Games and Pastimes

Here are some of the games and pastimes that were enjoyed by our grandparents.

Skittles Conkers Skipping
Cards   Marbles
Rambling Radio Comics


Skittles were very popular. The game was generally played on the roadway. The skittles were normally home-made. A piece of log about four inches in diameter and a foot long was used for throwing. The pegs were about four inches high and cut from pieces of wood roughly one inch in diameter.

A circle about three feet in diameter was drawn in the dusty road. A cross was drawn inside the circle. One peg was placed upright at each end of the cross and at the centre. Each peg had a different value from one to five. The players stood about fifteen feet away and tried to knock the pegs out of the circle. A stone was placed in front of the circle to make the game harder. The winner was the first player to reach a certain score. The last peg knocked out of the circle had to be the "one" and this was the hardest to hit because it was in the centre.

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In September, after the Summer holidays, one of the most popular games was "Conkers". Chestnuts were collected from the ground under the "conker" tree. Small, hard ones were best. A nail was used to put a hole through the nut and a piece of string or shoelace was treaded through the hole. A knot was tied at the bottom of the string to stop the chestnut falling off.

Conkers was usually played by the boys. The rules of the game were simple. One player held out the conker and the other tried to hit it with his conker. Then the second player took a turn. The winner was the one who broke the other player's conker. Scores were kept. If you owned a "twentier", that meant your conker had broken twenty other conkers. Good conkers were prized possessions and sometimes they were sold or swopped for large sums of money or other "goodies"!!!

Some clever champions had ways of making their conkers tough and almost unbreakable. One method used was to store the conker for a year near the open fire in the kitchen. It was then ready for action. Another way was to cook the nut for about 10 minutes, then soak it in a mixture of vinegar, mustard and Tabasco Sauce and cook for another 10 minutes.

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Skipping was usually played by girls but boys also took part. There were several versions, just like today. We are working on the rhymes that were popular in our grandparents time so come back again!

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Cards were played by young and old. The most popular games included 25's, Old Maid and Beggar My Neighbour. There were regular card "schools" where people would gather at a certain house on certain nights to play. In summer time cards were often played outside or in a barn.

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This was very popular with boys and was one of the most common games played at school break. We are checking out the rules so come back later!

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There was always a house in the neighbourhood where people gathered on winter nights to hear and tell the latest news and swop the latest gossip. This was known as a "rambling" house. There would also be stories told and many a rambler went home very scared on the dark road after listening to some hair-raising ghost stories. In summer the ramblers would meet outside, usually at a cross-roads.

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Not many houses had radios and those that had were very popular, particularly on Sunday afternoons when there was a match on. Mícheál O'Hehir's commentary was the next best thing to being in the crowd. Other popular programmes were "Hospitals' Requests" from Radio Éireann (RTÉ) and "The Archers" and "Mrs Dale's Diary" from the BBC. Radio Luxemburg, which played all the new Rock and Roll music, became very popular in the 1950's.

Old Radio

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Comics were the most popular reading material for children and regular orders were placed for the "Dandy" and "Beano". Every week these were read from cover to cover and the adventures of characters like "Desperate Dan" and "Biffo the Bear" were followed with great interest.

The most popular Irish publcation was "Our Boys", which wasn't a comic but contained the ghost sories of "Kitty The Hare", which were written by a local man, Victor O'Donovan Power.

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