The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #58190   Message #919796
Posted By: IanC
27-Mar-03 - 12:47 PM
Thread Name: Info Req: Now is the Month of Maying
Subject: RE: Now is the Month of Maying
All the above accepted. However, though the game is ancient (it was first documented in the reign of King Edward III) it is not antique. By this I mean that it was certainly played until recently, and I strongly suspect (see below) still is. It is, of course, a "country" game as the apparatus is available there (though it could be played in towns under the right circumstances).

As a child, I played this game. Two variants (none essentially involved couples) - one when there weren't that many people, where you swapped "it" when you caught someone - one for more people, where anybody "caught" joined in. Occasionally called by its name ("Barley Break" pron. "Breek" though we'd normally pronounce the word "Break" in any other context).

It was a summer game and not very often played. Usually in the fields after harvest, when there were blocks of bales and individual ones lying around. We'd move the bales to form a barrier with a gap. There was no specific designated "area", people had to just try and get past you.

The different concepts of "hell" and "home" (sometimes "base") were known but we didn't much use the terms (what need?).

I think it is probably still played occasionally. The reason I say this is that last year, when we had some special Jubilee things in the village, there was a field with marquee and straw bales. In the evening there was a concert in the marquee and as dusk fell there were about half a dozen pre-teens and young teens who had moved the bales and were playing "catch" in the same way. I recognised it as "Barley Break" and didn't it bring back some memories!

Childrens games are not passed down by generation, but from slightly older kids. They are amazingly tenacious in the right circumstances. I don't know if the kids know all the terms, and I'm unlikely to get much chance to ask them, but I suspect they do - as we did.

I wonder how many people think traditions are dead who just haven't had the chance to see them being carried on in their right environment?