Ok, British kids. Get ready to have your world rocked. Or at least, your memories of childhood. Because some of the songs which you have probably forgotten you know EVERY word of aren’t as fun as you might assume a children’s song would be.
- Ring Around the Rosie
‘Ring around the rosie, a pocketful of posies.
Atishoo, atishoo, we all fall down.’
This isn’t the original version… The modern day rhyme has replaces the second sentence which used to be ‘ashes, ashes, we all fall down’.
This seemingly innocent children’s song has been sung in nurseries, on playgrounds and in other childcare groups for years and children enjoy dancing around in a circle while holding hands before falling to the floor, giggling.
The song was in fact written about catching the plague which killed off almost 15% of Britain’s population in 1665. People would keep posy flowers in their pockets to smell as it was believed back then that the disease was carried and passed on by bad smells. Sick people would sneeze before falling down dead and the bodies were later burned to prevent the plague spreading from the dead.
- Jack & Jill
“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.”
What many people don’t know is that ‘crown’ is another word for a head. Yeah, Jack broke his head and presumably died from his injuries.
- Humpty Dumpty
We all know the song, right? Well, I know British kids do anyway:
“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
couldn’t put Humpty together again.”
Humpty Dumpty was portrayed as an egg to make the song seem fun and acceptable to sing with children, but, let’s be real here. Humpty wasn’t an egg, he was a man. A man who died…
- The song we sung every time it rained
“It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring.
He went to bed and bumped his head and couldn’t get up in the morning.”
Why were we singing about an old man accidentally bumping his head in the night and dying? And why did none of us question it? So many questions, not enough answers…
Ok, you were probably expecting to see this one here. For anyone that can’t remember, the song goes,
“Rock-a-bye-baby, on the treetop,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough brakes, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby,
Cradle and all.”
Who the fuck balances a baby’s cradle in a tree? Did the baby die from the fall? And why were we sung this WHEN WE WERE BABIES? I wish I knew.
- London Bridge is Falling Down
“London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down,
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady”
Yep, we were all singing about a bridge falling down. Another one about death and despair. Nice.
- Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary
Ok, the meaning behind this one is VERY unknown, enough so that parents may not even have a clue what they’re singing about. Here are the lyrics:
“Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
how does your garden grow?
With cockle shells and silver bells
and pretty maids all in a row.”
It sounds like a beautiful garden with helpful maids tending to the flowers and decorations, right? Wrong. The song is about Queen Mary 1st of England, better known as Bloody Mary. She was ‘contrary’ which is another word to describe a murderous psychopath. She used torture devices such as – you guessed it – cockle shells and silver bells to kill her victims. A fierce Catholic, her victims were Protestants.
- Goosey, Goosey Gander
“Goosey, Goosey Gander,
Whither shall I wander?
In my lady’s chamber.
There I met an old man
Who would not say his prayers;
I took him by the left leg,
And threw him down the stairs.”
Can you imagine being thrown down a set of stairs as a punishment for not praying? Nah, me neither. But I remember innocently singing about it as a kid.
- Three Blind Mice
“Three blind mice. Three blind mice.
See how they run. See how they run.
They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a sight in your life,
As three blind mice?”
Those poor mice and their failed plight to overthrow Bloody Mary. This nursery rhyme is supposedly loosely-based on a group of Protestant bishops named Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Radley, and The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer.
The three bishops unsuccessfully conspired to overthrow Queen Mary and were subsequently burned at the stake for their heresy. Some theories suggest that them being ‘blind’ refers to their religious beliefs and their notion that they could overthrow such a powerful woman.