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St George’s News - Waterlooville’s Parish Magazine

The Website for St George’s Church, Waterlooville and its Parish Magazine St George’s News

Winter 2016 issue

St George’s Ladies Group

Sadly St George’s Ladies Group has had to close due to being unable to fill key roles necessary for its continued operation. We do, however, have a couple of interesting reports to publish on its meetings last year, and this report is for the meeting last September.

On the 24th September we had an extremely interesting talk by Tessa Daines titled History of Nursery Rhymes.

Tessa had brought along with her various homemade toys which she had found either in charity shops or on tips. She had adapted the toys to match the appropriate Nursery Rhyme. There were knitted toys and some dolls dressed in colourful clothes.

The first pair of beautiful dressed dolls which were placed on the table was Jack and Jill. This English nursery rhyme dates back at least to the 18th century and exists with different numbers of verses each with a number of variations.

Tessa said a question which was “Why did they go to the top of the hill”? At the top would have been a dew pond where sheep would have been grazing. The pail of water would have been at the bottom of the hill. In Somerset 1697 another version of this rhyme was told that Jill became pregnant and Jack was killed by a rock and Jill died in childbirth.

In Scandinavia mythology has it that one evening two children were walking home with a pail of water when Mani, the Moon Man, came down and carried them off to the moon. In Sweden, the moon spots are said to resemble the two children with a pail slung on a pole between them.

Vinegar and brown paper were a home cure used as a method to draw out bruises on the body.

A third verse goes like this:-
When Jill came in how she did grin
To see Jack’s paper plaster
Mother vexed did whip her next
For causing Jack’s disaster.

Humpty Dumpty was the next knitted toy to be put on the table. Nobody knows exactly who or what Humpty Dumpty was. The rhyme was first printed in 1810 and became famous through Lewis Carroll’s book, Alice Through the Looking Glass, where Humpty Dumpty is shown as a round egg. Humpty Dumpty was a common nickname used in the 15th century England, to describe large people. This has led to many ideas as to who or what the Humpty Dumpty in the nursery rhyme really was. The idea that Humpty Dumpty was a powerful cannon, used during the English Civil War (1642 - 49) is one of the ideas taken most seriously. Cannons, at this time, were very heavy and moving them even the smallest, took many men.

The nursery rhyme Pop goes the Weasel is believed to date back to the 1700’s. The words are from Cockney rhyming slang which originated in London. To “Pop” is the slang word for “Pawn”. Weasel is derived from “Weasel and Stoat” meaning Coat. Poor people that owned a suit only wore it as their “Sunday Best”. When times were hard they would pawn their suit or coat on a Monday and claim it back before Sunday.

Tessa’s Mary Mary was a cute little doll with flowers arranged around her. The English nursery rhyme is a very popular one. The “Bells” represent the Sanctus Bells, the “Cockleshells” the Badges of the Pilgrims to the Shrine of St. James in Spain and the “Pretty Maids” were Nuns.

Another small doll with a spider next to it was placed on the table. This nursery rhyme Little Miss Muffet sat on a Tuffet refers to a pouffe or hassock which is a piece of furniture used as a footstool or low seat. Curds is a dairy product obtained by coagulating milk in a process called curdling. Milk has rennet added to it, which causes it to curdle, which leaves lumps and is called curds. The liquid that is left over is Whey.

Goosey Goosey Gander, Whither Shall I Wander? was written in England and published in 1784. According to amateur historian Chris Roberts, the rhyme is heavily linked to the propaganda campaign against the Catholic Church during the reign of King Henry VIII.

Tessa next held a large soft Ladybird which had a strap attached to it and could be fastened around your wrist, it could be used as a pin cushion. This English rhyme has been dated to at least 1744. The superstitious believed that it was unlucky to kill a ladybird. If one should just happen to land on you, then don’t kill it, just gently blow it away. Also you should chant the verse if a ladybird lands on you, if it then flies away again, your wish will come true.

Did you know that there are 46 species of ladybirds in the U.K.?

The name Jack Sprat was commonly used for people of small stature in the sixteenth century. In the film Young Frankenstein an English highwayman is named “Jack Sprat”. Nurse Sprat is an obese character in “The Sisters Grimm” and “Mrs. Sprat” is a morbidly obese nurse in the comic book “Fables”.

Doctor Foster nursery rhyme was first published in its modern form in 1844, although the rhyming of “Puddle” with “Middle” suggests that it may have originally been the archaic “Piddle” for a stream and that the verse may therefore be much older. Also suggested by Boyd Smith in 1920 that the rhyme may be based on a story of Edward the First of England travelling to Gloucester, falling off his horse in to a puddle and refusing to return to the City thereafter.

Tessa placed a round plastic bath with three men dolls in it on the table. This nursery rhyme was written in England in 1798. It went like this:- Hey! rub-a-dub, ho! rub-a-dub, 3 maids in a tub this concluded that they were 3 respectable townsfolk watching a dubious sideshow at a local fair. By around 1830 the reference to maids was being removed from the versions printed in nursery books, to be replaced with 3 Men in a tub.

Here we go round the Mulberry Bush is an English nursery rhyme and singing game. One interpretation of the rhyme is that it references Britain’s struggles to produce silk, mulberry trees being a key habitat for the cultivation of silkworms.

The Rock-a-bye Baby is a Nursery rhyme and lullaby. The first poem was written on American soil, suggesting it may date from the 17th Century and have been written by an English immigrant who observed the way native American women rocked their babies in birch-bark cradles, which were suspended from the branches of trees, allowing the wind to rock the baby to sleep.

Wee Willie Winkie was a lovely large soft toy placed on the table. He was wearing a nightgown and hat. This rhyme is a Scottish one first published in 1841. The character has become one of several bedtime entities such as the Sandman, Dormette of France and Billy Winker in Lancashire.

Lavender Blue is an English folk song and nursery rhyme, dating to the 17th century. This is a love song, lavender is a token of affection, sprigs of lavender are laid under pillows and among clothes.

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep is an English nursery rhyme. In 1930 it was suggested that the rhyme referred to resentment at the heavy taxation on wool. More recently the rhyme has been connected to the slave trade particularly in the Southern United States. Most recently the word “Black” has been changed in schools to “Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep”.

Little Jack Horner actually did exist. He was Steward to The Bishop of Glastonbury, Richard Whiting 1461 - 1539. Jack Horner was privileged to run the household of the Bishop, administer the accounts of the Abbey and collect rents, taxes and fees from tenants, peasants and others connected within the Manor of Glastonbury.

Richard Whiting tasked Horner with delivering a very special gift to the King. It was to be a very large top quality pie filled with nothing less than 12 title deeds relating to an assortment of English Manorial Estates owned by the Bishop.

Jack Horner was no fool, and did not believe that King Henry would even dream of accepting 12 title deeds for small properties instead of one for the entire Abbey and all that land including those 12 other properties. Jack had to think fast, he could not refuse to undertake the errand, nor could he argue with the Bishop. He would simply steal the title deeds of the Manor of Mells. It was prime real estate and certainly would be considered to be the real “Plum” out of those 12 other Manors. It was the deeds to the property and land that was secreted in the Plum Pie. King Henry did reject the pie, as Jack Horner predicted, so he chose to hand over the Bishop to Henry VIII, he was arrested by the King’s Men, charged and convicted of treason, the crime he was accused of committing was that he acted against the Crown by remaining loyal to Rome.

The last nursery rhyme is older than 1744. This is Sing a Song of Sixpence. This song was believed to parody the relationship between King Henry VIII of England and his second wife Anne Boleyn. In preparation for a visit by the King to the home of Anne Boleyn, Hever Castle, during their courtship, “netters” were sent out in to the fields of the estate with rye in their pockets to spread around to catch a mass of blackbirds. Two dozen blackbirds, feathers still on, were baked in to a massive pie. When the pie was cut open, the smell was terrible. “Began to sing” is a funny way of referring to this in English slang. The “dainty dish” was highly sarcastic. The King was in his Counting House counting out his money. This referred to the great wealth amassed by the King following the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The Queen was in the Parlour eating bread and honey. This referred to the Queen living a life of luxury, while poor people suffered.

The Maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes. Henry was a Womaniser. Anne Boleyn had been a Maid in Waiting to Queen Catherine when he took a fancy to her. Jane Seymour became a Lady in Waiting to Anne Boleyn when she became Queen. These ambitious women encouraged the King in his attentions making sure they made their charms very obvious and appealing (hanging out their clothes).

When down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose! The blackbird symbolises those who are tempted by carnal pleasures. Anne Boleyn was eventually beheaded and Jane Seymour died following the birth of her son.

Another theory with the Counting House bit is that the Maid is Anne Boleyn, who’s Henry’s second wife, and the Queen is his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. The first Queen is off in the parlour, kind of out of the action and that the second Queen, who Henry divorced and then executed, has her nose snipped off by the blackbirds, which here apparently represent the Church.

Other theories include:

The 24 blackbirds reflect 24 hours in a day, the King is the Sun, the Queen is the Moon. The blackbirds get ready for this Manorial deed baked in a pie. The song commemorates the publication of the first English Bible, with the blackbirds being the letters of the alphabet set in pica type (baked in a pie).

Rye is a grain used in bread making or pie crust making. The Counting House was the place used to conduct business.

The last verse ended like this:-

“They sent for the King's Doctor,
Who sewed it on again,
He sewed it on so neatly,
The Seam was never seen”.

Priscilla Barlow