Page:The Folk-Lore Journal Volume 7 1889.djvu/259

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235
DORSETSHIRE CHILDREN’S GAMES, ETC.

“Slight as they are,” says Mr. Edmund Gosse, “and desultory, they give very realistically and vividly a sketch of conditions which are extinct to-day as the dodo is, and almost as remote; nor am I aware that there exists any similar trivial record of life among boys of a country day-school at the beginning of the present century.”[1]

The following extracts from this very interesting paper fittingly find a place in a record of Dorset children’s games.

“We played games in the streets as well as in the play-ground. The thoroughfares of Poole were not so crowded with passengers as to make this practice any public nuisance. Scourge-tops, peg-tops, and humming-tops were all patronised; the last-named, however, chiefly within doors.

“Marbles of course upon the pavement; of these we used chiefly three sorts. The most highly prized were the ‘alleys’ of veined white marble, highly polished, the purest having often pink veins. Those of a yellow sort were called ‘soap-alleys.’ Others, made of a compact blue or grey limestone, went by the name of ‘stoners.’ There was also an inferior sort rudely moulded out of red and white clay, and baked, which were named ‘clayers.’

“A game called ‘Long-galls’ (? goals) was a favourite with the boys, but I never heard of it elsewhere than in Poole. I never cared for it; it was something like ‘prisoner’s base.’ Another, named ‘ducks off,’[2] consisted in setting on a large flat stone a round stone as big as one’s fist, which from a certain distance one strove to knock off by bowling at it a stone of similar size. Two boys or more did this in turn, with certain conditions and results determined by rules.

“Birds-nesting, egg-stringing, squalling at birds, flinging stones at anything or nothing, throwing a flat stone across water to produce ‘ducks and drakes,’ these of course were common. We used the term ‘jellick’—no doubt a corruption of ‘jerk’—to denote a mode of pro-

  1. Mr. E. Gosse must have forgotten William Howitt’s delightful Boys’ Country Book, published in 1839, giving most charming scenes of schoolboy life in the beautiful Derbyshire Peak district.
  2. Still played, Mr. Thomas Hardy tells me, as “cobbs off” in the interior of the county. (Note by Mr. E. Gosse.)