Top News

Anyone for a game of pedley?


People of my vintage often say that when we were children we made our own fun, and that we were never bored. But what games, activities and amusements did we enjoy prior to the mid-1950s? Whatever they were, I suppose, was that through play youngsters developed the physical, mental and perhaps emotional skills that helped them cope with life and taught them to get along with other children. Today we may be leaving that to the schools. On Fogo Island, like everywhere else in Newfoundland, we were generally free to explore our environment. Most games that we played were generally self-organized and physically active. Most likely the games were brought over from England or Ireland by our ancestors, but today you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone playing the games of 60 years ago, such as pedley, or hopscotch and many others.

The View From Fogo Island - People of my vintage often say that when we were children we made our own fun, and that we were never bored. But what games, activities and amusements did we enjoy prior to the mid-1950s?

Whatever they were, I suppose, was that through play youngsters developed the physical, mental and perhaps emotional skills that helped them cope with life and taught them to get along with other children. Today we may be leaving that to the schools. On Fogo Island, like everywhere else in Newfoundland, we were generally free to explore our environment. Most games that we played were generally self-organized and physically active. Most likely the games were brought over from England or Ireland by our ancestors, but today you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone playing the games of 60 years ago, such as pedley, or hopscotch and many others.

The game of pedley was by far the most popular game for both boys and girls, although some might claim it was more a boy's game. Let me explain the game of pedley, as we played it on Hewitt's Point in Barr'd Islands. I understand there were variations on the game, even in Barr'd Islands.

The standard equipment was two sticks, with the shorter one being around a foot long, and the longer one was about a yard. Any old sticks would do, but generally speaking it was preferred that they would not be too dried out; else they would crack and break too easily. The game was often played on the road, as the hazards that we'd have today did not exist back then. Two fairly large loose rocks would be placed about 10 inches apart. Say about eight or nine children of various ages and sexes would gather and decide to have a game of pedley.

First, two leaders would be selected as captain of each team, although that term 'captain' was never used. From the rest of the number each would call one at a time, with the first getting that privilege through a process called 'chucking up.'

One of the leaders would grasp the longer stick in his right hand who would 'chuck' it to the other leader, who would grasp it with his right hand or fist. This process was done about three times.

Now the one holding the stick was grasping it, and the other leader places his grasp over that one and so on until the top was reached. Sometimes the space was very limited, and then that person would be required to swing the longer stick around his/her head three times. The teams would then be called. Sometimes there would be an odd person, and it would be decided that that person would be on 'chairs.' We always said 'chairs', but I suspect now that we meant 'shares,' because that particular person would always play with whatever team was playing the game.

To decide who would be first to play was also decided by 'chucking up.' There were three distinctive actions to the games. The first step was 'hook', and in this step the player would place the shorter stick across the two rocks mentioned earlier.

At this point the 'out' team would gather a fair distance directly away from the players who were 'in.' The first player playing, the leader, would grasp the longer stick in both hands and hook the shorter stick in the direction of the 'out' team. The 'out' team would try to catch the stick, and if that happened that player who did the hooking was out and another player from his team began playing. Otherwise, someone would then throw the shorter stick towards the two rocks. The person playing would try to hit the shorter stick before it hit the ground, and his score would be the number of lengths of the longer sticks.

The 'in' player could carry on playing if there was more than the length of the longer stick from the two rocks. The second step was called 'bat' which was a little dangerous. In this step, the player held the shorter stick in his left hand and dropped it gently. Then, as quickly as is possible, he grabbed the longer stick with both hands and bat the shorter stick as hard as he could. Because of the force of the shorter stick during this action, it was difficult to catch it, but should someone from the 'out' team catch the stick, the player batting would be 'out'.

Meanwhile, the player would place the longer stick across the two rocks, and there would be no action on his part until someone from the 'out' team had thrown the shorter stick toward the stick placed across the two rocks. Again, the shorter stick must come to rest more than the length of the longer stick away from the two rocks and must not have hit the longer stick.

The third step was rather difficult, and this step was called 'pedley' like the name of the game itself. Here the player would look around for a small out-cropping, and the shorter stick would be placed across it with the shorter part outside the outcropping at an angle. This step took a lot of practice. The player would study the situation and then tap the part of the stick sticking out with the longer stick. The aim was to lift the stick in the air, and if it were possible, to strike the shorter stick at least once while it was in the air.

A good player was often able to lift the stick with his initial 'strike' and then with a rather hard strike a second time. Here the score would be the number of lengths of the longer stick from the outcropping to where the shorter stick came to rest. Then he would also count using the shorter stick length back to the outcropping. Otherwise, only the length of the longer stick was counted. This could be a hefty score, if executed properly. After all players on each team had played, they would be replaced by the other team, and then they would then become the 'out' team.

From my memory of playing this game thousands of times, I allow, the actual final score was of least importance. Strangely, I think, the scores of each team were kept secret while playing, until, perhaps, when the game ended, because someone had to go home or a downpour. The next evening the game would be different players, most likely.

Anyone out there reading this and can remember playing this game might take a minute or two and email me if you are aware of any differences. I apologize for the wordiness of this, but I am trying to make it clear how this popular game was played. I don't think it would be such a bad idea if the game was re-introduced.

benson.hewitt@nf.sympatico.ca

Recent Stories