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?

16 thoughts on “Poor Mary

  1. What a great subject, Grannymar!

    We would all stand in a circle and one girl would be “IT”. Then we would sing:

    “Little Sally Ann
    sitting in the sand
    Weepin’ and awailin’
    For a nice young man.
    Wipe your dirty eyes,
    Turn to the East
    and turn to the West
    And turn to the very one
    that you love best.

    We also played a couple that you mentioned:

    “I wrote a letter to my Mother” and

    “The farmer wants a wife”

    And don’t forget the ever popular:

    ” You show me yours and I’ll show you mine “

  2. My two play ring-a-ring rosie and London Bridge.

    I know I used to have rhymes that we would skip rope to, but for the life of me I can’t remember any of them! We thought they were very naughty at the time! πŸ˜‰

  3. Deborah I loved skipping. I bought a new rope two years ago with the best of intentions! I manage 10 skips or 20 on a really good day, I wonder how long it will take to reach 100?

    I hear Hoola Hoops are making a comeback. Do you think I could do that nowadays?

  4. Haha I remember now! We used to play Farmer Wants a Wife, Oranges and Lemons say the bells of St Clements. At school there were waves of fads from swap cards to elastics, skipping and double-dutch. Today it’s all Tamagochi and Chromies (custom made dust protectors for the air sockets on bike wheels) I remember my kids playing tag, clapping games “My mother said, I never should play with the gypsies in the wood” and games like that but nothing as community minded as the hand holding circle of friends. In Oz we have pool games though “Marco Polo” where the person tagged as “It” has to shout “Marco” and the respondant says “Polo” . The tagger then has to locate his/her victim via the direction of the voice.

    And GM, you are NEVER too old to hula! Try it with three hoops for extra muscle strength! Great Post . . you’re going great guns since your nomination!

  5. Baino three hoops might be pushing it. I will have to locate one to begin with!

    Skipping Ropes, Hula Hoops and shoe polish tins filled with stones for Hopscotch, who needs to go to a Gym?

  6. Grannymar – I remember playing some game with small homemade bags filled with rice/beans (it wasn’t hopscotch ‘cos we used stones for that) but I can’t for the life of me remember what the game was? 😦

    We also did lots of skipping in the school yard with a large rope where you had to queue up then run in, skip to a rhyme and run out again. If you got tripped up you had to take your turn at turning the rope.

    The best fun I remember as a kid was adventures on my large wheeled trike. My twin brother and I used to use clothes pegs to attach squares of cardboard to the spokes to make a noise like an engine. I remember clearly going around corners on two wheels!

  7. Steph you had bean bags before Beanies! We were never allowed trikes or bikes, daddy said they were dangerous. I remember having fun with the long ropes and the line waiting for a turn to skip.

    Did you enjoy the Ireland Italy 6 Nations game today? I heard the result but spent most of the day on the phone so have no idea if it was an exciting match.

  8. Grannymar you have just taken me back to my childhood: these are a couple that come to mind….
    Dip, dip, dip
    My blue ship
    Sailing on the water
    Like a cup and saucer
    Dip, dip, dip

    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…….

  9. Chris Dip, dip, dip is a new one to me. All these games were played outdoors and not in front of a TV or computer screen.

  10. Yes thanks, I’d a lovely lazy afternoon in front of television though the Ireland v Italy game was a big disappointment, despite our win. The England v Wales match was much more lively and had a surprise finish with Wales giving England a big shock. Tomorrow is Scotland v France which I shall also watch as Ireland meet France next weekend. Blogging got the boot today!

  11. Hide and Seek..still do with my grandchildren, London Bridges, and Leap Frog..and oh later in life….spin the bottle. It was the best… Don’t share the later with my girls..however, heard my 13 year old grandson have that issue recently at a Halloween party. My daughter was mortified and said she’d never have another one as the kids were too darn aggressive..wanted her 18 and 19 year old to join in..these kids were only 12 and 13…imagine..the girls we’re chaperoning for my daughter and couldn’t believe their ears.. what next? The party was disbanded….

    Dorothy from grammology
    remember to call your gram

  12. Sorry to butt in like this but…I have been trying ot find the origins of a saying of my Grandmoter’s…
    Q, What’s for lunch Grannie?

    Her answer Three Jumps at the cupboard door

    The only reference I could find was by Grannymar on another site which led me here.

    Can you help?

  13. Magpie 11 welcome on board.

    Your question about the phrase ‘Three jumps at the cupboard door’ is one I often heard my late husband use. He learned it from his mother. It was used in answer to the well sung chant “What’s for dinner Ma?

    The quick answer ‘Three jumps at the cupboard door’ meant any of the following:

    “Away out and play or there will be no dinner!”
    “Stop annoying me or you will have to make it yourself!”
    “You will have to jump up to the cupboard and see what you can reach!”

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