Geimichean | Games

Games in Gaelic culture could be played individually, in pairs or as a group.  Most of the games involve items that would be easy to find in or outside the house and are about finding out who is the strongest or most clever in the group.  Games, in this way, were not just an opportunity to have fun, but to build children's physical and intellectual skills.

The are written accounts of games which feature feats of strength being played by the the ancient group of Gaelic warriors that lived in ireland around 2000 years ago.  The great warrior, Cù Chulainn appears in stories as a superior athlete and was known especially for his 'Hero's Salmon Leap', his ability to jump high and far to avoid being harmed.  The test of strength can still be seen 'Leum a' Bhradain, "The Salmon's Leap", where children see how far they can jump.

Read about the following games and give them a try.  What games do you like to play with your friends?


Am Maide Leisg | Lazy Stick

Needed: One strong stick.  Two people. 

The two children face each other with the stick between them.  Each sits facing each other with the soles of their feet on the ground and toes touching.  Both grasp the stick with their hands, making sure that they don't have their two hands together but swap beside their partner's to make it fair.  The winner is the one who can either pull the other up and out of their place or, if possible, to their feet.


Leum a ’Bhradain 1 | The Salmon’s Leap 1

Children lay flat on back and try to flip (not roll!) over.  Some have actually done it!


Leum a'Bhradain 2 | The Salmon's Leap 2

In this version, the children stand in a line, feet together, and see who can leap the farthest (or sometimes the highest).


An Adag | The Haddock

Excellent practice for counting or using numbers 1-10.  All but one child collects between 1 and 10 pebbles and puts them in their pocket.  They form a circle, with the child having no pebbles in the middle.  That child tries to guess how many pebbles the child on the outside has by saying:

"I'll steal one/two."

If you'd like to use the numbers in Gaelic, listen to the sound files below:






















If the child is correct in guessing the number of pebbles in their pocket, they line up back to back and race in opposite directions around the circle (Duck, Duck, Goose style) to reach the same spot first.  The loser heads back to the circle to guess again.


Tòmhas a' Bhuic | Guess the Buck's Horns

Teaching numbers one to five. 

Stand behind a child, holding up however many fingers you'd like, and say the rhyme: 

"Guess, guess, guess tonight, How many horns does the buck have?"

If guessed incorrectly:

"The buck is a liar.  He will not get his supper tonight.  His maragans (A kind of sausage made with oats, suet and onions.) will not be put in the pot.  His head will be placed upon a stick!"

If guessed correctly:

"The buck is truthful.  He will get his supper tonight.  His maragans will be put in the pot and his head will not be placed upon a stick."