This week is World Nursery Rhyme Week and we thought it was a very appropriate time to delve a little deeper into the mysterious world of the children’s rhyme for some fun facts to share in the classroom. Many are based on true stories, and some can date their origin to the Middle Ages. Their repetitions and sing song style made them easy for children to remember and helped to introduce them to rhythm and beat. They’re also often based on less than child friendly topics! Read on to find about cannons, computers and Cockney rhymes!
1. ‘Mary, Mary quite contrary’ may be based on Mary Queen of Scots or Bloody Mary. Those subscribing to the Bloody Mary school think the silver bells refer to instruments of torture!
2. ‘Mary had a Little Lamb’ was written by Sara Josepha Hale and was based on the true tale of a girl who took her pet lamb to school.
3. It was also, coincidentally, the first recording Thomas Edison made on his phonograph.
4. In 1951 Baa Baa Black Sheep was the first song to be recorded onto a computer.
5. Humpty Dumpty was in fact a cannon, which was used by Royalist soldiers during the English Civil War. It was put on top of a wall in Colchester until it was blasted off by Roundhead soldiers.
6. ‘Georgie-Peorgie’ is actually the Prince Regent, later George IV.
7. ‘Doctor Foster’ is reputed to be based on Edward I who, when visiting Gloucester, accidentally steered his horse into a puddle and vowed never to return to the town.
8. ‘Pop goes the Weasel’ apparently refers to the Cockney rhyming slang for ‘Pop’ meaning to pawn, and weasel and stoat, meaning coat.
9. ‘Hush a Bye Baby’ is thought to have been written by a British boy who emigrated to America with the Pilgrim Fathers. He based it on the Native American practice of putting cradles in the branches of trees.
10. Shakepseare mentions Jack and Jill in A Midsummer’s Night Dream.