Police in The 50s and 60s

My childhood recollections of 1950s policemen (no policewomen then!) are based on the ones I knew from story books and from seeing PC’s on point duty when we went away on holiday to bigger towns than ours. Point duty was what came before roundabouts and traffic lights and they wore white oversleeves to make them easily visible. It was a very important duty because there were no motorways or by-passes so all main routes passed through towns. A journey to a summer holiday destination involved queue after queue.

Noddy Gets into Trouble Book 8 - JEANNIEJEANNIEJEANNIE.CO.UK    Toy Town Stories - Mr Plod's Search For Noddy, Enid Blyton, Used; Good Book

Mr Plod was the kindly policeman in the Noddy stories.

Five Find-Outers - Wikipedia    The Five Find-Outers | Children's Books Wiki | Fandom

Also by Enid Blyton, The Famous Five and the Secret Seven were always having adventures and sorting out misdeeds. The policeman was usually there at the end to take them safely home or to thank them.

Dixon of Dock Green - Wikipedia    Z-Cars: What we were watching 40 years ago | BT

Dixon of Dock Green and, later, Z-Cars were two police dramas of the 50s and 60s and were much loved by everyone. They were very tame and innocent compared with today’s crime dramas.

The friendly neighbourhood copper and the village ‘Bobby on a bicycle ‘ were images which formed our ideas of the police as friendly, helpful and kind.

The magic of 1950s suburbia when socks were darned, baths shared and kids roamed wild | Daily Mail Online

Latest Photographs    Bobby on a Bike » Events » Ripon Museums   Finally, a note about a policeman very well known in the area I live in now. Bill Harber was the iconic policeman with the distinctive handlebar moustache who was on point duty in the Barnsley town centre in the fifties and sixties before Barnsley was by-passed by the M1.

Bill, who died in 2017 aged 86, is well remembered from his decades directing traffic in Barnsley town centre and became almost a landmark. I started work in Barnsley in 1974 and used to see him on duty in the town.

Bill Harber               Bill Harber

Annuals.

No, not the garden variety! Those wonderful, colourful, hardbacked books full of articles, photographs, cartoons, puzzles, competitions, facts, jokes, craft ideas and SO much fun! The books we loved to be bought at Christmas and which were eagerly awaited every year. Those mines of fun, facts and entertainment which you could carry on dipping into all year – until the next one came out. Most children had a regular weekly comic and that comic would produce an annual every winter. Even as an early teen when I and my sister were taking magazines like Jackie, they, too had annuals. Radio and TV programmes, newspapers, clubas, organisations etc etc ALL published annuals.

In the late 50s/ early 60s I, my brother and my sister took Princess, Hotspur and Bunty and the annuals were something to be looked forward to all year.

EAGLE ANNUAL: THE BEST OF THE 1950s COMIC Hardcover 2007 Features DAN DARE - L03      Roy-of-the-Rovers-The-Best-of-the-1950s-by-Frank-Pepper-9781781087176     

It was a Jackie Annual from 1980 which made me think of writing this post. I often buy, on EBay or in charity shops, an annual for a friend’s year of birth when they have reached a milestone birthday. I enjoy sourcing them – even if they wonder what on earth that gift was all about! I recently acquired the Jackie 1980 annual for a family 40th birthday – female, obviously! I enjoyed leafing through it before posting it. They’re such a glimpse into how the world was in another era.

The-Scout-annual-1958

As children we hadn’t been familiar with Rupert Bear until two older boy cousins passed ALL their old Rupert Annuals on to us – and we loved them! We enjoyed all the cartoon stories of Rupert’s adventures and knew all the characters. My sister once said it used to annoy her that Rupert was never told off when he was late home for tea – but that aside, we loved them. My sister and I can still fold table napkins into water lilies after learning how to do it from an origami page in one of the Rupert annuals.

RUPERT-1952-ANNUAL-THIS-IS-A-COPY-OF-THE-1952      Every issue has an origami design for children or their parents to fold from a square sheet of paper. The directions for this paper water lily design appeared in the 1958 edition. Bear Origami, Pictures Of Leaves, Brain Parts, The Fifth Of November, Japanese Pagoda, 1970s Childhood, Paper Crowns, Country Fair, Mermaids And Mermen

Wait until your father gets home!

I was thinking the other day about things which adults used to say to children back in the 1950s which you don’t hear so often nowadays. It wasn’t just parents who said these things. Teachers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends, adults in story books – they all dished them out.

Some readers who date back to those years will recognise these even if they didn’t hear them all said in their own households.

At meal times; 

We’d have been glad of that when food was rationed.

There are children starving in . . . my mum used to say China, I’m sure adults used used a variety of countries!

There’s no pudding until your plate is empty/ you’ve eaten your greens.

Eat your crusts or your hair won’t curl.  They  couldn’t be said to me as I had curly hair – but I still had to eat my crusts.

In the 1950s, the war was a very recent memory. Six years of hardship and rationing meant that parents had little time for children being fussy about food. It was seen as ungrateful.

WW2 Ration Book largeThese books were a recent memory for our parents.

The rest;

Children should be seen but not heard. What a dreadful thing to say to a child – but it was something we heard it said to us then. I don’t remember my parents saying it but older relatives would come out with it if they thought the children were talking to much – or just annoying them,

Money doesn’t grow on trees. This was commonly said to children when they asked for something which couldn’t be afforded. When we were a little older, my siblings and I used to joke that it actually did grow on trees for our family because my dad was a forester.

Wait until your father gets home. This one probably has a long history. It is redolent of eras in the past where the fathers were the absolute head of their households and were quite remote and strict. Punishment would be administered by the father on return from work when the work-weary mother (all mothers were home based then) related the child’s transgression. Most modern fathers would hate to be used as a threat in this way.

Your school days are the best days of your life. I promised myself when I was a teenager in high school that I would never say that to a child because at that time I didn’t believe they could possibly be the best years of your life.

What do you want to be when you grow up? Adults probably still ask children that. I hated being asked the question because it used to throw me into a panic! I always felt I should be coming out with something definite and impressive. In fact, I didn’t have a clue. Many of the jobs I fancied as a child (fireman, for one!) couldn’t then be done by women, anyway.

Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves. I think people talked in proverbs a lot more then. We actually had to learn a whole list of them for the 11+ exam! A stitch in time saves nine. Make hay while the sun shines. Many hands make light work. Too many cooks spoil the broth.etc. By the way, those last two totally contradict each other which always puzzled me when I was younger!

Vintage-1950s-Hand-Embroidery-Pattern-Kitchen-Proverbs | 자수 도안 ... Picture of a 1950s embroidery.

It’s worth remembering that our parents had been brought up by parents who had Victorian parents and some of the rigid expectations of children from that time were passed down through the generations. There were grisly stories written for children to shock them into behaving. These were known as moral tales. There was one collection of stories written in the 19th century which contained a dozen or so such stories. We had a copy of it at home and it fascinated us! The only two stories I remember from it now are Naughty Little Suck-a-Thumb and Shock-Headed Peter. I’ve just looked these stories up for this post and I’ve learned that they were originally written in German by a man called Hoffmann who wrote them for his young son. Having looked up the two I remember best, I am amazed to find I remember every word of both. We read and read that book! My sister was a confirmed suck-a-thumb and was both horrified by and strangely drawn to the picture of the severed thumbs!

The English Struwwelpeter: Pretty Stories & Funny Pictures

 

 

The gruesome picture above is especially for my sister – who still has both her thumbs! Just to explain; in my family we weren’t read these stories as a warning. Things had moved on since they were written. My mum found them entertaining and enjoyed reading them to us and telling us about how Victorian children were brought up.

 

 

 

 

 

As always, I acknowledge that I have sourced my images from the Internet and made efforts to copy only those which are marked as available for re-use. If anyone objects to my use of any image, please contact me and it will be removed.

 

 

Time Travelling

This is a fun one. Not a virus in sight! Much of it has been covered in earlier blog posts but I’ve put a few ideas together for a quick, hopefully entertaining read.

 

If I, or anyone else who was alive in the 50s and 60s, had been suddenly transported in a time machine to 2020, what would puzzle, amuse, or confuse us?

 

Paying for goods in a store by touching a small rectangle of plastic onto a gadget.

UK: half of all debit card payments now contactless | Mobile ...

Cars being plugged in to charge up instead of filling with liquid fuel.

England home electric car smart charger

People walking their dogs with little bags of dog dirt dangling from their fingers.

The Best Dog Poop Bags | Reviews by Wirecutter

People walking along talking on a phone which doesn’t look a bit like a phone and fits into the palm of a hand.

People pointing the same object at a thing, person or view and photographing it.

person, talking, mountain focus photography, mobile phone, smartphone, taking photo, wireless technology, communication, smart phone, portable information device

People using the above gadget to find the way somewhere, check the time or the weather, look at their bank balance, buy something, etc etc etc.

Choosing from dozens and dozens of different television programmes – without touching the TV.

Brits have 100 names for a TV remote control - what do you call it ...

Sending a written communication to someone in another country and receiving a reply within minutes – without any paper being used.

Add Gmail and Other Email to Windows 10 Mail & Calendar (Updated)

Reading a book or a newspaper which is not made of paper.

Why Amazon is tracking every time you tap your Kindle - The Verge

Being able to buy strawberries, raspberries, lettuce, and many, many more food items in the middle of winter. For readers out of Britain, you will be able to think of equivalent seasonal produce.

Buying books, electrical goods, clothes, holidays, food and much more – without actually speaking to anyone, visiting a store, or using a mail order catalogue.

Tesco - Click & Collect Groceries - Logo Design - Portrait… | Flickr

Homes having several different refuse bins outside on the path or drive – each one with a different function.

Kendall Drive – bins collection | Howard Sykes

 

There are many, many more of these! I could go on and on.

 

 

 

As usual, all photographs are sourced from images available on the Internet. If anybody objects to the use of a photograph please contact me and I will remove it.

 

 

 

When Phones Were Just Phones.

Back in the ‘old days’ once we had the first phone in our house (our telephone number was the name of the village followed by 9!) my brother, sister and I used to have fun imagining what it would be like if you could see as well as hear the person you were talking to. Many decades later and after moving into the age of the computer and getting used to doing more online we are now at the stage when there is not much you can’t do with simply a mobile phone.

Here are some of the things we can now do on a hand-held phone and some pictures of some of the items the mobile phone can now replace.

Take a photograph. This was the first big jump made by mobile phones before they became ‘smart’. My first ever mobile phone only made and received calls and it lived in the glove compartment of my car. It was literally a ‘car phone’. Then came phones on which you could text and then, lo and behold! the ones we referred to at first as camera phones which actually took photographs.

Antique Vintage Kodak Brownie 127 Camera Dakon Lens image 0

Check the time, your bank balance and the weather. Read the news.

Image result for newspaper                           Image result for clocks and watches       Image result for bank uk              Image result for weather forecast uk

Look up facts in encyclopedias and reference books.

Check for first aid info and advice on family health.

Find out how to do a DIY job in the home.

Shop for clothes, toiletries, books, food . . . anything and everything!

Source knitting patterns, recipes, maps,

Image result for recipe books

AA 2020 Supreme Scale Atlas Britain - Travel Book by AA (Paperback)

Read or listen to music.

6Pcs Vinyl Coaster Record Cup Drinks Holder Mat Tableware Placemat Tea Cup Mat  Image result for radio

Pay for goods or services in a shop, taxi, hair salon, filling station etc.

Image result for purse with money

A phone used to be a word for a gadget which was held in the hand on which you spoke to people you couldn’t see. Today’s phones do so much more and the humble telephone call is a very minor part of its role. Although I do a lot online I still have one foot in the non-digital age. I do hope books don’t disappear – I love them! I love reading fiction and I also enjoy browsing through recipe books and history books. Reading a book on a phone or tablet is just not the same for me. I still use cash as well as cards and PayPal or Amazon. I keep a road atlas in the car and I wear a watch.

My Book

This is not in the same vein as my usual posts. Even as a child I loved to write. Writing was one of my first loves. Any sort of writing gives me pleasure whether it’s stories, poems, letters or lists. I also love pens, pencils and notebooks. Even though I now write everything on a laptop.

Once I finished full time education, I found that I was not asked to write as I had been in school and university. At work, report writing is about it. So I wrote less and less. Sometimes I would get an idea and start to write. A story sometimes, or the opening chapter of a book. I would always end up ripping it up. Now I would press delete.

Since retiring from full time employment a few years ago, I have been able to devote more time to writing. This bog is the perfect outlet for me as I enjoy sharing my memories of my childhood. I have been richly rewarded by all the readers who visit it, the followers I have and the lovely comments I get.

Meanwhile, I started writing stories – and not deleting them! I wrote and wrote an wrote. I loved doing it. One day I decided to take the plunge and make them available for people to read. I’m in my sixties and decided that I’m to old to go down the agents/ publishers/ rejections route so I went with Amazon Kindle self-publishing and the result is a small collection of short stories in paperback and Kindle format.

I’m very happy to be in print. I’ve had some lovely feedback. Now I’m taking another plunge and telling the readers of my blog about it. Do take a look. There is no obligation to buy or to read it!

Peace: and other stories https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1797640305/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_tai_iioOCbKCXTNN3

If the link doesn’t work, look on Amazon and type in Peace and other Stories.

Libraries

I have loved books and reading for as long as I can remember. I was thinking about libraries the other day and I realised that I use libraries less now than ever before in my life. The reasons are the same as they are for everybody else –

I can now look things up myself on my phone, ipad and laptop using the mighty Google.

I can now buy second-hand books in charity shops for as little as 50 pence and also very cheaply online and often postage free.

New books, too, are extremely affordable when bought in supermarkets or online.

I can also buy e-books and read them on any of my electronic devices. (I don’t, because I still prefer books, but I could.)

It’s no wonder that libraries and independent bookshops are closing in Britain.

All through my childhood, teens, twenties and thirties, being a member of a library was very important to me. Wherever I lived, I joined a library, sometimes being a member of more than one at a time.

As a child in the 1950s, we went to the library whenever we were in the nearby town which was five miles away. Below is a picture of the building it was in – taken a bit before the 1950s! When I lived in that area the building housed the library , the Labour Exchange and my dad’s office – he worked for the Forestry Commission. Although there was no library in our village (it was tiny) there was a lady who lived in a little house next to a chapel who ran a small book lending system from her front room. The main library used to drop new books off with her every so often.

llandovery-clock-tower

What I remember about libraries in the old days (even though I loved them) is how quiet and serious they were. You absolutely did not make a noise of any sort or you would be told off. I loved them because I love books and reading but I can see how someone less committed to reading could have been put off by the interior of a library.

Library 1  Library 2

Above – the interiors of a couple of old libraries. The pictures can’t convey the deathly hush which prevailed!

library files      library book

The pre-digital way of book-lending.

I have no recollection of ever being asked to do any independent research for homework when I was in school – not even when studying for A-levels. Lessons were all based on notes dictated by the teacher then and on learning by rote – but that’s another blog post! While I was at university I preferred to do most of my work in the university library. This was partly so that I could use the reference books but also because the atmosphere was more conducive to study than a cold, gloomy student rented house.

Libraries now often have art or history exhibitions running, they have computers the public can use, they are bright, friendly and welcoming. The children’s sections have toys and games and regular organised activities. Yet libraries are still closing all over the country. Where they have been saved and continue to function, they are often rehoused in a smaller space in a new building. The one shown below is a Victorian library building near where I used to work. In spite of a well-fought campaign to keep it open, it was closed over ten years ago. I believe it now houses offices so at least it isn’t empty or worse – demolished. The new library which replaced it is in a modern purpose built community centre. Public lending libraries began here in Britain in the 1850s, the main pioneer being William Ewart. Since 2010, nearly 500 libraries  have closed in England, Wales and Scotland. Some libraries facing closure have been taken over by volunteers.

normy library

Finally, a nice little tale of recycling!

The iconic red telephone boxes found all over the UK are beginning to disappear but, thanks to a BT scheme called Adopt a Kiosk, many unused payphone kiosks have been transformed into libraries. This preserves the heritage of the red kiosk, particularly in rural locations and provides a library service in areas which lack one. Most of these libraries are left unlocked and are stocked by donations from local people. Anyone is free to borrow a book and donate a used book.

220px-Phone_box_library,_Whitwell,_IW,_UK    517d1d84e2bd9ff5150f1d852f0822bb--telephone-booth-free-library telephone-library-1

reading and And now, a few quotes about libraries:

Reading is an exercise in empathy; an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while. —Malorie Blackman

Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation. —Walter Cronkite

Libraries will get you through times with no money better than money will get you through times with no libraries. Anne Herbert.

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. —Joseph Addison

As usual, I would like to say that all images and facts used in this post have been gleaned from the Internet and are readily available. However, if anyone objects to anything in this post, for any reason, please contact me directly so that I can remove it.

Mental Health

This post looks, from the title, as though it could be a bit more weighty and serious than many of my others. I hope it won’t turn out that way. What I’m going to look at is the difference in attitude and outlook where mental health is concerned between the 1950s and now. I have to bear in mind that I was a small child in the 50s and so what I remember is a child’s view and might be different from an adult’s. However, the point of this blog is to share my memories of growing up in the Welsh countryside in the 1950s and 60s and I like to stay true to that and avoid putting in all sorts of researched facts and figures and quoting other people’s opinions.

It is a fact that mental health is now discussed more openly than it used to be. I have seen that change in my lifetime. There has been a big push here in Britain recently to bring mental health issues out into the open. There have been famous people telling their stories, mental health awareness events and various films and documentaries. This is excellent – but we still have a long way to go. People still find it much easier to say they’re suffering from arthritis, bronchitis, migraine or flu than to admit to going through a spell of depression or to talk about a lifelong battle with anxiety.

Back in the 1950s, these were some of the expressions you would hear adults using quietly when they thought you weren’t listening. ‘Had a nervous breakdown’, ‘bad with her nerves’,  ‘suffers with her nerves’. We all know now that that mental illness can affect any age, any gender, but at that time I only ever remember hearing women talked about in those hushed tones. Sometimes a person was described as being ‘not right in the head’. Occasionally you would hear about someone who had ‘taken to her bed’. Apparently my grandmother had an aunt who ‘took to her bed’ at some point in her life and never left it.

What we did know about was the large mental hospitals where people ‘ended up’ if they were really bad with their nerves or had a breakdown. Some people with very severe mental disabilities spent their whole lives in them. Fortunately, these places don’t exist any more. Originally they were called ‘lunatic asylums’. This was often shortened to ‘loony bin’. It seems appalling now that we could use such expressions.

st david's

The mental hospital which was nearest to us when we lived in South Wales, called St David’s. It was operational from 1865 until 2002.

denbigh

The one which was nearest to us when we lived in North Wales. Both vast places! This one opened in 1848 and also closed in 2002. I have looked at maps showing the distribution of these institutions in the UK at that time and it seems there was at least one per county. Many are still standing and are either crumbling or have been converted into conference centres, apartments, hotels etc.

Since drafting this post I have been looking in two old books I have here on my shelves. They are ‘home doctor’ books. I believe many homes had one on their shelves for looking up any family ailments and deciding whether a visit to the doctor was needed. In fact I had one which I bought when my first child was born in 1980. After all, we didn’t have the Internet in the 1980s. Neither of these two old books have publishing dates but from some of the adverts and diagrams in them I’ve worked it out that the oldest one is from the late 1800s and the other one is from roughly the 1920s. Always an avid reader, over the years I have often enjoyed looking through them and marvelling at some of the weird and wonderful advice which was given.

IMG_1164

The oldest one (above, it’s lost its cover) came from my grandmother’s house after she died. I remember taking it down from her bookshelves as a child and browsing in it. It used to amuse me that unwell people seemed to be offered a lot of gruel, broth and bread soaked in or tea in Victorian times.

IMG_1162

The newer one (above) was from our house but, as it would already have been old when my mum and dad married in 1950, it might also have come from one of the grandparents’ houses.  I decided to see what was said about mental health issues. In the oldest one I could find no reference to any of the terms we now use such as anxiety, depression and stress. The only item relevant to mental issues which I could find in the older book was Nervous Disorders.

IMG_1167

The main recommendations at this time were active exercise in the countryside, regulation of the bowels and early rising.

Progress had been made by the 1920s and the newer book has Anxiety, Depression and Nervousness listed.

IMG_1166        IMG_1165

By the this time, complete rest and exercising in the open air were still suggested but also the help of a doctor was mentioned.

Compare these extremely brief entries with the abundance of self-help books on the subject which are available today.

self help books

 

Law and Order

This post has been prompted by the fact that I have just completed a three week stint of jury service. The post is not going to be about the experience (which was interesting, intense and at times harrowing) but instead is going to have a brief look at law and order and how things have changed.  As always with this blog, I remind readers that these are my recollections and do not necessarily reflect the rest of the UK, Europe or the world at that time because I lived in a remote country area.

In the 50s and 60s there were still ‘village bobbies’ in many rural areas. The familiar image is of a kindly copper cycling around keeping an eye on everything and living in the local police house.

policebike2211_468x731

In our village we didn’t have our own policeman. Our local town (2,000 people so a very small town!) was five miles away and had a little police station with a police house and a lovely guy called Sergeant Walters in residence. Although he was a familiar name in our village, one of the few times I came across him in person was when I was in my last year of primary school. A group of us who could ride bikes were able to take our cycling proficiency test. Sergeant Walters came to school to test us. I was SO proud of my badge and certificate!!

18_1303910255_5381_300_300           cycling-proficiency-certificate

When cycling around the lanes and hills near home we were all aware that should Sergeant Walters drive past and see us cycling without hands or riding two to a bike we would be ‘done’.  It never happened.

When we drove through larger towns and cities, visiting relatives or going on holiday, we used to see busy town centre junctions with a policeman on ‘point duty’. There were fewer traffic lights and roundabouts back then. Also, there were hardly any by-passes or ring roads so traffic went right through the centre of towns. The traffic jams, especially in the summer time on popular holiday routes were horrendous! To avoid them we sometimes set off on holiday late in the evening and travelled through the night. This was very exciting to us as children!

fleet street.jpg     bypass3

 

Throughout my whole childhood and teenage years, I have absolutely no memory of anyone in our locality being burgled or of anything being vandalised. We once had a plum tree which was laden with plums ripe and ready for picking completely stripped of its fruit while we were out for the day. I knew about burglars from story books and comics where they were always portrayed in stripey jumpers, eye masks and carrying a torch and a sack full of stolen goods. The image is still around as seen in these illustrations from the ever popular children’s book Burglar Bill by Janet and Allan Ahlberg.

557e4480b2a525587eec7d6b9df893a2

Those are my memories of real life law and order in the 50s and 60s where I grew up. The fiction was very different. I loved Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven books. Some people criticise them now but as children we absolutely adored them. They were always solving mysteries, foiling smuggling attempts and handing hapless burglars over to the police. Kidnapping, escaped convicts, treasure and stolen documents turn up in some of the stories and the gang of children (and a dog!) are always the ones who sort everything out. There was usually a reward, heaps of praise and a sumptuous tea at the end for the gang. Wonderful stuff!

FF1     derek

Next, the world of TV law and order. We first had a TV in our home in 1961 when I was ten years old. Dixon of Dock Green was a huge family favourite. PC George Dixon was a kindly London copper. The stories were mostly about small time crimes and the programme always ended with Dixon offering some gentle words of advice in front of his police station before wishing everyone goodnight. The series ran for 100s of episodes and Jack Warner who played PC Dixon was still in the role at the age of 80.

DixonofDockGreen        hqdefault

Nursery Rhymes . . . . . continued.

I have covered Nursery Rhymes in an earlier post but it’s a fascinating area and full of historical facts so I’m revisiting the subject and covering different rhymes.

Nursery rhymes are an important part of our history and cultural tradition here in the UK and it would be a shame if they died out. Each one has its own tune which comes to mind as soon as you see the words.

Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop goes the weasel.

One theory claims that the rhyme originates in the grimy streets and packed sweatshops of Shoreditch and Spitalfields that provided Londoners with their clothing. A spinner’s weasel is a device that is used for measuring out a length of yarn; the mechanism makes a popping sound when the correct length has been reached. One imagines the spinner’s mind would wander to the more mundane, only to be brought back to harsh reality when the weasel went pop.

The third verse suggests an alternative origin, which is based upon the Londoners use of cockney rhyming slang;

Up and down the city road,
In and out the Eagle,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop goes the weasel.

Pop

To “pop” is a London slang word for pawn. Weasel can be traced to the cockney rhyming slang of “weasel and stoat”, or coat. Even a very poor Victorian Londoner would have had a Sunday best coat or suit that could be pawned when times got hard (Pop goes the weasel), perhaps on cold and damp Monday morning, only to be retrieved on pay day. The Eagle above refers to the Eagle Tavern, a pub located on the corner of City Road and Shepherdess Walk, in the north London district of Hackney. Although the usage of the building has changed over the years, the current Eagle pub dating from the early 1900’s, displays a plaque proclaiming the building’s connection with the nursery rhyme.

Georgie Porgie,
Pudding and pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry;
When the boys came out to play,

Georgie Porgie ran away.

georgieporgie-greenaway

It is thought that the ‘Georgie Porgie’ in question was actually the Prince Regent, later George IV. A very large gentleman, George weighed in at more than 17½ stone with a waist of 50 inches (from eating so many puddings and pies?), and he became a constant source of ridicule in the press of the time.

Despite his large size, George had also established for himself a rather poor reputation for his lusty romps with the ladies that involved several mistresses and a string of illegitimate children.

Little Jack Horner sat in a corner
Eating a Christmas pie;
He put in his thumb,
And pulled out a plum,
And said “What a good boy am I”

CHO196

Little Jack Horner lived in the 1530’s, the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII. Jack Horner was steward to Richard Whiting, the last of the Abbots of Glastonbury. It is said that the Abbot, hoping to placate King Henry, sent His Majesty an enormous Christmas pie containing the deeds of 12 manors. Horner was given the task of taking the ‘pie’ to London. During the journey he managed to open the pie and extract the deeds of the Manor of Mells in Somerset, presumably the ‘plum’ referred to in the rhyme. A Thomas Horner did assume ownership of Mells, but his descendants and the present owner of the house claim the rhyme is a slander.

Hush a-bye baby in the tree-top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall,
Down will come cradle, baby and all

Hush a-bye Baby, or Rock a Bye Baby as I knew it, was reputably written by a boy who sailed with the Pilgrim Fathers to America in 1620 and was the first English poem written on American soil. It is said to have been inspired by the Native American custom of popping babies’ cradles in the branches of trees.

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Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water;
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.

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The rhyme I knew as a child contained the lines

He went to bed

to mend his head

with vinegar and brown paper

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. . . . but I recently found one which says . .

To old Dame Dob

Who patched his nob

with vinegar and brown paper   

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The small village of Kilmersdon in north Somerset claims to be the home of the Jack and Jill rhyme. Local legend recalls how in the late 15th century, a young unmarried couple regularly climbed a nearby hill in order to conduct their liaison in private, away from the prying eyes of the village. Obviously a very close liaison, Jill fell pregnant, but just before the baby was born Jack was killed by a rock that had fallen from their ‘special’ hill. A few days later, Jill died whilst giving birth to their love child. Their tragic tale unfolds today on a series of inscribed stones that leads along a path to that ‘special’ hill.
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