Split the Kipper by Paul Blackburn

Split the Kipper was normally a game we played on grass with a Bowie knife, if we had one, or, if we didn't, we'd use a pen knife, kitchen knife or anything else that would stick into the ground.
The game involved two people stood bolt upright about 3 feet away from each other. The idea was to for one person to throw the knife to the left or right of the person opposite, if the knife stuck into the ground then the non-thrower had to place his nearest leg next to the knife, pick it up and in turn throw it in a similar manner. If a person couldn’t open his/her legs far enough then they lost the game. However, if you threw the knife in between the legs of your opponent and it stuck in the ground then you could resume your starting position.
The game was obviously fraught with dangers especially when, as in the case of two brothers, a dart was used instead of a knife.
In any game there would be objections that the knife/dart had been thrown too far – this was always a case of dispute as there was no agreed distance for the knife to be thrown. Or that the knife had not stuck into the ground properly. Or, in the case of landing the knife between the legs, there would often be arguments about whether the knife did indeed land between the legs.
It was during such a dispute that the brothers fell out. Arguing, as only brothers can, vehemently that it was unfair. In this case, the elder brother, Bill, held the dart and was suggesting that his younger brother, Roy, wasn’t playing the game properly.The argument was soon getting out of control and tempers were rising when, without warning, Bill flung the dart at Roy and it hit him as he was ducking down and stuck in his forehead.
At once Roy sensed an opportunity and told his brother he’d gone blind. Bill panicked and told Roy he’d do anything so long as Roy didn’t tell his mother when she came home.
So it was that Bill made Roy a cup of tea, went to the shop and bought some sweets for him, and generally tried to make him comfortable, hoping all the time that he’d regain his vision and wouldn’t say anything to mum.
As time wore on Bill became more and more worried whilst Roy lorded it over him and became complacent.
At one stage, Roy’s pretense slipped when he accidentally dropped a sweet and tried to catch it. Bill went incandescent with rage and Roy ran away as fast as his legs could carry him. He got away successfully and didn’t come back until he was sure his mother was home and hopefully Bill had calmed down.
Roy still got a few smacks off his brother for the fear and hurt he had caused but he weathered the fairly tame beating.
Unexpectedly, neither brother ever played Split the Kipper again.



This project has been developed in conjunction with, and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund