Bobs Y’r Uncle

My wife was recently sorting out an accumulation of junk on top of a tall cupboard in a spare room. She came upon three containers which I must have put there aeons ago and had forgotten about. The boxes contained playing cards from my childhood days.

Some of the packs are just playing cards – normal enough – but others are specific games and amongst them is a pack of Bobs Y’r Uncle cards.

What happy memories they bring back.

Let’s look at the back at one of the cards.


We note that the game has no apostrophe in ‘BOBS’

The game is clearly designed with children in mind. The face side of the cards (most of them) have extracts from nursery rhymes on them. Six cards are needed to make up each rhyme in a set.

Here’s the set that make up Little Bo Peep.


The rules are really quite complex for children who would need to know the rhymes, be able to add scores and, hardest of all as I recall, remember the importance of saying ‘Bobs y’r uncle’ at the right time. Some thought and strategy are needed as well.

There are different ways of winning. One way was to place all of your cards correctly and another was to get the three uncle cards into your hand.


There are also three little boy cards and you can win by collecting all three of them. These cards are now deemed so politically incorrect that even I am not prepared to show them. No doubt in the 1930s, when the game was first produced, they would not have been deemed offensive.

I remember playing the game as a child. I also recall that in my family after someone had said, ‘Bobs y’r uncle’, we had a correct replay which was, ‘and Fanny’s your aunt’. I have no idea why we said this, but it certainly was said by all three generations of us who played the game.

I could be tempted to try the game with my grandson now but I’d foresee difficulties. Like all kids find (including me back then) just holding cards is hard. He may not know the nursery rhymes although he’ll know a plethora of equally OK other songs. But we might have a go. Maybe I could hold the cards and he and I could be a team.

You can find more about this game including a full set of rules on the Victoria and Albert museum website at .

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