Opie collection of children's games & songs

Recording of children demonstrating songs and discussing playground games with Iona Opie and an interview with unidentified female speaker from Warrington, Lancashire (part 1 of 2)

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  • Type


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  • Subjects

    Children's games; Children's songs

  • Recording date


  • Is part of (Collection)

    Opie collection of children's games and songs

  • Recording locations

    Birmingham and Ashbourne, Derbyshire, England

  • Interviewers

    Opie, Iona (speaker, female)

  • Speakers

    unidentified (children)

  • Abstract

    Part 1 of 2. [00:00:00 - 00:31:27]. This recording from Birmingham, 1972, contains an interview with a female speaker originally from Warrington, Lancashire, and a discussion with and performances by a group of schoolgirls from Birmingham. The recording begins with a short interview between Iona Opie and a female speaker who grew up in Warrington during the 1940s. The speaker describes how she would walk round to her neighbours' houses with a maypole, performing songs for them. While performing these songs, the children would have to play different characters: the gypsy, the fairy and the queen who would be crowned. Having chosen who would play what role, she explains that she and the other children would then begin to sing. The first included the following lyrics: 'round and round the maypole, merrily we go, tripping, tripping lightly, swinging to and fro, all the happy pastimes in the village green, waiting in the sunshine for our fairy queen'. They would then go on to sing: 'rat- a- tat- tat, rat- a-tat- tat, she's the merry, merry gypsy queen. Gyspy Jane, in yon fields and in yon lanes, selling baskets is my trade and fortunes do I tell'. Lastly, the children would sing: 'For she's the fairy queen. Around the fire we eat and drink'. This was followed by the crowning of the queen [00:00:00 - 00:02:35]. After this interview there is a short pause in the recording and when the tape resumes Iona is now with a group of schoolgirls. They begin by performing the singing game 'She Wears Red Feathers'. One of the children explains that this song was 'made up' by her friend and was then spread around the entire school [00:02:48 - 00:05:07]. The children also perform the singing games 'Flee, Fly, Flo' [00:05:09 - 00:07:13]; 'What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor?' [00:22:45 - 00:24:36]; 'Shirley Temple' [00:24:41 - 00:25:44] and 'The Big Ship Sails' [00:26:25 - 00:30:32]. When asked how they would classify these games, the children decide upon 'happy games' and 'jolly games'. The schoolgirls perform a number of clapping songs. These include 'Under the Bam Bush' (a variation of 'Under the Bram Bush') [00:07:54 - 00:09:17]; 'A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea' [00:09:19 - 00:11:46]; 'Miss Mary Mack' [00:11:47 - 00:12:33]; 'I Had the German Measles' [00:12:44 - 00:14:45]; 'When Susie Was a Baby' [00:14:47 - 00:15:45]; 'My Mummy Told Me' [00:15:46 - 00:16:45] and 'See, See My Playmate' [00:19:48 - 00:21:06]. The children also briefly refer to and perform the skipping song 'Jelly on a Plate' [00:07:44 - 00:07:52]. Alongside the singing and clapping games, the children also recite short rhymes that they have learnt. One girl sings: 'I brought a little monkey, his name was Mickey Jim, I took him to the vat, to see if he could swim, he drank up all the water, he drank up all the soap, next thing I know, there was a bottle in his throat' [00:19:13 -  00:19:46]. This is followed by the rhyme: 'As I was walking down inky pinky lane, I met some inky pinky children, they asked me the colour of the Union Jack, red, white or blue? Blue.' Lastly, one of the schoolgirls sings a rhyme that she explains she likes to sing as she is walking and finds funny. She sings: 'Cheeky cheeky Chinaman, walking down the road, cheeky cheeky Chinaman, carrying a heavy load, walked into a shop, and then he heard a noise go bop, bop, bop' [00:21:32 - 00:22:42].

  • Description

    Item notes: Recording of children demonstrating songs and discussing playground games with Iona Opie and an interview with unidentified female speaker from Warrington, Lancashire. Speakers' notes: Group of Birmingham and Ashbourne schoolchildren. Interviewee's notes: Unidentified female speaker from Warrington, Lancashire. Recording notes: Slight dropouts/slips to tape extremities. Otherwise good throughout.

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