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Published November 20, 2022 Updated November 20, 2022

Tarabish

A special pack of playing cards for an unusual game played almost exclusively in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

1990 Canada Ocean Promotion Ron Keough Celtic Add to Collection
Tarabish playing cards developed and distributed by Ocean Promotion, Sydney, N.S., Canada, c1990

The origins of the game of Tarabish are debatable. The game is derived from Belote, a game of the Jass family, and may have been introduced to Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia by an immigrant from Lebanon in the early 1900s. Normally, a reduced standard pack is used. Here, however, a special pack has been created featuring some of the many cultures (Celtic, in particular) which make up the local community. The Kings represent coal miners, and the Queens Highland ladies from Scotland engaged in different activities including bagpipe playing. The Jacks depict a fisherman, an artist, a musician, and a shepherd – all important figures on the island. In the game, in the trump suit the Jack and 9 are promoted above the Ace, hence the unusual look of the four 9s. The 2s to 5s are omitted. The Ace of Spades indicates that the pack was developed by Ron Keough. The back design consists of a Celtic knotwork pattern in white on green and “Tarabish” at each end. See the box

Tarabish playing cards developed and distributed by Ocean Promotion, Sydney, N.S., Canada, c1990 Tarabish playing cards developed and distributed by Ocean Promotion, Sydney, N.S., Canada, c1990

Above: Tarabish playing cards developed and distributed by Ocean Promotion, Sydney, N.S., Canada, c1990. Maker unknown. 36 cards + 6 score cards + a foldout leaflet giving the history and rules of the game, in a tuck box. Size: 63 x 89 mm. © A.J. MacIvor.


The Leaflet

Tarabish playing cards developed and distributed by Ocean Promotion, Sydney, N.S., Canada, c1990 Tarabish playing cards developed and distributed by Ocean Promotion, Sydney, N.S., Canada, c1990 Tarabish playing cards developed and distributed by Ocean Promotion, Sydney, N.S., Canada, c1990 Tarabish playing cards developed and distributed by Ocean Promotion, Sydney, N.S., Canada, c1990
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By Roddy Somerville

Member since May 31, 2022

Roddy started collecting stamps on his 8th birthday. In 1977 he joined the newly formed playing-card department at Stanley Gibbons in London before setting up his own business in Edinburgh four years later. His collecting interests include playing cards, postcards, stamps (especially playing cards on stamps) and sugar wrappers. He is a Past President of the Scottish Philatelic Society, a former Chairman of the IPCS, a Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards and Curator of the WCMPC’s collection of playing cards. He lives near Toulouse in France.


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