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Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Anyone up for a game of marbles?



This week's prompt shows a group of Welsh boys playing marbles. I can well remember the many little groups of boys scattered around  the playground at Lyneham Primary School in the 1960s, intent on their marbles games, surrounded by knowing onlookers, or showing off their collections of beauties to anyone who cared to admire them, but it was a boy's game, and I don't think any girls played marbles, at least not at my school, where we favoured game of elastics, skipping, hopscotch or jacks. I certainly didn't know much if anything about all the different kinds of marbles or the ins and out of the game, and nor do I have any photographs of marble games in my family collection, so instead I found this image by Sam Hood, held in the online collection of the State Library of New South Wales. Another photograph by the prolific Mr Hood was featured recently in   Sepia Saturday #321.

Marbles always struck me as a game that required intense concentration, both by the participants and the spectators, and this photograph captures that intensity, even though we can only see the face of the player.  The photograph was taken at Stewart House at South Curl Curl Beach, which was and still is a school which aims to give underprivileged children from the outback, in this case country NSW, a chance to breathe the sea air and enjoy a healthy but educational holiday at the beach. It still exists, and you can read more about it here at . 
Quite coincidentally, Stewart House was the charity that our school supported through an annual fundraising appeal. I'm not sure now if our parents were simply asked to donate, or whether we were expected to do various tasks at home for which we earnt money that we then contributed to the school collection, but I think there was a competition to see which school House could raise the most money. Lyneham Primary School was located in Canberra, which in those days was more than a three hour drive from the beach, and there may very well have been children there who had never seen the sea, but for the most part we weren't poor or underprivileged, and with the encouragement of our teachers we felt happy to be helping children who were not so healthy and well off as we were.

TitleBoys playing marbles, Stewart House Preventorium, South Curl Curl
CreatorHood, Sam, 1872-1953
Call NumberHome and Away - 1599
Digital Order No.hood_01599
This image is from the collections of the State Library of NSW.

Above is my class photograph from  4th class 1962, and I'm sure there some of these boys were fine marble players. Our teacher Mr Clive Harvie was a jovial man whom we all liked, but I clearly remember him explaining to us all about the Cold War and the threatening situation that had arisen in the Bay of Pigs, which was a major world concern at that time. When I gave a short talk about my early school memories at a school assembly commemorating the 50th anniversary of the school in 2009, a couple of Mr Harvie's grandchildren were in the audience of current pupils, and their great aunt came up and thanked me afterwards for talking about him as one of my teachers, because sadly he suffered a major stroke many years earlier, and consequently his grandchildren had never known him in anything other than a comatose state.

 Thankfully Mr Harvie has now passed on, as have a few of my classmates, but the majority of us are still around, and in recent years we have had held some enjoyable reunions, although of course some are not interested in the slightest. I'll be having dinner with some old primary school friends in Canberra next week,including one of the girls in my class photograph, so perhaps I can ask them about their memories of marbles and of Stewart House.

I very much hope you still have all your marbles, but if you want more, simply flick over to Sepia Saturday #323 , where no doubt there will be lots of blogs about marbles of all kinds and perhaps other playground games.