Daily Archives: February 2, 2008

Poor Mary

I came across the instructions for Poor Mary last night.

It is a game that has a circle of children with hands joined and walking round another child (usually a girl) who is kneeling in the centre of the circle with her face in her hands. As they sing, she enacts the words:

Poor Mary sat a-weeping, a-weeping, a-weeping,
Poor Mary sat a-weeping on a bright summer’s day.
On this carpet she shall kneel
Till the grass grows in the field
Stand up, stand up upon your feet
And choose the one you love so sweet.

At this point “Mary” chooses another child to join her in the centre of the ring and they join hands and walk round in the opposite direction to the outer circle, who sings:

Now you are married, you must be good
And help your wife to chop the wood
Chop, chop, chop!

With this ritual completed, the children change places and a new “Mary” takes her place in the centre of the ring.

I began to wonder if any young children played games like that nowadays. Allowing my mind to drift, I was back in my childhood and snippets of other childhood rhymes were released from the depths of my memory bank…

A pocket full o’ posies.
Atishoo! Atishoo!
We all fall down!

I wrote a letter to my mother, on the way I dropped it
And one of you has picked it up and put it in your pocket.
Not you, not you, not you, not you………

The farmer wants a wife, the farmer wants a wife
Ee – I – ally – o, the farmer wants a wife.

In and out the woods of bluebells,
In and out the woods of bluebells,
In and out the woods of bluebells,
My fair lady

The big ship sails through the Illy-ally-O,
The Illy-ally-O,
The Illy-ally-O,
The big ship sails through the Illy-ally-O,
On the last day of September.

The game of Two-Balls or Double-Ball was a favourite of mine. I played for hours bouncing the two balls off the coal shed door alternately, more or less juggling, while reciting a variety of rhymes. Whatever rhyme it is, the actions are usually the same, carried out at the end of each line on the rhyming words: “under” (underhand throw), “over” (overhand throw), “upsy” (upward throw – not on the wall), “raindrop” (underhand throw against the wall, allowing it to drop and rebound off the floor before catching it) and “bouncy” (throw down to the floor near the bottom of the wall so that it rebounds against the wall and comes back up to be caught.) After the rhyme has been recited for each different throw, IF the balls have not been dropped (in which case the turn passes to the next player) the whole sequence is repeated with just one hand, then the other hand.

Alas, the only rhyme for this game that comes to mind is

P.K, penny a packet,
First you chew it, then you crack it
Then you stick it on your pocket
P.K, penny a packet

What games did you play and can you recall the rhymes?