Opie collection of children's games & songs

Interview with Rowland Kellet discussing games and songs from his childhood with Iona Opie (part 1 of 2)

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  • Subjects

    Children's games; Children's songs

  • Recording date


  • Is part of (Collection)

    Opie collection of children's games and songs

  • Recording locations

    Leeds, Yorkshire, England

  • Interviewees

    Kellett, Rowland (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Opie, Iona (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 1 of 2. [00:00:00 - 00:38:07]. This recording contains an interview between Iona Opie and Roland Kellett who grew up in Cooper's Court, a slum area of Leeds in the 1920s. He recalls and explains games and songs from his childhood and also discusses with Iona Opie more modern-day songs that he has collected and learnt from his niece. Rowland begins by describing in detail the different variations of the game of marbles that he played as a child [00:00:00 - 00:11:12]. He recalls that there were five distinctly different games of marbles that could be played. The first was what he suggests is the most 'universal' game of marbles. This involves drawing a circle in the dirt and attempting to see how many marbles a player could flick into the circle.  The second was a game that they would call 'Bobby Long'. This was played in the gutter 'on the way home from school'. One player would throw his marble into the gutter and the other player would throw his marble and try and hit it. They would play this game in the gutter as it was 'an ideal place for rolling them [the marbles]'. The third variation was a game called 'Holeys'. To play, the children would make a hole in the ground, or find a hole, and try and roll the marbles into them. Another variation that could be played by the children was called 'Nucks'. When playing this game the player would have to push the marble with his knuckles rather than flick it. Lastly, the fifth marbles game played by the speaker was called 'Snot Drops'. To play, the player would place the marble on the floor then hold another marble directly under his nose and attempt to drop it on the other marble. Iona asks Rowland if he played the game 'Whip and Tops'. He explains that he did and suggests that there were many different types of 'tops' such as a 'farthing kicker', 'carrot top' and 'giant top'.  He suggests that this game originates from the Egyptian period [00:27:00 - 00:38:07]. Throughout the recording, Rowland performs a number of singing games and rhymes. He begins by singing 'The Big Ship Sails' and remarks that today children sing 'the big ship sailed on the alley, alley-oh,' however, he would sing 'illy, illy-oh'.  He thinks that this is 'more typical of Leeds' and remarks that the 'Yorkshire dialect is more of a language of its own' [00:15:15 - 00:17:48]. He also sings a song sung by his father in the late 1880s. The song is called 'Nikki Norker Sells Fish' and was sung by a street trader who sold mussels. Such songs then became part of the children's repertoire [00:17:55 - 00:21:50]. Rowland recalls a song that he sang at Sunday School from 1912 to 1913 and then performs a parody of it. This is the song 'Yes, Jesus Loves Me'. The song makes reference to 'Cowboy Joe' and a 'ragtime band'. Rowland and Iona then discuss how long the character 'Cowboy Joe' has been around and he recalls that the first reference to him was made in the song 'Ragtime Cowboy Joe' [00:21:51 - 00:25:30]. Lastly, Rowland sings two songs that he collected from his niece in 1965. These are 'As I Went to Hoky, the Hoky Toky Fair' [00:25:35 - 00:26:40] and 'My Boyfriend's name is Paul' (a variation of 'My Boyfriend's Name is Fatty' [00:26:41 - 00:26:57].

  • Description

    Item notes: Interview with Rowland Kellet discussing games and songs from his childhood with Iona Opie. Speaker's notes: Rowland Kellet is from Leeds. Recording notes: Slight dropouts to tape extremities. Otherwise good throughout.

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