Children’s Games: Folklore from Co. Kerry

This blog post details some of the games played by Irish children in the earlier part of the 20th century. It is based on information supplied by pupils at Beale National school near Ballybunnion, Co. Kerry in 1938.

School children in Co. Kerry in the 1930s

Cap Ball

‘When boys are going to play a game of cap ball they gather all their caps or hats and they place them in a row in the middle of the floor or near a wall. Then they would get a ball. When all was ready, one boy would stand a good discance away from the caps and he throws the balls into one of the caps and whatever boy the cap belongs to gets the ball and he throws it after the boys that all run away and if he strikes a boy with the ball there is a pebble put into that boy’s cap and if he fails to strike the boy there will be a pebble put into his own cap. The game goes on in this way each boy has 4 or 5 pebbles in his cap and then he gets that number of strokes from each one of the player. This is a great game, boys take great interest in this game.’

Children sitting at the Treaty Stone, Limerick, 1930s

Share of the Ring

‘The way we play the game “Share of the Ring” is one person would get a piece of paper and she would fold it into a small ball, and every one that take share in the game would close in their hands, then the person that would have the ring would share it; when she would have it shared she would ask them “who has the ring” and they would say  someone of the group, and if they were wrong they would get a slap and if they were right they would be let go free. The person that would get the ring would again share it among the others. The person that is sharing the ring tries to conceal who gets it. This is the way the game “Share of the Ring” is played until they get tired of it and turn to something else.’

Children bringing home the hay, Dublin, 1930s

Blind Man’s Bluff

‘First there is a cloth got and it is put around your face so that you cannot see anyone. Then you will have to go around the house and try to catch someone. Then if you catch one that one will have to put the cloth on his eyes. Then he will go and try to catch some other one and in this way the game is carried out. I would like to play this game. This is one of the games that is played indoors.’

These accounts of children’s games games form part of the Schools’ Folklore Collection, a large and important corpus of material, whose compilation occurred between 1937 and 1939.  This far-sighted scheme, run by the Irish Folklore Commission, saw over 100,000 schoolchildren collecting local folklore from their parents, grandparents and older members of the community.


The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0399, Page 073

The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0399, Page 074

The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0399, Page 075

3 thoughts on “Children’s Games: Folklore from Co. Kerry

  1. I’d be very interested to know whether there are similar accounts of children’s games in Irish in the 1937-9 Schools’ Folklore Collection.
    Is mise le meas
    franc 91

  2. My father, born in 1896 in Cork City, told of another ball and cap game. Boys would put their caps against a wall. Each boy would throw a ball at the caps. If a cap “caught” you ball, you had to stand at the wall, arm outstretched, and let another boy throw the ball at your open hand. If you flinched, moved your hand, you had to endure this again.

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