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Whatever Happened To Our Marbles Folk? – Story From Pen Of Author & Poet Tom Ryan.

When I was a child and while wearing the short trousers of a child, we didn’t have DVDs or Videos or the Internet or Sky TV. But we were very far from being a bored generation.
I was reminded of this the other day when the television cracked up in a certain house, and one wee boy thought the world had ended. Time was before television (B.T), when this wee lad would be far too delightfully occupied playing marbles.

Marbles – of the “Mibs” or “Glassies” or ”Beauties” variety.

Of course, we didn’t call those little, colourful objects marbles. No, we preferred to designate them “mibs” or “glassies” or ”beauties” (them of the multi-coloured variety).
There were also the “lucky ones” guaranteed to take on and beat all-comers-“ironies” or “clays” and “crocks” (large multi- coloured beauts), designed to scattered all others in all directions and designed for long distance events.

There were many games of “mibs” one could play, depending on the imagination of the players, and once I played a game, starting from the Watery Mall in Thurles all the way to Holy Cross Abbey, some five miles away, in a “Mibs Marathon”. The back aches still at the very memory of it.

Admittedly, sometimes marbles were used for mischievous purposes, as when heartless, thoughtless ones used them as “ammo” for y-shaped “gallogs” of wood, with strong rubber pieces attached to the forks for catapults such as Samson (last of the judges of the ancient Israelites) might have envied and which were used to “wipe out” imaginary Japanese Pacific machine-gun nests, but sometimes succeeded in obliterating the glass in some unfortunate person’s greenhouse or their back window pane.

You can see many former marble players on a golf course today, I can assure you I could name names and reveal just how good at marbles some of my whizz-kid contemporaries were, and how their basic education in marbles lore helped them to get out and get on in this great world of ours.

Mind you, some of these genteel gents or courtly girls, would be mortified to have it bandied about that, just as they have a habit of shooting too far short of the green today, so too this had been apparent at an early age, when they were similarly off the mark at marbles.
When you think of it, a former marbles man or woman who wanted to bring the game of marbles indoors must have conceived the notion of office golf.
After all, the spectacle of middle-aged men or women bending down to the kerbs and flicking glassy objects under the chassis of this Volkswagen or that Opel Vectra, is not a sophisticated one; and certainly, not a pursuit to earn even one mark in relation to Health and Safety.

In my childhood, it was a boy of little standing who did not show pride in his “mibs” of whatever colour, weight or make. Indeed, many a self-made millionaire rose to prominence in the community on the strength of his accuracy with his iron beauty or clay marbles.
A ‘Man of Marbles’ was one to be respected; a pillar of the community, and it was to him we went for counselling and caution on all matters that greatly affected our lives; such as hurling, swimming, comics, sweets, girl-friends (well, friends who were girls, really).
The top notch marbles man had a cool, calm, collected personality, either literally or figuratively speaking.
In truth, he never ever ‘lost his marbles’ about anything.

In later life I was to meet journalists, editors, army officers, mother superiors, school principals, parish priests, GAA officials and rugby/hockey secretaries; all who were able to attribute their standing in the world to an early and liberal education in marbles. And few marbles players have ended up in the clink; either they were too busy throwing marbles as kids, to end up getting into trouble, or too cute to get caught. These worldly wise marble players never let their marbles get stuck in a corner like a sitting duck or never swapped a “beauty” for an “irony”.

To this day I keep a few “glassies” around the house. They serve several purposes. For instance when I am moved to mighty madness at the unjust, unyielding, uncaring ways of the world, I take out these marbles and play a game involving flicking them into an egg cup. I imagine this egg cup is the world and the marbles neutron bombs. Wonderful game at a time of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Talk about therapy! I then return the marbles to the basket and I am happy again having removed the root, rotten cause of my moodiness. It beats throwing the laptop out the window or playing football with the telly.

I see few, if any, children playing marbles, nowadays. Such a pity. For now more than ever there’s a need for a cool and calm marbles personality to restore our sense of ‘proportion and ould style dacency’.
For the life of me, I cannot imagine a fellow old school tie-wearer of the ‘Marbles Academy’ ever letting the old Marble School down. I cannot imagine a marbles woman or man up to any kind of devilment or destruction. For, deep down, they would figure it was not only ‘not cricket’, but also, more
importantly, decidedly ‘not marbles’.

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