[From Mannin #8,1916]
THE following games were played by myself and my companions in the streets of Peel about forty years ago. Many of them have died out, and the few which remain are seldom played today. Most of them are to be found in slightly different forms and under different names in other parts of the British Isles, and almost all probably originated in the dim mists of antiquity. The study of national games is a highly interesting branch of Folklore.
This was a kind of hide-and-Seek, played in the streets at night when it was dark. The hares started off from the den, and when about a hundred yards away, one of them cried Ahernt ! the hounds immediately giving chase. The hares sought cover in doorways, blind alleys, dark passages, or anywhere where they could hide. When a hound caught a hare he immediately yelled, Ahernt, youre caught! All the players then returned to den, the game proceeding as before, the former hounds in turn becoming the hares When one hare was caught they were deemed to be all caught, the cry Ahernt, youre caught ! being an intimation to the other hares that they were discovered.
This was similar to the English hockey, but the number of players on a side was unlimited. The stick was called the cammag and the ball the crick. A gorse cammag, if of suitable size and shape, was a very much treasured possession. It appears to have been the national game of the Island, but it rapidly declined after the introduction of football. The cammag season usually began on Hunt the Wren Day, when matches would be played in every town and village in the Island, men of all ages playing. Corriss Close, now Athol Street, was the chief playing-ground in Peel. I have heard of a match being played between Ramsey and Peel a great many years ago, each town being its own goal. They started at Kirk Michael village, but I dont know now how the game ended, it is so long since I heard of it.
The players placed their caps in a row against a wall. Each player in turn, at a distance of about ten yards, tried to roll the ball into one of the caps. If he succeeded, the boy into whose cap the ball had rolled rushed up to his cap, caught up the ball, and called by name one of the other boys to stand still ; he then tried from where he stood to hit with the ball the boy he had called upon. If he succeeded, a stone was placed in the cap of the boy hit, and if he failed a stone was placed in his own cap. The other players, in turn, then rolled the ball to the caps, and so the game proceededsome winning and some losinguntil all had played. Then each boy had to throw the ball up into the air a considerable height, once for each stone in his cap, and catch it again, and if he failed to catch it he had to go through his bread and water, which meant that he held his hand against a wall to let each of the successful players (i.e. those who had prevented stones from being placed in their caps, or those who had succeeded in catching the ball each time it was thrown into the air) hit it with the ball once for each stone, at a distance of about five yards.
The players placed their caps in a row on the ground about two yards apart. Each boy hopped over the caps three times, and in and out among them about three times ; this brought him back to his own cap, which he had to pick up with his teeth, with his hands behind his back, still keeping on one foot, and throw it backwards over his head, taking care that none of the other players caught it before it reached the ground. If he failed to do this, or touched a cap whilst he hopped, or put the foot held up to the ground, he had to go through fire and water, i.e. the successful players stood in a line, one behind the other, about a yard apart, with their legs spread, and the unsuccessful one had then to creep on hands and knees three times through the arches thus formed, being well pelted by the others with their caps.
An old game played by boys, as follows : One boy, called the standard, stood with his back against a wall, a second placed his head against the standards middle, a third stood bending back to back with the second, a fourth like the second, and so on, all except the standard being called donkeys. The last tried, straddle-wise, to reach the standard over the donkeys backs, the donkeys trying to winch him off. If he succeeded he had another turn, if not he took his place at the end of the line, and the standard in his turn tried to advance, the second boy becoming standard.
(To be continued)