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The Games Children Played


Before the redevelopment of Newhaven in the 1950s and 60s, New Lane was a place where children felt safe and at ease. Our days were spent in play, as soon as we were old enough to go outside on our own.

The age that happened would vary according to the protectiveness of the mother and whether older children were around and willing to look after the younger ones. We had the advantage of a wee park just next-door called the Free Fishermen’s Park which all the bairns knew as Fishie Park.

New Lane was a cul-de-sac with no motor traffic up the top where we lived. This meant there was local space that the mothers could easily keep an eye on and the numbers of adults looking out for us ensured we were generally kept safe as toddlers. Nevertheless there could be problems.

Once, Ma felt uneasy as she couldn’t see my brother Brian who had been playing with his pal Pongo (George Finlay). She went down the Lane and over the reclaimed land to the foreshore, Ma managed to stop them before they set sail on maritime adventures to far flung lands… In a fish box!

The fish box would have been just buoyant enough to take them out of their depth before the sea seeping through the gaps between planks would have filled it with water and it would have sunk under them.

Her timely arrival prevented a tragedy.

The foot of the Lane was well suited for rumbustious games like Hoppy Diggy, Collie Buckie fights and Cuddy Gie Wey (which the boys mainly preferred) and the less physically boisterous ones like Baby Steps and Giant Steps, What’s The Time Mr Wolf? and Statues, which appealed more to the girls.

However both sexes played most of the games especially the hiding games such as Leevoy, Kick the Can, Hingo (hide and go seek) and the many different kinds of Tig.

We could have chains of children, holding hands, stretching half way across the width of the Fishie Park, playing Chainie. The Tig I liked best.

These kind of games were passed down through the generations in working communities throughout the world and we delighted in them as I hope bairns the world over always will.

But we also invented games of our own, imitating real life, as we saw it, in our play.

Of course the films, comics and the war, gave us new characters inhabit and new scenarios to act out. We could be Cowboys and Indians or Japs and Commandos or Highlanders and Redcoats.

Our daytime games were played mainly in the environs in and around the school… Bools (marbles) are the main ones I remember, peeries and peevers, as well as swapping and dropping cigarette cards.

Some of our play imitated real life. The roles we played were gender specific reflecting what we saw. We would play shops (much as my Dad did in his youth) setting up wee rooms with lines of bricks and stones and add a wee counter.

We’d wrap up heaps of different coloured ‘champ’ - which was ground down sandstone of different colours - and the paler champ could pass for sugar. Our wrapping paper was docken leaves and we used docken seeds as a substitute for tea. The boys would crush the champ and act as customers, while the girls ran the shop.

I don’t doubt that today’s youngsters have just as much imagination as the children of yesteryear. However, in the post-war years I grew up in we had to make do with what we found in our local environs, rather than the sophisticated offerings that are available to today’s youth. Was our generation the better for it? I’ll let you answer that one! ■

Info: Contact Gordon Young

Kids playing ‘peevers’ in Lapicide Place, Leith, 1957 and New Lane, Newhaven looking north 1960


Ma managed to stop them before they set sail on maritime adventures to far flung lands… In a fish box!


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