Betty Wilson – Street games from 1945

Nowadays there is no end to the variety of games available for children but in the past most made their own amusements with the simplest of mate

rials. In school playgrounds many games were accompanied by rhymes and songs which were learned very quickly.

One of the most important parts of playing games was choosing teams or perhaps picking an individual to take a certain role, or to go first. This was done by elimination – singing songs like the following and pointing round the circle.

“Oor wee Jeanie had a nice clean peeny
And guess what colour it was.”
“B-L-U-E spells BLUE
and O-U-T spells OUT”


“As I went over London Bridge I met a scabby cuddy
I one-d it, two-d it,
I three-ed it. You four-ed it
I five-d it, you six-ed it
I seven-ed it, you EIGHT IT!”


“One potato, two potato, three potato, four
Five potato, six potato, seven potato, MORE”

SKIPPING GAMES were the prerogative of girls, but sometimes we let the boys join in. A favourite was with a long rope which was “cawed” (turned) by two girls while the rest waited in line. When the first girl jumped in and started skipping we all sang:

“On the mountain stands a lady, who she is I do not know
All she wants is gold and silver, all she wants is a find young man,
So fall in my Margo dear, Margo dear, Margo dear
Fall in my Margo dear, while I go out to play.”

The next girl had to jump into the rope before the other one skipped out and so the game continued, with each girl shouting the name of the person to follow her.

A similar one was the following and again, any name could be substituted:

“Catherine Jefferies are ye no’ comin’ oot?
Arthur’s at the corner walking aboot
His hands in his pokit and his shirt hingin’ oot
Catherine Jefferies are ye no’ comin’ oot?”

Solo skipping was popular too and there was great competition to see who could complete all the actions in the following and skip at the same time.

“I’m a Girl Guide dressed in blue
See all the actions I can do
Stand at ease, bend my knees
Salute to the King and bow to the Queen
Turn my back to the sailor boy
Sailor boys are very funny
Saying that they’ve lots of money

This dunbar version c1970 has been contributed by Jane Murray:

“I’m a Girl Guide dressed in blue
These are the actions I must do
Salute to the Captain
Curtsey to the Queen
Show my knickers to the football team!”

[The skirt was lifted up at the end of the rhyme.]

BALL GAMES – when the weather became a bit warmer we played with balls which could bounce well. In one game, with a single ball the rules were as follows:

Throw the ball underhand against a flat surface like a wall and shout “Plainy”
Do the same again but clap hands and shout “Clappy”
Next throw the ball, then roll hands in a circle before you catch it saying “Rolypurn”
Clap your hands to the back and front before the ball comes back and shout “Tobacky”
Throw the ball with the right hand shouting “Right hand”
Then with the left hand shouting “Left hand”
Catch ball with both hands clasped low down shouting “Lowsitoosh”
Catch ball with hands clasped up high shouting “Highsitoosh”
Lastly throw ball against the wall three times, each time turn round quickly to catch it, shouting, “ONE TWO THREE!”

So the chant goes: “Plainy, clappy, rolypurn, Tobacky,
Right hand, left hand,
Lowsitoosh, highsitoosh,

Another ball game was bouncing the ball on the ground and lifting the right leg over the ball at the end of each line:

“One two three a-learie,
I saw Kate McLeary
Sittin’ on her bum-ba-learie
Eatin’ chocolate biscuits.”

BEDS were played when the weather was warm. With a piece of chalk we drew a large square on the road and then drew six squares inside numbering them one to six. We then filled an old polish tin with earth or stones or sand to make it heavy. The tin was thrown into the first box and then, by hopping on one foot, it was shunted from one square to another but if it landed on line you were out. Everyone had to try to get from square one to six without putting the other foot to the ground.

The girls also liked to CROCHET odds and ends of wool into colourful little blankets. When the wool ran out we just ripped out some of what we’d done and crocheted it back up again. I still have one of these blankets made by my daughter, just as I did before her.

Exchanging SCRAPS was popular too. I think most of the scraps were bought locally so I don’t suppose there would be much variety but we paired off winged cherubs sitting on clouds, baskets of flowers, pet dogs and cats, children in old-fashioned costumes and various other designs.

“PEERIES” or TOPS were bought at the newsagent and we whipped them with a stick with a leather lace attached. This was great fun. Fantastic designs could be drawn on the “peerie” with coloured chalk and the faster it spun the more the design changed. This was popular with both girls and boys.

A favourite game for boys was “BOOLS” or MARBLES. They had a collection of small coloured glass balls and knelt on the ground to “knuckle” their opponent’s one. If they hit it they were allowed to keep the “bool”. In Autumn of course boys played “conkers” in a similar fashion, but this time a chestnut was threaded on to a piece of string and suspended by the owner to be at the mercy of an opponent’s chestnut.

Boys also played football and “Cowboys and Indians”, influenced, no doubt, by seeing so many Westerns at the “pictures”. They also liked zooming about the playground with arms outstretched, pretending to be aeroplanes and “divebombing” girls.

Can all those simple amusements we enjoyed compare with the electronic games and gadgets of modern times? Perhaps not, but I am sure if they were re-introduced in school playgrounds, they would give as much pleasure to children now as they did in the past.