DAVID ARNOLD - Girls and boys and games and toys

I am interested in finding out more about a game played by young people in Sussex and Kent in the century or so prior to World War II.

It was called peg-top. I noticed a reference to it in a letter in a 1952 copy of The Sussex County Magazine.

Ralph Merrifield wrote: “In my childhood in Brighton in the Twenties, whip-top was popular as a seasonal game of the spring, but peg-top was seldom, if ever, played.

“I remember that my grandfather, who spent his boyhood at Steyning in the 1860s, always regretted the disappearance of peg-top and attributed its demise as a symptom of the decadence of the youth of the twentieth century.”

Blimey! I wonder what his granddad would have made of the Rolling Stones. Anyway, it would be good to find out exactly what peg-top was.

Mr Merrifield goes on to make some observations about games in general and how the male sex tended to go in for combative pastimes: “Girls prefer such games as hoops, whip-top and skipping in which the element of competition is negligible … whereas the marble-playing of the men is glorified by such high-sounding titles as the World Marbles Championship.”

I’m sure Mr Merrifield would be interested to know that the WMC is still held every Good Friday at The Greyhound pub at Tinsley Green just north of Crawley, West Sussex.

These days it’s a unisex event and Best Lady Player for 2014 was Leila Kara.

Mr Merrifield was also right about how the appendage “World” endows status on happenings of less than global significance.

Here in Lewes we have the annual World Toad in the Hole Championships, a highly fanciful but perfectly legitimate title given that Lewes and environs is the only place in the world it is played.

Finally, if Mr Merrifield were still around I’d love to take him to a game of football played by the very successful Lewes Ladies side. He just might change his views about the kind of games girls like to play!