
Inky Pinky Ponky,
Daddy bought a donkey.
Donkey died, daddy cried.
Inky Pinky Ponky!

Then we had:
‘In and out the dusty bluebells
In and out the dusty bluebells
In and out the dusty bluebells
Who shall be my partner?
Tippity, tappity on your shoulders
Tippity, tappity on your shoulders
Tippity, tappity on your shoulders
You shall be my partner.’

This led into rhymes that selected people for other games:
One, two, three, four,
Mary at the cottage door;
Five, six, seven, eight,
Eating cherries off a plate;
O-U-T spells out!
Followed by the acceptable version:
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe
Catch a tiger by the toe
If he hollers let him go,
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe
My mother told me
To pick the very best one
And you are [not] it.
Geraint was desperate to sing Ging Gang Gooley so we all had a go albeit complaining that this was a Scout thing and not really relevant?
Inevitably Health and Safety raised its weary head when the virtues of riding a bicycle with no hands came up, and then there is the new phenomenon that conkers are somehow dangerous. Marion told that there was no law requiring goggles to be worn. Geraint is still looking for his best conker which has somehow disappeared. I have a suspicion that it was composted by Rosemary, but do not tell Geraint.
While some of us were dying to play tiddly winks Geraint reintroduced us to charades as a ‘guess the employment’ version, and a naming game based on parts of the human body.
Sime of the clues to naming body parts were:
Tall trees Ammunitions Receptacle
Shell Fish Ships Extravagance
Plumber A measurement Young animal
Sacred Building A Fruit Scholar
Part of a hill Flower Negative
Answers on a postcard please, but not to me!
A good time was had by all, thanks to another excellent session hosted by Geraint.
Geraint reminded us about Carol singing at the Severn Arms and at Dolau.
Marion gave advanced notice of an information session at New Radnor on Islam that she is arranging in February. She has a guest speaker who has written a book on the subject.
The Next session of the Local History Group will be on 1st February 2016 and Robert Bevan will lead a session on local Stained Glass Windows.