As summer comes to an end, parents everywhere breathe a sigh of relief that their little darlings are going back to school, and the long weeks of trying to find entertainment and fun for all the family are over for another year (let’s face it, while we all love this time, it can also be very stressful!). To celebrate your wee one going up a year, or even starting school for the first time, we thought it would be fun and instructive to reminisce about some of the best Scottish playground games, still popular amongst Scottish children today!
Many childhood games, such as hopscotch and skipping, are of course common across the world – but Scotland has some particular quirks unique to our bonny region with songs and games which have never been commonly played anywhere else. On the other hand, we have also been the originators of some games which have seen their popularity spread worldwide! So read on for some great ideas of games to teach your kids and share your Scottish pride from the earliest age.
Many Scottish games centre on songs or poems which are recited out loud while playing. These songs are usually sung in broad Scots regardless of the regional accent, and are most commonly chanted by girls. Some of these, such as Oor Wee School, have no particular relevance to the actions performed, but are just amusing rhymes – slightly outdated now, but still enjoyed by new generations of Scottish children as they skip with a long rope (with two children “cawing” or spinning the rope and one or more skipping), or clap in intricate patterns with their friends;
Oor Wee School
Oor wee school’s the best wee school,
it’s made of bricks and plaister.
The only thing thats wrang wi it,
is the baldy-heided maister.
He goes tae the pub on Saturday night,
he goes tae the kirk on Sunday.
And prays to God tae gie him strength,
tae belt the weans on Monday.
Other rhymes are much simpler and indicate the actions the players are attempting; the perfect example of this is Plainy Clappy, a game played by bouncing a ball off of a wall or pavement.
Plainy! (bounce and catch the ball)
Clappy! (bounce and clap before catching)
Roll the reel! (bounce and roll hands together before catching)
Tabacky! (bounce and clap hands behind back before catching)
Right hand! (bounce and catch using right hand only)
Left hand! (bounce and catch using left hand only)
Low skiteesh! (bounce and lace hands together to catch underhand)
High skiteesh! (bounce and lace hands together to catch overhead)
Touch your lap! (bounce and touch knees before catching)
Touch your toe! (bounce and touch toes before catching)
Touch your heel! (bounce and touch heel before catching)
Touch the ground! (bounce and touch ground before catching)
Wee burlaround! (bounce and clap in front and behind before catching)
Big burlaround! (bounce then spin on the spot before catching)
Both of the games described above are most commonly played by girls, and while they do so, boys are more likely to be playing “fitba’” or “keepie-uppie”, which are of course very common wherever football (or soccer, for our American friends) is popular. However, there are Scottish games which wee laddies are often found playing as well! Bools is a popular Scottish game played with marbles, between two players. The first player throws a “bool” a few yards away, then the next must try to land his as close as possible. If it lands within a hand’s span, he collects his opponents bool, if not, both marbles remain in play. This continues until one player has run out of marbles, or forfeits the game.
Boys also tend to enjoy the more physical playground games, such as De’il Tak’ the Hindmaist, a simple running or cycling race. At the end of each circuit, the child who came in last place is declared to have been taken by the devil and must sit down and stop participating. The winner overall is the last child standing. Jig Ma Handie is another popular game which is very active, enjoyed by both boys and girls. This is a variation of the common game Tig, but instead of whoever is “IT” simply tagging their victim, they must grab their hand and not let go, the child grabbed is now IT and must catch someone else in the same manner, dragging the first person behind her. This goes on and on, creating a chain of children running together to help catch more people, and the winner is the child who manages to evade capture for the longest.
As you can see, many Scottish games are very simple, requiring very little in the way of equipment – just a few skipping ropes, a ball and some marbles is enough to spark off the imaginations of bairns (or weans!) and set them on a path of learning and fun. Scottish playgrounds have long been incredibly active, fun and imaginative, and the many songs and poems that can be heard chanted out often teach children a lot about the history and culture of their homes, for example Burke and Hare about the infamous Edinburgh graverobbers;
Doon the close and up the stair;
Mind yir back for Burke and Hare.
Burke’s the butcher; Hare’s the thief;
Knox the man wha buys the beef.
Or The Wee Kirk, a satirical rhyme about the Disruption of 1843, during which the Church of Scotland experienced a schism which resulted in the formation of the Free Church of Scotland (known colloquially as the “wee frees”);
The wee kirk, the Free Kirk,
The kirk wi’oot the steeple.
The auld kirk, the cauld kirk,
The kirk wi’oot the people.
We hope you have enjoyed this blog, and we especially hope you will consider teaching your children some of these games and rhymes if they don’t already know them! Playing games which honour and recognise the traditions of their culture can have a huge impact on kids, and we certainly look back fondly on our childhood memories of all these games and many others. As always, we welcome your comments and hope to hear about even more children’s games, both Scottish and from the wider world!
As a great Scottish summer draws to a close, we have one last stop on our tour of Scottish holiday destinations; the beautiful and historic county of Ayrshire. With verdant hills, gorgeous beaches and exciting islands to explore, Ayrshire is a haven for nature enthusiasts of course. But this south-west corner of Scotland has much more to offer as well. Read on to find out more about the castles, golfing, museums, and music of this wonderful region!
Although Scotland as a whole is known as the Home of Golf, Ayrshire is the birthplace of the world’s oldest, and still most prestigious, golfing tournament; the Open Championship. Originally hosted at Prestwick Golf Course, the Open is now played on either the Turnberry or Royal Troon courses, which amongst them have seen some of the greatest moments in golfing throughout their histories. From the first ever recorded hole-in-one of 1868, to Tiger Woods’ record breaking 8-stroke margin of victory in 2000, the Open Championship is a hot-bed of golfing achievement. As a spectator or a player looking to soak up some of the atmosphere and excellent playing conditions enjoyed by the golfing greats, a visit to Ayrshire is sure to provide you with endless enjoyment.
Learn about Isle Of Skye
It’s not only the Big Three of golf courses which Ayrshire hosts of course; there are many, many other world-class courses throughout the region. One of the newest of these is the course at Rowallan Castle, set in the beautiful surroundings of the 13th century estate from which it takes its name. If the rest of your party aren’t so keen on golfing, this would be a wonderful opportunity for them to spend some time exploring the grounds and buildings to learn more about the history of the Campbells of Rowallan.
There are many castles and other historical buildings of note in Ayrshire of course, among them the famous Dundonald and Turnberry Castles, each the home of Scottish kings. Though partially ruined, Dundonald Castle remains a magnificently impressive stronghold perched high on a hilltop, and can be fully explored and appreciated by visitors who can learn all about the castle’s history as the cradle of the Stewart dynasty, and its erection as a celebration of King Robert II’s ascension to the throne in 1370. By contrast, the older Turnberry Castle is completely in ruins, destroyed by the king who was born there, and dreaded to see it fall into the hands of the English. Robert I of Scotland, better known as Robert the Bruce, ordered this site decimated in 1310, and the castle was never rebuilt. After centuries of erosion from the wind and sea which assail it from three sides, hardly anything remains, but visitors can still explore the area to learn more and appreciate the size and strength the original structure must have represented.
Read about Highlands Games
Ayrshire is not only the birthplace and home of kings, but also of Scotland’s Bard, Robert Burns, along with many other notable Scots. From pioneers of science such Alexander Fleming – the discoverer of penicillin who revolutionised healthcare in the early 20th century – to inventors such as John Boyd Dunlop – whose pneumatic tyres arrived at a crucial time for the burgeoning automobile industry. Even more recently, Ayrshire has been the home to one of Scotland’s most popular rock bands, Biffy Clyro, and the town has a vibrant musical scene culminating in the annual Live at Troon festival each September. Live at Troon has its own Fringe Festival which spills across all of the town of Ayr, featuring Scottish bands, musicians and comedians as well as much more.
When you’re not soaking up the sights and sounds of the festival though, consider visiting some of the excellent museums and art galleries spread across Ayrshire. Two personal favourites as a step away from the traditional fusty cabinets full of dusty relics and small-print placards are the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine’s harbour, and the Isle of Arran Heritage Museum. The maritime museum is an eminently practical exhibition, giving visitors the opportunity to learn a huge amount about the fishing industry which was the regions lifeblood for generations by exploring machinery, tools, boats and much more, as well as touring the tenements flats where workers lived, and boarding the MV Kyles – the oldest Clyde-built boat still floating. By contrast the Isle of Arran Heritage Museum is something of an escape, a step back into a time long since passed. This museum preserves and maintains its collections in traditional island buildings and seeks to teach visitors about the way of life on one of Scotland’s largest islands. Arran lies just off the coast of Ayrshire and is easily accessed by ferry. With a history stretching all the way back to the Bronze Age, Arran has a huge amount to offer, and their small and eclectic museum manages to fits a surprising amount of historical, geological and zoological knowledge into such a small space!
Read about Orkney
Ayrshire truly is a wonderful place to visit to learn more about Scotland’s lowlands. If you’ve left it to the end of summer and still not taken that trip to Scotland you were planning on, this region offers so much to see and do you can easily pack in a huge amount of history, culture, and fun into a short space of time! If you haven’t been yet…what are you waiting for?! And if you have, we look forward to hearing about your favourite parts of the experience in the comments!