Children sliding on a frozen Inverleith pond, iced over during the cold weather in February 1985.

Scotland in the 1980s: A decade of children at play

Far from being glued to the latest episode of Jace and the Wheeled Warriors or hopelessly addicted to their ZX Spectrum, children of the 1980s were still well-versed in the art of outdoor play.

Friday, 12th February 2021, 7:00 am

By today’s standards, Scots children of the era enjoyed far more freedom than their 21st-century counterparts. The widespread concerns for children’s safety that would force more and more of the nation’s youngsters indoors by the end of the century had not yet materialised.

Richard Walker, 46, grew up in Currie on the outskirts of Edinburgh in the 1980s and says he and his band of pals were out from dawn till dusk, only dashing home for a quick bite at tea time.

He said: “Back then we were always outside. During the summer holidays, you’d be playing outdoors all day every day till you heard your mum shout, ‘yer tea’s oot’. We’d head home then it was straight out to play again.

"It was jumpers for goal posts. We used to play kerby or World Cup, with one man in goal and us all competing for the pretend trophy.

"Hunting games were also popular and, of course, British Bulldog where loads of us would run at one another attempting to get to the other side unscathed. Unsurprisingly, that ended up getting banned in the playgrounds.

"In Currie we had the countryside on our doorstep. There was the Water of Leith and lots of open fields, hills and woodland. With our bikes we’d go exploring for miles and miles.”

With no internet or cable TV to devour the bulk of his waking existence, Mr Walker says kids back then had to make up their own fun. One of his proudest creations was his home-made go-kart.

He continues: "There weren’t so many distractions – no social media for a start. You had to make your own entertainment and use your imagination.

"The only income we had really was a bit of pocket money and the odd paper round. Most of that would go on buying sweeties.

"A lot of kids had go-karts in streets and we’d all make our own. People in the area used to help each other find the parts and build it from bits of old wood and discarded pram wheels. Then all you’d need was a bit of rope, a big hill, and off you’d go. It was great fun."

Mr Walker admits there were times when risks were taken out of pure peer pressure and the basic desire to impress your mates.

He adds: "Because people didn’t have any cameras, our mums wouldn’t find out about half the dangerous things we got up to. In the winter we’d be doing stuff we really shouldn’t be doing like skating on frozen ponds.

"You got away with a lot more back then. There was just loads more freedom.”

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