Whip and tops

Description

English

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.

Transcript

Transcript

Iona Opie:

Oh I see and this is she was playing it in the war time?

Girl:

And she used to play with the top as well and I’ve got one but they’re not as good now are they, it’s just a plastic candle and a funny one.

Iona Opie:

A plastic?

Girl:

Just a plastic candle and a piece of leather and a little wooden top with a piece of iron on the end and you just hit it along and – but you can’t really get them going, I got so frustrated with mine I snapped the other day.

Girl:

My brother bought one from the shop,

Iona Opie:

Did you buy it yourself from an ordinary shop?

Girl:

No, my mum bought it me, it was only 15p.

Girl:

Yeah, get quite good fun with them though trying to make them work.

Girl:

My brother got one.

Iona Opie:

But you can’t do it really?

Girl:

Oh I’ve done it once for five minutes I did it, just hitting the –,

Girl:

Is it a big yellow thing?

Girl:

And a blue thing.

Girl:

My brother bought one and my mum said the string is best, the string one, ‘cause the leather it didn’t hit it properly, did it?

Girl:

No, it stops it the leather. When my mum used to have one, she used to have one shaped like a mushroom with a very long twig, she used to make them herself with a piece of string.

Girl:

Yeah, my mum had like–,

Girl:

My mum used to just hit it and it used to go for miles. She used to have to practically cartwheel to get up to it.

Girl:

Yeah, like this.

Girl:

They don’t do it now though do they?

Iona Opie:

No, it’s ‘cause you don’t practice for long enough.

Girl:

Well there’s dead tiny bits and I suppose really they had to make things better then because there was no television or anything.

Girl:

Yeah.

Iona Opie:

That’s a point.

Girl:

Enjoyment.

Title:
Whip and tops
Date:
1975
Duration:
1:50
Format:
Video
Language:
English
Creator:
Iona Opie, Peter Opie
Usage terms

Audio: Recorded by Peter & Iona Opie © The British Library

Images: © Spaarnestad Photo/Mary Evans

Held by
British Library
Shelfmark:
C898/69

Full catalogue details

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