Write side... with Kunak McGann
Kunak McGann on Red Rover, Red Rover - her nostalgic guide to familiar street games from an Irish childhood.
What led you to write a book about Irish children's street games?
I was talking to my peers about the games we grew up with when we were children. It was a real trip down memory lane. The idea of doing a book about them just seemed to resonate.
You must have played a lot of them as a kid. When and where did you grow up?
We lived on an estate of 40 houses in Drogheda and there were loads of kids. There seemed to be three or four at least in each family. We were always outside. In the 1980s, a lot of mums were still at home, and they would go mad if kids were inside all the time. We just went home when we were hungry.
Which games did you like yourself?
I liked 'Elastics', where two players stand inside a loop of elastic tight around their ankles. Another player jumps between the two sides of the loop while chanting: "England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Inside, Outside, Donkeys' tails." I also liked 'Kerbs' and 'Red Rover'.
How politically incorrect are some of the activities, such as Blind Man's Buff and Chinese Whispers?
I suppose things have changed. Take a game like 'The Farmer Wants a Wife'. The farmer might want a husband now. A rhyme like 'Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe' had already changed by the time I was a child.
What did kids learn from street games?
We totally underestimated what we learned from them. There are obvious skills like balance, ducking and diving, aiming. There are also a lot of social skills related to negotiating relationships with other children. You also learn about taking risks. Children need to learn how to take small risks in order to navigate larger ones.
Are kids still playing them, or have computers taken over?
They are playing more of them than I thought. My kids are just coming up to six and nine. I thought that they wouldn't play any of them, but actually they do play games.