This recording was made by Iona Opie in Wythenshawe, Manchester, in 1975, and records an interview with a young girl comparing the games she and her mother played as children.
The Opies suggest that the game of tops can be traced back to Egypt c.1250, although these tops would have been spun rather than whipped. From this whipping tops were developed. They were engraved with grooves so that they could be hit, often with pieces of leather. The game of tops was traditionally seen as a boys’ game, before whip and tops became an accepted game for girls. Roud suggests ‘there is a noticeable difference in tone between women’s and men’s memories of tops. … Women often focus on what might be called ‘the gentle art’ of top-spinning; they record colouring the tops with chalk or pieces of paper to make pretty patterns, and the pleasures of watching tops spinning. Men, on the other hand, remember the competitive games, and the danger to life and limb involved.’ The game demanded much skill and moves included picking up a spinning top with the palm of one’s hand; pushing small items out of a circle with the top; knocking other tops down and racing tops against each other.