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Folklore: Children's games

27 Jul 18 - 09:10 AM (#3939831)
Subject: Folklore: Children's games
From: MBSLynne

A recent post on Facebook diverged into a discussion on children's games and songs, creating quite a lot of interest amongst a few people. In consequence, I am re-reading some of the Peter and iona Opie books and, as always, getting deeply immersed and fascinated by it to the extent that I am inspired to do a suevey of my own. Obviously one needs to talk to children, but for a start....whatgames, rhymes and songs do you remember from your childhood, your children's childhoods or your pupils if you are a teacher? The first topic is counting out or "dipping". What did you call it and what rhymes did you use?

29 Jul 18 - 05:42 AM (#3940195)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Children's games
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous

One potater, two potater, three potater, four
five potater, six potater, seven potater, MORE.

'Potater' being an attempt to convey the way we said potato in this chant, including the pack of differentiation of the plural, which was relatively common over a range of nouns eg inch, yard, mile etc.

You'd stand in a circle, and you had to hold both your fists out in front of you and the person counting would gently thump your fists in turn with his, going clockwise from a random starting point. If 'more' landed on your fist it had to go behind your back and wasn't in the next round. It was repeated until the last fist remained, which was 'on' or whatever. You had to remember if the counter's fist/s were out of it.

We did this with a cousin.

Otherwise we generally used a 'bagsy' system. 'Bagsy you be on' (ie the chaser in 'tick'). First person to say it got what they wanted.

This was England in the 1950s

29 Jul 18 - 05:43 AM (#3940196)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Children's games
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous

'lack' not 'pack'.

29 Jul 18 - 06:28 AM (#3940200)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Children's games
From: Snuffy

We did the 1 potato, 2 potato thing, but we also did

Ip dip, my blue ship
Sailing on the water
Like a cup and saucer
O-U-T spells out!

29 Jul 18 - 06:55 AM (#3940205)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Children's games
From: GUEST, topsie

We did 'one potata, two potata etc.' and

Ip, dip, dip,
My little ship,
Sails on the ocean,
You're not IT.

As well as 'bagsy' we had its opposite: 'feinsy'.

29 Jul 18 - 06:32 PM (#3940297)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Children's games
From: Jack Campin

Just posted on the Lost Glasgow FB group:

There was a wee baker who lived in Jamaica
who wiped his bum wi a wee bit o paper.
The paper was thin and his finger slipped in
and oh whit a mess the wee baker wiz in!!

29 Jul 18 - 06:49 PM (#3940304)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Children's games
From: Steve Shaw

All join in for cops and robbers

All join on for Japs and commandos

All join on for cowboys and Indians

All the games involved hiding behind walls or dustbins and making sudden gun noises as you leapt out to confront the enemy. The "all join on" bit involved a bunch of lads parading round the playground, arms around shoulders in a big chanting line. Once sufficient recruits had been achieved, the difficulty then was deciding who was going to be a cop and who was going to be a robber, etc. Nobody really wanted to be a "Jap!"

But I must confess that my favourite playground phenomenon was the girls tucking their skirts into their knickers and doing handstands against the wall. I've been a complete lunatic ever since.

29 Jul 18 - 06:57 PM (#3940307)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Children's games
From: Steve Shaw

We did that "ip dip dip" one too, Snuffy. I'm talking Radcliffe, Lancashire, 1950s...

30 Jul 18 - 04:04 AM (#3940344)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Children's games
From: Snuffy

Not far from me then, Steve. I was in Stockport up to 1955.

30 Jul 18 - 11:54 AM (#3940446)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Children's games
From: GUEST,Guest

For Scots children's rhymes, Ewan McVicar's Doh Ray Me, When Ah Wis Wee is worth reading and can be picked up for about a fiver.

30 Jul 18 - 02:13 PM (#3940469)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Children's games
From: Steve Gardham

Can I just remind folks posting items of folklore Mudcat is a fertile ground for recording such items but to make these items of full use please give an accurate date and place of when the item was in use? For instance if it was in a large city, even the area of the city would be useful as in my home city east and west of the city had markedly different versions. I live in the north of Hull less than 5 miles from Beverley just to the north where the dialect and accent until very recently were markedly different, and of course the native folk repertoire.

01 Aug 18 - 04:37 AM (#3940762)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Children's games
From: Mr Red

1953-1957, a game called Turkey
This was at a boarding school/orphanage** so geographical references are not immediately helpful. But I am sure, though don't have specific memories, that Eric (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) Idle would have played it.

Basically it was a form of hide and seek. There would be someone who was "it" (ie on) and there was an arrangement of found   2 inch ish sticks arranged in an "H" against a wall, with an upright "elongated Y" to hold the horizontal in place. Though the holding stick only had to have features that would allow the formation to remain.

Then there was someone designated (last found?) to throw a tennis ball at the sticks to disrupt the configuration. At this point everyone scattered except the "it" who had to wait, presumably closing his eyes for a count (don't remember a number).

Then it was a game of hide and seek. But "it" had to guard the sticks as well. If anyone could dash up to the sticks and re-build the "H" "it" remained as "it", if all found then first found became "it" and it started again. If anyone re-forming the sticks was tagged (touched) , he was effectively "found".

The curious thing is My Grandfather, born 1875 ish, played a game called Tin-can-a-lerky as a kid. I have recorded what I remember on a PDF at 52 here. (see other childrens' games listed nearby). & hear various old folks recalling the Farmer's in his den

And in the Stroud area, 30s - 50s, they played a hide and seek game with a different found object. called Tin-I-Aki hear the memories here. The similarity of the names and the games is no coincidence IMNSHO.

**dictionary definition of an orphan is having lost one parent. And we all had in my time. The school was founded in 1850 when the loss of one or other parent cause serious hardship in the household. Sponsorship from the Lions & Masons made the school viable till the late 60's when the number of foundationers dropped to less than 20%.

08 Aug 18 - 07:19 AM (#3942435)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Children's games
From: Tradsinger

Kids today are still chanting lots of rhymes in the playground, particularly the girls, not so much the boys. The boys are more likely to play vigorous games involving chasing each other. Most of the old singing games have gone (in the UK) although you will still find "The Farmer's in his Den", "Ring a-ring a-roses" and "Here we go round the Mulberry Bush". There are still lots of counting out rhymes and lots of clapping rhymes. There was a vogue for 'elastic' rhymes, involving jumping over a piece of elastic. I have lots of recordings of kids' rhymes recorded in playgrounds plus a lot of rhymes I got from my daughter when she was at school (she's now in her 30s but still remembers the rhymes).


08 Aug 18 - 07:52 AM (#3942444)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Children's games
From: GUEST,Guest

Leek/North Staffs 1950s early 60s

'Two ball' played against the wall. Under and over throws and up in the air throws and 'bouncies' ie hitting ground before wall and another one where it hit ground after wall and one where it just bounced to the ground and back. Can't remember all the names. A solo game or one in which the balls were taken over by the next in the line.Chants to go with.

One two three O'Leary
four five six O'Leary
seven eight nine O'Leary
ten O'leary
catch the ball.

One to three and over

four five six and over


One two three and bouncy


Grace Kelly is a star


Nebuchanezer the king of the jews
Bought his wife a pair of shoes
When the shoes began to stop
Nebuchanezer bought a shop
When the shop began to sell
Nebuchanazer bought a bell
WHen the bell began to ring
Nebuchanzer began to sing

Can't remember the ending

4 Skipping, turning rope twice for one jump had a name, something like 'hobbles' aka 'doubles'

The best game was when it was snowy which was basically every year; you found a slope and rubbed the snow with your foot till it melted then froze as ice and you would have a slide, with a queue at the top, you'd go down then back up for your next turn. Dangerous. One year the waterfall froze and we tried to climb up it. One year we made the walls of an igloo from snow but we could not figure how to do a roof. Snow isn't what it used to be IMO.

Dangerous. In the summer we kept away from what we believed was 'sinking sand' but I doubt it was, only a boggy bit by the edge of a stream.

We were basically sent out or went out to play all day and roamed and explored and climbed trees and stuff. Sometimes we would take the pet dogs with us. With wellies on jumping in 'cow pats' was fun (nice squelchy noise, sense of devilment).

At a cousin's house some miles away, we would eventually get to 'marl holes', these were massive holes in the ground, and supposed to be dangerous, grown ups would shout at you if you went near to them.

We called the foam on the canal 'polio' and believed it was dangerous (which it probably was).

Dock leaves cure nettle stings. We called stuff 'cuckoo spit'. I remember 'ladysmocks' in the fields, and wild foxgloves, which we had been told were poisonous, so were scared of. We called another plant 'scabies' and were a bit scared of that too.

There was a game called 'kerb or wall' which I never understood the point of, a sort of running game. 'Statues' was fun too.

08 Aug 18 - 07:58 AM (#3942447)
Subject: RE: Folklore: Children's games
From: Thompson

Marl holes and the 'sinking sand' by the side of streams can indeed be dangerous. A young lad walking his horse in circles on such sand was swallowed up a few years ago here in a particularly tragic event when the circling caused the sand to spiral in a kind of land-based whirlpool.
I should imagine that the cultural effect of so much professional entertainment being provided has had the same awful result in children's games as it has in things like people whistling as they walk along, singing at work, etc, which are so forgotten now that people stare at you if you ever claim such a thing existed.