If It Rhymes?

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’.


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20 Responses to If It Rhymes?

  1. Gram says:

    I’m sure we used the first one or something like it when I was in grade school.

  2. Gram says:

    P.S. I love your husband’s title.

  3. Lea Wait says:

    Never heard any of those! Thanks for sharing, Dorothy!

  4. Debra C Thomas says:

    I grew up hearing:

    Paddy was a Welshman,
    Paddy was a thief.
    Paddy came to my house
    And stole a leg of beef.
    I went to Paddy’s house,
    Paddy wasn’t home.
    Paddy came to my house
    And stole a marrow bone.
    I went to Paddy’s house,
    Paddy was in bed,
    So I picked up the marrow bone
    And whacked him on the head!

    Naturally, the Welsh Corgi I had many years later was named Paddy.

  5. I can always count on you for a morning chuckle, Dorothy. What great rhymes. I don’t remember any from my parents (who were both also born in 1910) but one my Grandfather (born 1878) wrote down in his memoirs, from a picture book he was given as a child, was “We are singing, Floss. Be quiet now./You song is only Bow Wow Wow./You don’t keep time. You cannot speak./We told you so one day last week./So just wag your tail and hold your tongue/Until our pretty song is sung.” With the rhyme was a picture of a large dog. And here’s one from the 17th century: “Tell Tale Twit/Thy Tongue Shall Be Slit.” And in case you’re wondering, the word twit really was in use as an insult by 1550. There were certainly lots of strange rhymes for children in the past, whether they were jumping rope or chanting insults or innocently singing a song.

    • Dorothy says:

      Gosh, I thought I was a little weird remembering and enjoying childhood rhymes; glad to know I have company. Wish I could remember where I parked my car whilst shopping for groceries. Every time I leave Hannaford’s it’s like a treasure hunt.

  6. MCWriTers says:


    I grew up with the Little Willie rhymes. Such as

    Little Willie in the best of sashes
    Fell into the fire and was burned to ashes
    Later, when the room grew chilly
    No one felt like poking Willie


    Willie, with a thirst for gore
    Nailed his sister to the floor.
    Mother said, with humor quaint,
    “Now, Willie, dear, don’t scratch the paint.”


    Into the family drinking well
    Who should fall but sister Nell.
    She’s there still because it kilt her.
    Now we’ll have to buy a filter.


  7. Gretchen Asam says:

    Edward Gorey beats them all:

    Each night father fills me with dread
    When he sits on the foot of my bed.
    I’d not mind that he speaks
    In gibbers and squeaks,
    But for seventeen years he’s been dead.

    (from: The listing attic, c1954)

  8. It’s a wonder we ever slept at night!

  9. Robert Hemming says:

    My mum Lois Hemming (nee Gearing 1918-2014), born in Eastbourne on the south coast of England, used to recite to us the first two rhymes. But her versions, in a Sussex “country” accent, were:

    Little fly upon the wall,
    don’t you ‘ave no clothes at all?
    Don’t you ‘ave a little shirt?
    Don’t you ‘ave a little skirt?
    Ooh, you must be cold.

    ‘Arry went to ‘Ampstead,
    ‘Aarry lost ‘is ‘at.
    ‘Arry’s mother said to ‘Arry
    ‘Arry, where’s yer ‘at?
    ‘Anging on the ‘anger in the ‘all.

  10. Jean Heselwood says:

    I learned it from my mum as:
    ‘arry went to ‘ammersmith
    ‘arry lost ‘is ‘at
    ‘arrys muvver said ‘arry wher’s yer ‘at
    ‘arry said ‘it’s ‘angin’ on the ‘anger in the ‘all
    ‘arry was a liar cause it wasn’t there at all

    Obviously’ is where in English an H would go

  11. Chris Wager says:

    Sorry to arrive late to all this. In my old cockney mum’s version ‘arry was from ‘Arringay, ‘Arry bought an ‘at, ‘arry’s muver said to ‘arry, “‘arry where’s your ‘at?…”’angling on a ‘anger in the ‘all mum.”
    Also, surely the dodgy Welsh chap was called Taffy. Paddy is the Irish nickname.
    Dear mum, dear memories!

  12. Barry Fox says:

    Arry went to Ampstead
    Arry lost is at
    Arry’s mother said to Arry
    Arry, where’s yer at
    Don’t aud it in yer and
    Ang it on the ook in the all

    Say it with a Bristol (UK) accent

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