Are there any of our readers old enough to remember this boyish game? All I know about it is this. A Scottish grandfather gathered his grandchildren round his knee, and asked what games they played at school. “When I was a wean,” he said, “we took twa preens and pat them heids an’ thraws in wur loof, an’ then…”
Here the story (it is in a letter, perhaps from a relative now farming in England) comes provokingly to an end, except to tell how the little English-speaking children amused themselves trying to repeat the unintelligible words.
“What is this about? What is ‘heids an’ thraws’ ?” I asked a relative who was of the same household as the grandfather in their childish days. (Probably Margaret’s mother). It was a “callan’s ploy,” she said; but she had not remembered it for 40 years, and could not mind what they did with the preens after placing them in their loofs.
But she remembers how, in the morning before they started for school, the boys would say, “Mother, gi’e us a preen!” And she would cry, “I canna keep a preen in the hoose for thae confounded callans. Awa’ wi’ ye!” Arrived at the playground, the laddies would be overheard asking each other in confidential aspects, “Hoo mony preens ha’e ye gotten the day?” and showing each other their treasures.
One ploy they had was to bend a pin double into a hook, and slip it so on to the end of their waistcoat. Another boy did likewise; the two pins were hooked into each other, and then the boys pulled till one of the pins gave way. This explains how it was that good careful Mr Walker, of “Tarbowton” Parish School was kept so busy “strauchtenin’ the preens.”