Ludo’s long-standing tradition kept alive

Some of ‘the girls,’ Ruth Williams, Kristin Williams, Ingrid Manley and Robin McCarter are engaged in a game of Ludo.

These days, a group of Bodden Town women are taking it to the extreme when it comes to playing ludo.

The game was a favorite Bodden Town recreation long before dominoes secured its place as a popular pastime. Ludo’s long-standing popularity is remembered by many locals, especially the older folks who taught children the game under the shade of almond trees or on someone’s porch.

Avid players Cecile Levy, Ruth Williams, Robin McCarter, Dawn Hydes, Ella Kay Watler, Vandeen Dewitt and Ingrid Manley gather on any given night to enjoy playing the game, which is also known locally as “ludie.” The action at one of the women’s homes in Savannah can get quite loud with lots of cheering, shouting, laughing and of course, many boisterous accusations of cheating, all in the spirit of good fun.

Ms. Levy makes the most racket when she is playing.

“You just slipped my man, why you locking me in into my gate?” and on she goes.

Ms. Hydes, who wants to play a straight game, always accuses everyone of cheating, and Ms. Williams, who can get quite loud herself at times, watches the fray. Ms. Manley just keeps laughing at the action as she takes a ludo man home, declaring herself the winner to the wonderment of all, who give her a look of “you cheating or what?”

The group mostly plays partners. Ms. Levy, Ms. Watler, Ms. McCarter and Ms. Hydes will team up to give opponents Ms. Williams, Ms. Manley, Ms. Dewitt and sometimes Rolando Hydes, the only man in the mix, a beating.

To play the game, two to four players are assigned four tokens each of the same color. Players roll dice to race their tokens from start to finish.

Ludo originated in India at the turn of the sixth century, though it is not known when or how it made its first appearance in Cayman. It caught on widely and Caymanians learned to make their own boards.

Areas of the ludo board are typically bright yellow, green, red and blue, but in recent years ludo players have taken to putting their own special designs on boards. Some boards sport labels with the names of the districts, while others are decorated with sea scenes and various nature-inspired themes.

Like most Caymanian games, none is played without food around, and with these women being some of the best cooks in town, there are sure to be some great dishes to go around. Ms. Williams prizes herself on making the best wahoo salad in the group. Ms. Manley’s cakes are “to die for,” and Ms. Levy’s hot and spicy jerk chicken sends everyone for a second drink. Chicken wings, chips and sometimes pizza are added to the mix.

Through the years

In Cayman long ago, children could not wait to play ludo after school. I was reminded of the natural joy and excitement of the game while watching the women play recently.

In Cumber Avenue years ago, parents and children would gather at the home of Mcardy and Corine Rankine to get in on the game, which lasted well into the night.

It was all in good fun, but most importantly, parents knew where their children were and what they were up to.

“I still remember and cherish those times, how we used to sit and play when I was young,” said Bodden Towner Pedro Watler.

“It was so much fun, those days, and a way of socializing with friends and the elderly.”

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