During the Coronavirus lockdown, I’m sure it isn’t just me who feels like I am climbing the walls at times. Throw in playing ‘Headmistress’ when directing the home-learning of three children and let’s just say the need for fresh air and some retro distraction has beckoned.
Over the years, I’ve collected these two vintage sets of original rope quoits. Found at flea markets, I couldn’t go past them with their worn edges, their natural, fraying elements and of course the image in my head of friends and family in the past playing and tossing the coils alongside a loaded drinks trolley of pink lemonade or Pimms.
The game itself sees participants throwing metal, rope or rubber rings to land on a spike (also known as a hub, mott or pin). The origins of the game are unclear but some date its roots to ancient Greece. The United States Quoiting Association writes on its website that quoits were an alternative to a discus for poorer citizens in ancient Greece who could not afford to buy the real thing. Instead, they made their own by bending horseshoes. It’s thought that the original aim of the game was to throw the ring as far as possible, but at some point, the spike element was added to the game.
The game’s popularity thrived in England – with King Edward III and King Richard II said to have banned the sport to instead encourage archery – although the game would later continue to thrive. During the 19th and 20th centuries, quoits was also played indoors as a parlour game, suitable for both women and children.
Many images and historical records reveal that quoits was hugely popular as an activity on deck for passengers on cruise ships as a way to pass the time during long voyages.
This image from a 1931 advertisement from International Mercantile Marine Company, listed with Period Paper, depicts an illustration made by a passenger Helen Wills on White Star Line’s Majestic ship in which she depicted the onboard activities which caught her attention.
She writes, “Quoits… the lady in the drawing is clearly throwing a ringer but it really isn’t as easy as that.”
I’m pretty sure none of us will be on a ship deck in the near future, however I’m loving that my mini kats and I are throwing our own share of ‘ringers’ too in our own backyard.