Five Best Traditional games
Gird and cleek.
Sometimes called a girr the gird and cleek was the ace toy during the second world war and for a few years after the war was over. It was popular during Victorian times and before that willow wands and butter barrel ends were used as girds. When mankind invented the wheel children wanted their wheel – the gird.
After the second world war girds disappeared only to surface from time to time as enthusiasts brought them out of the shed or bought them at heritage centres.
The gird is a running toy made of mild steel and you can run for miles behind a gird without becoming bored. The hoop is the gird and the cleek is the handle. Cleek is the old Scots name for a crook or hook. Many girds were free running and the child drove them and stopped them using their cleeks which were unattached.
Victorian models have the handle attached by a small hoop and this ensures that you can keep control at all times. No chance then of running after your gird into the path of horses or cars for that matter. This is definitely a practice makes perfect toy.
A typical question from mum could be “Willie will ye run and get the messages?”. Willie “Can a tak ma gird?” “Aye son, ye can get the messages three times quicker with your gird!” How true! This is a story Alister Scott-MacDonald of the BBC is credited with. “A man went into a car showroom in Dundee to buy a Rolls Royce. When he left he was the proud owner of a gird and cleek. This was what he could afford and this is what they sold him.
He ran out to Broughty Ferry to road test his gird and stopped at a sweetie shop for some pan drops. When he came out he was shocked to find that his gird had been nicked and he had to walk home.” There are many variations of this tale attributed to many parts of Scotland and even Wales” They are, of course, all true.
As a fun running toy the gird is great. If you like competition you can have races which all burn up energy in the fresh air. The World Gird and Cleek Championships are held at Parton in Dumfries and Galloway every year. A good run with a gird makes you fitter and tired so that you have a good nights sleep. That is if you can cope with the excitement of thinking about getting on the road with your gird again. It is a green environmentally friendly toy – no batteries, petrol etc.
Skipping with long ropes.
Jump in skipping is great fun. It is aerobic exercise and a communal activity. Mums and grannies can ca the rope for the weans or bairns. They also can have a shot if they are up to it. Ca canny! Reclaim the pavement outside your tenement on sunny evenings and get the whole close out for skipping.
Different skipping games have different rhymes.
One two three a leerie I saw Wallace Beerie
sittin on his bumbaleerie eatin chocolate biscuits.
I like coffee I like tea
I like the girls and they like me.
Christopher Columbus was a very old man
He sailed in the ocean in an old tin can
And the waves grew higher and higher and over.
1 2 3 4 etc. see who can skip the longest OR a b c d e etc. see the letter they skip to to find out who the boyfriend or girlfriend is. If you skip to g your girl/boyfriends name starts with g.
On a mountain stands a lady
who she is we do not know
all she wants is gold and silver
all she wants is a nice young bow.
Mary in the kitchen
doing some stitching
In Jumps the Bogey man
and out jumps she.
One in the rope at a time is fun. Six in and keeping the rhythm going is great fun.
Whip and Peerie
The small spinning wooden top with simple whip is a great fun toy that can absorb children for hours – spinning and whipping.
Take, say, three pieces of coloured chalk of different colours. Colour the top of the peerie in any design you wish to create. This could be splashes of colour, circles or a very imaginative design.
When you are happy with your art work use the whip to spin the peerie and see what happens to you colours.
Keep the peerie spinning by whipping it in the direction it is spinning. If you back hand it or whip it against the direction of spin you "kill it". It stops spinning. You have to start again.
The peerie is an ancient toy and has been found in Egyptian tombs.
Peeries can be spun using the fingers only with a sharp twist close to the ground. This wee rhyme reflects this.
“One two three aleerie
Hud ma whip
till a spin ma peerie
I wish a was a laudie,
a laudie, a laudie”
The rhyme reflects the misheld belief that laudies could do it better that lassies. Lassies are just as skilled as laudies when it comes to the whip and peerie. There are no surprises there then!
The game of bully can be played. Players spin their peeries and when they are spinning well they whip them towards other spinning peeries to try and knock them out of the game.
Sometimes the peerie being spun towards another one is the one that is knocked out. The uncertainty is part of the fun. The last peerie standing is the bully or winner. This is good fun.
Spin off. Another games is that all players spin their peeries at the same time and keep it spinning for as long as possible.
As soon as your peerie falls over you pick it up and leave the floor. The last peerie standing wins the game.
Peever or beds is known by many different names in Scotland. Paldy in Fife, Lallies in parts of Ayrshire, Beddies in Aberdeen. More commonly called hopscotch now these games are still to be seen in school playgrounds.
Some have beds painted onto the playground so that children can play at play times. Some basic instruction would help the children get more out of the beds.
Typically the bed is drawn with chalk and the aeroplane bed is the most common one. However there are many variations including the six box kick bed that depend on the players skill at hopping, balancing and kicking the peever round the numbered boxes.
The peever can be an old cherry blossom tin filled with small stones. Some had posh peevers cut from marble by monumental masons. They can still be obtained. Alternative a puck like object will do. If desperate a smooth stone or rock of polish tin size will do. The game is progressive. The player must progress along the bed 1, 2, 3 and so on until he or she is out. Then its back to the end of the line until you get another turn starting from where you left off.
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.
I record my appreciation to parents for consenting to the Children of Struthers Primary School taking part in a Traditional Games Workshop and agreeing to the photographs being posted on my web site.
Thank you to the children. You are the stars of my web site! Thank you to the Head Teacher and the class teacher for making these photographs possible.