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Mirth and Dancing
Outdoor Games


How fine is the muscular action
So highly conducive to health
Oh! Hygeia's glances are sweeter
Than all the caresses of wealth.

So, in 1836, wrote a pusillanimous London Scot, a baker at Blackheath, concerning the national pastime of shinty. Already by that time, you will mark, the game had been deprived of its immemorial money prize to the winner. And, as if this were not bad enough, it had degenerated from a game that was full of ill-feeling and practically destitute of rules, so that it corresponded to the palio of Siena, into a carefully umpired contest of equal numbers subjected to gentle manly regulations and imbued with what is known in England as "the proper sporting spirit". Originally fit alike for beggars and for kings, conducted with "banners flying, bagpipes playing", upon a field that had "the appearance of a battle scene", while "souls of heroes floated on the breeze", it enlisted indefinite and unequal numbers, up to forty or so on each side, and was played all day, new players stepping now and again from an ambush at favourable moments. The ball was of wood-a man might run a mile with it in his hand if he wasn't stopped-and if you felt like changing your stick midway for a Lochaber axe there was nothing to hinder you. The more knots you had on your stick the better, so that the game was sometimes called "knotty" or "shinny" - the latter with reference to the other fellow's shins, for if you didn't see the ball you could let fly at the other man. A favourite expedient for cold Sundays on the road to church and back, the first nail was put in its coffin by the Sabbatarians of the late eighteenth century. After that it was fit only for weekdays and Anglo-Scots, with stereotyped sticks, a ball of leather or wool and nothing but honour for the best men.

Other famous Scotch ball-games required a river in which the players were immersed for the greater part of the time. Those good old days are past. For a cold day out-of-doors in Scotland, however, there are still a few warming, fairly risky games that have escaped revision and may be played by fit persons without bothering too much about rules and with impromptu arrangements for counting. Here are some of them.


also known as Hunch-Cuddy-Hunch, is played by equal sides chosen by counting out. The "oots" then choose a captain, who is the Bowster because he must stand with his back against a wall, while the others form a cuddy by bending down as for leap-frog, one at the tail of the other, the nearest planting his head in the Bowster's belly. The "ins" queue up about 30 feet away, and, led by their captain, run, one by one, place their hands on the endmost bent player's back, and leap as far as they can towards the Bowster. If, during the process, the cuddy breaks under the strain, it must reform and allow the game to start as before. If, on the other hand, the "ins" jump so feebly that there is not room for the last of them, they must become cuddy. If the cuddy stays firm and all are landed on it, the last jumper calls out, "Bab, bab, bab the Bowster!" during which remark the cuddy does its best to throw its riders without itself falling down. If it succeeds, the "loupers" have to be cuddy next time. If it fails it must be cuddy again. Often this game leads to argument. 


"Baker" stands with his back to the other players or "customers", who are queued up. He keeps calling "Hot pies!" and moving his arms stiffly from his sides to the level of his shoulders and back again. He may do this at any speed he likes, and may use both arms together or alternately, but he must never bend his arm at the elbow. The customers run forwards in turn, trying to dodge under his upraised arm without being touched. The one who is touched becomes baker.


Players choose pseudonyms, most commonly Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc., or names of fruits. The player counted "out", by any of the well-known rhymes, throws a ball high against the gable of a house or other wall and shouts "Tuesday, Jinks" or any other name. Tuesday may catch the ball as it descends and throw it up again, calling the pseudonym of another player. If he fails to catch the ball before it touches the ground, or if he deliberately lets it bounce, he then attempts to strike another player with the ball. The players should shout "Jinks!" otherwise they must stand still immediately the "out" man catches the ball. "Out" tries to forestall them by shouting "Nae jinks!" but he must not do so until the ball is in his grasp. Anyone whom he beats to it must stand still and "out" has a pot shot at him. If they all get their "Jinks" out first, he must throw at them on the run. The player struck by the ball is then out. If he fails to put anyone out, the last player to throw throws once more after having the others lined up. "Out" then has another shot and this goes on until he succeeds.


Player who is "down" stands on one side of the roadway with his back to the other players who are lined up across the road. He recites "Kirn-Dunoon-Innellan-Rothesay", porter fashion, at any speed he chooses, or at various speeds. While he is chanting, all the other players must keep moving towards his side of the road. At the last syllable he wheels round and tries to catch one of the others on the move. Anyone challenged has now to attempt to reach the other side by running and dodging the porter. If caught he is out of the game. Meanwhile the others stand still. Porter recommences. If all the passengers are caught before the porter's wall is reached by anyone, the porter becomes a player for next game and first passenger caught becomes porter. If any remain uncaught, they have now to get back to the other side in the same manner. This goes on until all the passengers are caught. If they have not all been caught in one journey, it is the last to be caught who becomes porter.


Cock-a-Roosty is a hopping game. The person counted out chooses one player from the others lined up against a wall or along the side of a road. The challenged one must hop from the moment of leaving his den until he reaches the other side of the road or whatever space is marked off as Home. He may choose to fight the challenger (who also hops) or to dodge him. If he succeeds in making the challenger touch ground with both feet, he may cross the road on both his own; but if he dodges across he is equally "free". If he is upset he takes his stand along with the challenger and both jointly oppose the next person challenged. The game continues until everyone is upset. If, however, a challenged person should upset all the challengers in one encounter, then all those except the original challenger become free, and the challenger has to begin afresh.


Cock-fighting is the same game carried out on either side by hoppers carrying a passenger.

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