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Games Old and New is about children's play.
 The story of the Gird and Cleek.

This is a toy which gives children a wheel with which they can run on grass or tarmac. Take care to stay off roads for safety. You can get the messages (shopping) two times quicker with a gird and cleek.

The gird is a toy that goes right back to the time the wheel was invented. It is also a universal toy and can be found all over the world … Africa, South America, Europe and Russia for example.


The story of the Whip and Peerie.

Peeries or tops have been found in Egyptian tombs. A spinning top has always been fascinating to children. The simple peeries were hand made and in more recent time turned on lathes. Colouring the flat surface of the peerie has always been an absorbing piece of art work. Using coloured chalk (not crayon) make your own design. It can be any design you want. Watch what happens when you spin and whip the peerie. Has the appearance of your design changed? You can change your design. Just colour over the one you already have.

The story of the skipping rope.

Many years ago people entertained themselves by skipping. It was a communal activity. Mum, Gran and the bairns or weans played together in the farmyard or on the pavement outside the tenements of our great cities e.g. Glasgow Dundee.

Singing songs and rhymes went with the skipping e.g. Edinburgh “On a mountain stands a lady who she is I do not know. All she wants is gold and silver. All she wants is a fine young man. I call in Mary dear, Mary dear”. And Mary jumps in and skips.

The importance of Children’s Play.

We hope that this information helps children who are exploring the games of the past. Tenement life, Victorian times and the World Wars. Children’s play has never been more important. Simple exercise in fresh air playing with friends and family. You cannot beat it!



From a talk to a Scottish Womans Rural Institute about childrens play.

Play is important. It is through play that we learn life skills. Children learn to communicate. They learn to give and take .... to co-operate. They learn to run, jump and balance developing physical fitness. They learn hand eye co-ordination. They form friendships. Some of which last for life.



Do you remember how you used to play when you were wee? Tell us what you remember?

I work all over Scotland teaching children traditional games many of which you will recognise from your childhood. Games like tig, whip and peerie, skipping and girds.

Children say and do the funniest things.

We often say to children that Queen Victoria played with a gird just like the ones you are playing with in the workshops.

"In fact she taught us how to run with them".

When we ask whether this is true or false we get some interesting answers. 

 "Its not true". "Why is it not true? "Because you come from Glasgow Miss". 


I have worked in the Orkney Islands, Eyemouth (at the Maritime Festival) and at many schools and events all over Scotland.

In 2008 we taught Scotland's traditional games for three days in Verona, Italy as part of an International Festival of Traditional games. On one day we had twenty student teachers helping us and about five hundred children from surrounding schools participating in a rolling games event. Have gird will travel ....... anywhere!

One of our busiest events is Pollok Family Day in Pollok Country Park Glasgow. We have been encouraging young and old to play there for over 14 years. Recently a mum brought her daughter to us for "coaching". After she completed her session mum said "You showed me how to do it years ago". Grandparents show grand children. Mums and dads have a go at some of the games. Children put a lot of energy into learning new skills or brushing up on last years ones.

Pollok family day is on the first Saturday in August each year. In 2014 the event will be on the second Saturday in August to avoid the close of the Commenwealth Games. It is a great day out for all the family and entry is free. It is the highlight of our "girding year" with folk of all ages and from all over the world having a go at spinning a peerie and or running with a gird. Smashing fun.



Guilds and WRIs

During the winter months I visit Woman's Guilds and Scottish Women's Rural Institutes and give talks. These are fun participation sessions and get everyone laughing. A typical comment at the end of the evening is "I've never laughed so much for years."

There are two prizes to be won on the night. The best peerie spinner takes home a new whip and peerie. The winner of the Gird and Cleek race final wins a new gird and cleek to take home. They will be able to get there messages three times quicker now that they have a gird!

Roll back the years and have some fun.




You are never too young to play and have fun!







When man created the wheel children wanted their own wheels. Before steel girds (hoops) were fashioned from willow wands. A painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525-1569) shows children at play as part of village life. It was painted in1560. Many children's games can be recognised including whip and peerie, leap frog, jacks and so on. In the front of the painting are children running along with their willow wand girds. Yes their wheels.



In Victorian times in Britain shipbuilders, blacksmiths and engineers fashioned girds and cleeks (handles) from mild steel. Sometimes the handles were attached to the gird by a small ring and sometimes they were open cleeks. Cleek is the old Scots word for hook.


Most girds were simple hoops. Some interesting variations did occur. The Ayrshire Whin Cutter was usually fashioned by coal miners and made of a flat piece of mild steel.


During and immediatley after the second world war girds were very popular childrens toys. Children from Orkney to Dumfries played with girds. Sometimes the gird was seen as a boys toy. However in reality girls ran with girds too. Grownups created a lot of humour around girds. In the big cities of Scotland tall tales surrounded the gird. "Be careful you don't get your gird into a tram rail or you'll have to run all the to the tram depot to get it out."


"A man went into a car showroom in Dundee to buy a Rolls Royce. When he came out he had a gird because thats what he could afford so thats what they sold him. He ran out to Broughty Ferry with his gird to give it a good road test. When he got there he parked his gird outside a sweetie shop and went in and bought a bag of pandrops.

When he came out his gird had been nicked and he had to walk home."

This story is attributed to Alister Scott-MacDonald a BBC Radio Producer in the 1940s.

This story was passed to us by Mr Pagan of Birmingham, England who is from the Kingdom of Fife.

"A man from Springburn in Glasgow ran with his gird and cleek to the City Chambers to pay his council house rent. He parked his gird outside the accounts office and went in. When he came out his gird had been nicked and .... he had to walk home." Recognise the story? We have been told similar stories from all over Scotland and one from as far away as Bridgend in Wales.


These stories are part of the folk memory of Scotland. People relate this story to me often. Only the places change. They all assert that this is a true story.


Here is a poem which was published in the Sunday Express in February 2012.


It's No Fair (So it's No).

Ah got the belt this morning

an' a wisnae awfy late

but Dominies dinnae listen

when yer wee and only eight.

"Ah've heard some lame excuses

but yours is quite absurd,

Ye cannae get a puncture

in an auld cast iron gird".


Robert Carmichael


Thank you Margaret Woods of Dennistoun Glasgow for sending me the poem. I am happy to receive poems and stories about traditional games. Annie.



Whip and Peerie.

The whip and peerie was very popular over fifty years ago. Both boys and girls played with them. However girls appear to have been in the majority and many have fond memories of their own whip and peerie. Some can remember coming out of their homes and spinning their peeries along to the primary school. Later in the day they would spin their peeries all the way back home again.


Annie visits Woman's Guilds and Women's Rural Institutes to encourage the members to play their traditional games. She gives out say forty peeries and a selection of coloured chalk and invites the ladies aged forty years to seventy to colour in the top of the peerie. When she gathers them in there are no two peeries or designs the same. Some are intricate and beautifully coloured. Others strong splashes or sometimes bands of colour however all are unique. This was how children knew their peerie from others when they were all playing together. Now we would say that they customised them.


Peever Beds.

Peever beds were very popular in the streets of big cities such as Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee. People who lived in tenament house closes would come out in the evening and join the children playing "beds" which is commonly called hopscotch today.

Not so long ago the game was called Paldies in Fife, Beddies in Aberdeen and Lallies in in some parts of Glasgow.

Grown ups also joined in communal skipping. Two people would ca' the rope and the others would jump in and out in turn.

The two most popular beds were the aeroplane bed and the six box bed. The boxes in the bed were drawn on the pavement using chalk. Sometimes an old ornament made of chalk was used. The bed was numbered 1 to 10 or 1 to 6.

A peever could be an old shoe polish tin with small stones in it to give weight. A Cherry Blossom tin was particularly treasured. If your mam or dad knew a monumental mason they could get a marble peever which was considered to be very posh. Playing peever beds was a very social activity with children, mams and grandmams all playing together. Often the children would just play on their own.


Skipping and singing.

Skipping was the communal activity for the back close or out on the pavement. The older children and the grown ups took turns at ca'n the skipping ropes. The skipping was sometimes accompanied by singing or chanting. The beat of the rope kept time with the song. Songs sung were many. Here are some.


Mary in the kitchen

Doing some stitching

In jumps the bogey man

And out jumps she.


Christopher Columbus was a very brave man.

He went to sea in an old tin can.

The waves got higher and higher and higher and over a b c d e f g etc.


The letter the children were out at could be the first letter of their boyfriend's or girlfriend's name.

Yes boys skip too. Boxers maintain superb aerobic fitness by skipping.


On a mountain stands a lady who she is I do not know.

All she wants is gold and silver.

All she wants is a fine young man. (or a nice young bow)


Oor wee school is the best wee school the best wee school in Glaesca.

The only thing thats wrong with it is the baldie hieded Maister.

He goes tae the Pub on a Saturday night and he goes tae the Kirk on Sunday.

And he prays tae the Lord tae gie him strength, tae belt the weans on Monday!


I like coffee,

I like tea.

I like the boys/girls and they like me.


One two three aleerie.

I saw Wallace Beerie (or Mrs Peerie)

Sittin on his bum-ballerie

Eatin choclate biscuits.



This is only a flavour of the rich tradition of children's games which were popular many years ago in Scotland. It is interesting to meet people from other parts of the world and to find that they too played variations of these games. People in Russia, Italy, Africa, South America and Malaysia to name a few. The games and therefore the play culture exsisted in parallel with our own. The gird or hoop is a wheel. Children want thier own wheels all over the world.


Annie Sutherland works in schools and at events all over Scotland encouraging teachers and children to play traditional games. She also encourages children to speak with their parents and grandparents and find out their lasting memories of their times as children.

If the children make a record of these folk memories and share the information with other people they will help keep alive the memories and traditions of childrens play. If this is carried out as part of a school project on childrens play and shared through exhibition at school so much the better.



This is a simple game where one person is het or it and all of the others are free until they are tug. To help make the game work players agree the boundaries past which no one will go without being “out”. Failure to agree boundaries can mean that some players will disappear of the face of the earth only to return when “the games a bogie” or finished.

When the game starts the person who is het tries to tig (touch) the other players. They are then out of the game. One variation is that a tug person can be released back into the game by a free player and the game goes on and on.

Partner tig is self explanatory (two players hold onto each other throughout). In hospital tig you hold on to the part of your anatomy which has been tug e.g. your elbow.

Chain tig is excellent fun but take care that the players are safe. Don't allow the chain to swing the furthest out players as they could be hurt. One player tigs another and they hold on to each other. Only the ends or the extremities of the chain can tig. Players who are free can slip through between the people in the chain taking care not to be tug by the ends of the chain which can curl in. Eventually everyone is on the chain and the game can start again. This is a game which generates much fun and excitement.


Young folk from Veitnam shared this Number Game (below) with Jess Corrigan in Hanoi. They are studying English.


We have fun learning English with Miss Jess. We hope that you will have fun playing the number game. Hello from all of us to you!!!

Number 31

You stand in a circle or anywhere in a room. We tried it when my two assistants and I were in the kitchen making Christmas treats last week and had a lot of fun.

Jess Corrigan, Hanoi.


A special thank you to the parents and staff who kindly gave their permission for this photograph to be shown on the web site. It must not be used for any other purpose. Copyright Jess Corrigan.

Rules: Undernoted I have chosen 5 people to play the game.

Each person can count only up to three (numbers or less)


A: One – Two - Three

B: Four – Five - Six

C: Seven – Eight - Nine

D: Ten – Eleven - Twelve

E: Twelve

D: Thirteen – Fourteen - Fifteen

A: Sixteen - Seventeen

B: Eighteen – Nineteen - Eighteen

C: Nineteen

D: Twenty

E: Twenty one - Twenty two - Twenty three

A: Twenty five

C: Bla! Bla! Bla!

The person with that number 31 is knocked out of the game.


Below. The children of Struthers Primary School in Ayrshire get ready for another game.