“The bools, called ‘stunks’, were made from some kind of pottery clay. They were used as low grade pawns. If you were trading or swapping you could get five stunks for a good ‘glessy’ (glass marble). In the days of iron kettles, a bool was put in to descale the inside. When the kettle boiled, you could hear it rattling around and it would grow, collecting calcium.
All games would be played from behind ‘Butts’, a line drawn at an agreed distance from the ring or score. The same as darts from the Ochy.
The object was then to knock the marbles, which were placed on the outside edge of the ring, completely out of the ring, (come to think of it, it was more complicated than that). Players flicked their marbles with their thumbnail and tried to hit the target.
Somehow I don’t think bools would be popular with today’s children. Trainers don’t have steel heel-plates to draw a sharp circle and mothers would take a dim view of their offspring coming in with his knee showing through his fancy ski pants”.
Believe it or not, but no one really knows where marbles originated. The British Museum in London displays marbles of clay, stone and flint that date back to ancient Roman and Egyptian civilizations. Marbles have been found in the ashes of Pompeii and in the tombs of ancient Egyptians, and they were played with by Native American tribes, so it's impossible to pin down a precise country of origin. The earliest examples were simply stones that had been polished smooth by a running river, but for centuries artisans made them by hand from clay, stone, or glass.
Marbles as we know them today began in the mid 1800's when they were produced in quantities in Germany. The name ‘marble’ originates with the type of stone that was once used to make marbles. White marble and alabaster marbles were the best playing pieces during the early 1800s. German hand production continued until the earliest forms of machine production began in the early 1900's. The decade that spanned the late 1920s and 1930s is referred to by collectors as the Golden Age of Marbles. The first, truly machine made marbles, were manufactured by an inventive Danish immigrant around the turn of the century. By the 1920s, American machine -made marbles had supplanted the imports from Germany. World WarI closed down many German marble mills, and they were never reopened.
Collecting vintage marbles is a very popular hobby.
Wales and the United States have participated alongside the English teams.
The 2019 British and World Marbles Championship will be held on Friday 19 April.
There are numerous mentions of marbles in European literature, and in 1729 Samual Rogers wrote this much-quoted verse in his ‘Pleasures of Memory’
‘On yon gray stone that fronts the chancel-door,
Worn smooth by busy feet, now seen no more,
Each eve we shot the marble through the ring
When the heart danced, and life was in its spring’