Songs and Rhymes from Childhood

Well here we go with my choice of subject for the Loose Bloggers Consortium…… Ashok , Conrad, Gaelikaa, MariaMarianna, Ramana, Grannymar , Judy & Helen.

Please visit each and everyone of them to see what ideas they have come up with.

As far as I know, every culture, every civilisation, every nation and every tribe has songs and rhymes that are taught to its children. These rhymes served different purposes. Lullabies are  well known, some rhymes were for exercise with actions that would help the child grow strong and well co-ordinated, others were made up so that the parents could make political comments with out fear of being found out! And of course some were just fun.

Add to all these rhymes those made up or adapted by children themselves and we have an intriguing social study.

So, what is the earliest rhyme you can remember? No doubt my mother taught me the usual run of nursery rhymes: “Hickory Dickory Dock”, “Jack and Jill”, “Hey Diddle Diddle”, “Humpty Dumpty”, “Mary, Mary Quite Contrary” and so forth but I have no memory of being taught them.

One memory I do have is of “See Saw Marjorie Daw”:

The memory consists in this: During my childhood we moved around the country from place to place, my mother made homes in over 30 houses during the 26 years she was married to my father up until his death in August 1970.

One of the earliest of these that I can remember was at Little Farm, Llanhennock, Newport, Monmouthshire . We lived in a house on the farm and the garden looked out over the countryside. Every drop of water we used had to be pumped up to the house by hand from down in a valley.This was in 1950. I know the year because it was just after my sister’s first birthday and we were never allowed to forget how my mother had crushed  ordinary granulated sugar up to make icing for the cake. Sugar was still rationed after the Second World War.

One day we went for a walk, my mother and I, and ended up near the pump. The pump was a two handed thing that pivoted in the middle, like a see-saw. So, we pumped. Well’,I suspect that my mother pumped and I rode up and down at the other end whilst she sang:

See saw Marjorie Daw.

Johnny shall have a new master.

He shall have but a penny a day

because he can’t work any faster.

Why do I remember so vividly? Simple, I thought that the poenm referred to me and I wasn’t working fast enough.

Oh! Bow! Wow!

(the above must be read with a voice like Leslie Phillips)

From time to time we were given a treat. Somehow though,  I always got into trouble.

The particular treat I’m thnking of was the opportunity to listen to music on my father’s wind up portable Gramophone (it is still in the loft here at The Magpie’s Nest). I used to sit and try to read the labels as thwy wizzed around at 78 rpm and this would upset the Disc Jockey who had a temper like nothing on this earth.

It was worth it though as I got to hear my next childhood song…or song from my childhood: Cliff ” Ukelele Ike” Edwards (Jiminy Cricket?) singing “My dog Loves Your Dog” with the unforgettable rhyme of “terrier” and “marry her”….. I always understood that this was priceless. On the other side of the disc was “Six Women” (done two good men wrong)…which seems about parr for the course!

Little wonder that I have such an odd sense of humour.

I have tried to find a link to the song and have come up with this one and this one too.

(For the second link you may have to play around to find and  load the file..It works on Real Player)

Foot note..I have cut this post short…I’ve been having fun finding old recordings of Jazz on the Internet thanks to the last link I gave you! Wonderful. I’m really glad I came up with this idea for a subject. Apart from The Ritual Fire Dance and  Ravel’s Bolero, all the other records we listened to were jazz from before WWII. And they make a huge fuss about listening to Music of Black Origin these days as if it is something new.


10 Responses to “Songs and Rhymes from Childhood”

  1. Grannymar Says:

    I can just imagine you see sawing on the pump handle! Enjoy the Jazz.

  2. Rummuser Says:

    David, you will appreciate my comment perhaps as a teacher. In India, English playing such an important part in education, many children are taught English nursery rhymes totally out of sync with India, and its culture, traditions etc. In the vernacular schools however, there is rich variety of songs that reflect the reality of the local ethos. There is a movement now gaining strength to replace the old English rhymes with English but composed for India. These are more relevant and bridge the gap that a few generations have not due to the nursery rhymes learnt of the English.

  3. gaelikaa Says:

    See saw Margery Daw. I came across a family of Daws once in Drogheda in Ireland. Spelt ‘Dawe’.

    I remember that rhyme very clearly – from the odd visit to the playground!

  4. Conrad Says:

    David, I can imagine sitting with you listening to those old ’78’s. Old fart pleasure for both of us. I have a nice bottle of Absinthe to aid the ambiance!

    By the way … nice topic. You had me traveling down memory lane. And like I alluded to on some of the other consortium sites, it was the cadence that was so important. Why? Because it is the early music for the child and it moves them.

  5. Helen Says:

    As kids, we always seemed to think it was about us, didn’t we? Whether good or bad…*L* Now I know where my kids get it from; you reminded me that I was just the same! I’m going to check out the links…thanks for sharing. x

  6. Ursula Says:

    Magpie, how very perceptive of you to put nursery rhymes and songs into social and geographical context. Like any folkore both vary from one place to another – sometimes in not so subtle differences.

    Since virtually all of the Consortium’s contributers and readers are native English speakers I cannot bring much to the table in terms of my own childhood nostalgia. Maybe Gaelikaa can relate to the cultural and linguistic differences of bringing up her children in a country not of her own birth. When my son started nursery school here, in England, I learnt – FAST. And it added yet another dimension to my life.

    Some of my English favourites? Humpty Dumpty falling off the wall (what an awful fate to befall anyone) and, first place, the cow which jumped over the moon and the fork running away with the spoon. Dreamy.

    Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle …


    PS Talking about childhood: My mother instilled in me a particular fondness of magpies (and no, neither am I a thief nor do I subscribe to diamonds being a girl’s best friend). I’ll give her a ring in a minute and ask her to retell the story.

  7. Maria Says:

    As a former teacher, I too know the importance of cadence and rhyme in the development of language and reading. What really fascinates me is the history behind most of them . . . like Mary, Mary Quite Contrary which refers to Mary Tudor and means of torture under her reign. Hardly the kind of tale to tell children. Fortunately, they won’t know the history behind these rhymes until adult and then they will find them a good way of learning their history lessons.

  8. Magpie11 Says:

    I was told that Mary Mary was to do with Mary and her Catholicism… or was that mary Queen of Scots who was contrary? Cockle shells being a symbol of pilgrimage (Satiago di Compostella) and the silver bells were to do with the liturgy and so forth.

  9. Conrad Says:

    David, it seems from what you are saying that many of these have a much more sophisticated base than a person would suspect.

  10. Magpie11 Says:

    I don’t know about sophistication but certainly they would but though out and used to comment…
    How about trying to make up a Nursery rhyme about something in modern life or politics?

    The marriage of the future King of England and Head of the Church of England as a divorcee and to a divorcee might do for one:

    Something about riding his horse to Cornwall perhaps?

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