Old Games #playgroundtraditions #sussextales #dialects

Two things  this morning have caught my attention. One is a revision by University of Leeds of a 1950s  survey on regional accents. (read here) 

The vanishing of dialect vocabs is something that has gathered pace since the 1950s when this survey was originally carried out. Growing up in Sussex in later 1950s I heard a lot of older people speaking in that slow Sussex dialect (and accent) and still use some of those words even now. Twitten for example – meaning a narrow alley or outdoor passageway.

I used a great many of those old words in Sussex Tales and was exhorted by beta readers to include a brief glossary of terms. When you visit Sussex now the accent has all but vanished and almost all of the dialect words went the way of the dodo in the last half of the 20th century.

There was also a piece on radio this morning about the banning of ‘Tag’ at a school in Brighton, apparently because it was considered too dangerous.

Coming on the heels of the piece on dialects it was in our house at least a brief discussion on what this game was called at school that ensued.  There seemed to be as many names for it as there were variations on the theme. It was called, among other things: Chase, Hee, Tig, Tag, It, Touch and Ticksy.

I suspect many of us played British Bulldog at some point in our childhood, and I suspect had seen it banned by schools or clubs after someone sustained a broken limb – only for the game to creep back into use once the reminder that was the  victim’s plaster had vanished.

There was a game at my primary school that started out as ‘Dragon’s Tail’, which required a large number of kids holding hands to form a chain that must not be broken. The aim of the game is for the person at the Dragon’s head of the chain to catch the tail end. All the players in the middle of the chain should try and stop the head from catching the tail, without breaking the chain. If the head succeeds in catching the tail, the person playing the tail becomes the head and the game continues.

At our school it devolved into a game called ‘Chains’.

Again a long line of kids holding hands in a chain that they must not break- but there the similarity ends.

With Chains the ‘head’ of the dragon would lead the line at a run in circuits of the playground, gathering as much speed as possible and then to ‘anchor’ themselves as firmly as they were able and swing the chain with as much momentum as they could muster. The aim of the game was for to use that momentum to crack the chain like a whip and see how many people at the chain end could be spun off of the end.

Needless to say many of those tail-enders would be sprawled across the tarmac, grazing knees and bruising bums, but we all knew the risks involved in being tail-enders and fought over the privilege of being flung around at the tail end. But it was not that aspect of game  that got it barred from our lunchbreaks.

No, no! The problem lay in that being a small village school the pupils ranged from age 5 to 11 years old. Chains was a game played by the ‘big kids’ and the problem lay in the tendency for those poor infant class babes to be mown-down by the force of the Dragon like so many skittles.

I have no idea if the chains game was specific to Bucks Green Primary School but I have never heard of it anywhere else.

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