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Thursday 7 February 2013

Catty-Batty: A Children’s Game

During a visit to Newtonmore, Badenoch, Calum Maclean met an informant on 27th July 1952 called Hamish Guthrie, a gamekeeper then aged fifty-one, who told him of a childhood game that he used to play:

There was another game called Catty-batty. I don’t know: there’s a Gaelic name for that but I don’t know it. That was just a stick square-sided six inches long, pointed at both ends. And on the four sides with a red hot poker you put 1, 2, 3, 4. And then you tapped the points. It was pointed at both ends. To get the first throw you had it across two stones end with a stick you poked it away. When it came down whatever fall was up, you got so many strokes, 1, 2, 3, 4. If it came down 4, you took fair strokes at it you hit the point and batted it as far as it would go and then followed it and took another stroke always hitting the point. And then you measured back with the stick how many times you were away from the Station. Whichever pointed end of the stick is to your best advantage you strike that end and put it in the opposite direction. You see when you strike with one end of it, it comes in the opposite direction – left end struck it goes left. The opponents try to catch it like a cricket ball, and if they catch it, you are out.

Guthrie also gave Maclean further details about other games – including a shinty game in South Uist between Howmore and Stoneybridge – that were popular with children and adults:

That was the only games we played and, of course, shinty. But I never see Catty-batty nowadays or Purl-a-heck or Bull in the Barn. They never seem to play them now. The Catty-batty stick took a bit of making. You had to square it with points. If it wasn’t flat, it wouldn’t land on the numbered sides. In South Uist they used thorn roots as shinty clubs. I remember the first game of shinty. I ever saw in South Uist. Only the two Laings had clubs and my father had a golf club in the goals. He was captain of Howmore and the priest was captain of Stoneybridge. And the funny bit about it – what my father was so wild about – his team, the Howmore team, they wouldn’t go near the priest. When the priest had the ball, they wouldn’t take it from him. So my father, he didn’t care. My father would charge out at him with the golf club. He was so wild because they wouldn’t tackle the priest.
Calum I. Maclean, The Highlands (Inbhir Nis: Club Leabhar, 1975)
SSS NB 14, pp. 1227–28; 1229–30

Wooden stick

1 comment:

  1. We played that game in Dundee in the 40’s.I always thought it was local.