Dorothy Cannell: My mother’s birthday is coming up. She was born on September 5th, 1910, and I have been combing through memories of what made her magical. She loved poetry, could recite whole stretches of Tennyson and Longfellow. Also in her repertoire were verses she skipped rope to as a child. They belong to a time now fading from memory and I have been meaning to write them down for years. So here are the first three that came to mind:
Little fly upon the wall,
Ain’t you got no clothes at all?
Ain’t you got a petticoat?
Ain’t you got a shimmy shirt?
Poor little fly, ain’t you cold?
There are several versions of this.
Harry went to Hampstead,
Harry lost his hat.
Harry’s mother said to Harry
Harry, where’s your hat?
Hanging on the hook in the hall.
Harry, if you don’t hang your hat
On the hat peg in the hall
I’ll hit you on the head
With a heavy, hard hammer
And make you howl horrible.
This can be recited cockney fashion with the ‘aitches’ off, or posh with them on.
And now for a Victorian chiller if ever there was one:
One day Mamma said Conrad dear,
“I must go out and leave you here
But mind now, Conrad, what I say,
Don’t suck your thumb while I’m away.
The great tall tailor always comes
To little boys who suck their thumbs.
And ‘ere they dream what he’s about.
He takes his great sharp scissors out,
And cuts their thumbs clean off an’ then,
You, know they never grow again”.
Mamma had scarcely turned her back,
The thumb was in, Alack! Alack!
The door flew open, in he ran,
The great long, red-legged scissor man.
Oh! Children see! The tailor’s come
And caught out little Suck-a-Thumb
Snip! Snip! Snip! The scissors go,
And Conrad cries out “Oh! Oh! Oh!”
Snip! Snap! Snip! They go so fast
That both his thumbs are off at last.
Mamma comes home, there Conrad stands
And looks quite sad, and shows his hands.
“Ah!” said Mamma “I knew he’d come
To naughty little Suck-a-Thumb.”
My Husband Julian refers to these poems as ‘Goose Mother Rhymes’.