Opie collection of children's games & songs

Recording of children demonstrating songs and discussing playground games with Iona Opie. An interview with Jean Hersall. (part 1 of 2)

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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

    Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, Cotton End, Bedfordshire and Kirkby Malham, Yorkshire, England

  • Interviewers

    Opie, Iona (speaker, female)

  • Speakers

    unidentified (children)

  • Abstract

    Part 1 of 2. [00:00:00 - 00:47:41]. This recording contains discussions with children from three separate locations: Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, Cotton End, Bedfordshire and Kirkby Malham, Yorkshire, in June, 1982. In each location, Iona Opie discusses playground games and songs with the schoolchildren and records them while they demonstrate these for her. When the recording begins, Iona is heard asking two schoolgirls to explain where she is as she has 'lost track'. They tell her that she is in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire. The two girls are aged ten and eleven years old [00:00:11]. The girls then sing 'Ring a Ring o'Roses' [00:00:42 - 00:01:03]; 'The Cat's Got the Measles' [00:02:06 - 00:02:52]; 'Green Grover' [00:03:08 - 00:04:46] and 'I'm a Little Bumper Car' [00:04:54 - 00:05:26]. The children explain that they have many skipping games but not many singing or ring games as 'we only did those when we was in the very first school'. At [00:05:38] in the recording, Iona explains that she is now in Cotton End, Bedfordshire. The children sing the singing game 'In and Out the Dusty Bluebells' [00:05:38 - 00:06:35] but somewhat reluctantly. One girl remarks that she does not want to sing it as she is a 'big girl now'. The children then sing 'The Farmer's in His Den' [00:06:36 - 00:07:32]. Iona asks the children if they know the singing game 'I'm Shirley Temple', however, they are unaware of it. One schoolgirl then remarks: 'we do it different to you; we don't know half of your songs!' The children go on to explain that they are in middle school now and so do not know 'half the songs that are at Cotton End [the infant school].' They then point out children who are still at the infant school and remark that 'Claire […] knows everything'. Iona asks: 'is that a she?' and the children laugh and note that Claire is a tomboy [00:07:33 - 00:09:26]. The singing game 'Poor Mary is a'Weeping' is also sung by the children. The girls suggest that a boy who is with them knows the whole song 'even though he is a boy!' The boy, however, maintains that he does not know it, 'he just heard the girls singing it at school' [00:09:34 - 00:10:03]. The children finish by beginning to sing 'red  and yellow and pink and green' They then trail off and one girl can be heard remarking: 'we sing that at school, it's a load of rubbish' [00:10:23 - 00:10:43]. From [00:10:56] in the recording, Iona is with a different group of Bedford schoolchildren, all of whom attend the lower school. They sing 'In and Out the Dusty Bluebells' [00:11:26 - 00:12:05] and 'Vote, Vote, Vote, For 'X'  [00:12:09 - 00:12:50].  Iona remarks that this example is 'fantastic' as this song is usually used as a skipping game rather than as a 'circle' game [00:12:09 - 00:12:50]. There is a short pause in the recording at [00:15:00] and Iona explains that she is now in Flitwick, Bedford. There is much background noise from traffic. Iona begins by talking to some schoolgirls, one of whom is thirteen. They sing the skipping song 'I Like Coffee, I Like Tea'.  The girl sings: 'I like coffee, I like tea, I like sitting on a black man's knee' [00:15:27 - 00:15:34]. The girls also sing 'In and Out the Dusty Bluebells' but explain that they cannot remember many of these games as they are much older now. After a brief pause in the recording, Iona remarks that she is now with a group of younger children who attend 'Woodlands Middle School' [00:16:53]. Iona tells the children that the schoolboys near Liss like to watch the children performing 'I'm Shirley Temple' as at the end of the song the girls lift their skirts up. One of the girls remarks that the boys there do not need the excuse of a game to do that; they will just come and lift your skirt up anyway! [00:17:37] From [00:18:03] in the recording, Iona is with children in Malhamdale, Yorkshire. The children demonstrate the following singing games for her: 'Ring a Ring o'Rose's [00:18:15 - 00:19:50]; 'Little Sally Sanders' [00:22:12 - 00:24:17]; 'The Church is Made of Marble Stone' [00:25:11 - 00:26:05]; 'Sea Shells, Cockle Shells' [00:26:06 - 00:26:32]; 'Have You Ever, Ever, Ever?' [00:42:26 - 00:43:10];' A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea' [00:45:25 - 00:46:36] and 'Mary, What Are You Weeping For?' [00:26:40 - 00:47:41]. One of the schoolgirls explains that they sometimes play 'Oranges and Lemons' and 'The Farmer's in His Den' with the infants to 'help them' when they have nothing to play [00:35:10 - 00:35:30]. The skipping songs 'I'm a Little Bumper Car' [00:24:21 - 00:25:10]; 'Julius Caesar' [00:26:33 - 00:26:35]; 'Dan, Dan, the Dirty Man' [00:26:46 - 00:27:00]; 'Good King Wenceslas' [00:27:01 - 00:27:11] and 'Two Little Dickie Birds' [00:31:00 - 00:31:40] are also demonstrated.The children explain that these songs came from a pamphlet they got when they brought a particular skipping rope that had 'little dollies' as the handles [00:28:00]. Iona then tells the children that the people who make these pamphlets often take the rhymes out of books such as those that she and her husband wrote. It then comes full circle again as the children learn them. She remarks: 'it's all quite batty really' [00:29:28 - 00:29:53]. The children then discuss with Iona the skipping game 'Birthdays'. They call the children who turn the rope 'twiners' and another girl calls them 'ups and down-sers' [00:31:50 - 00:33:40]. The clapping song 'When Jenny Had a Baby' (a variation of 'When Susie Was a Baby') is then performed by the schoolgirls [00:43:11 - 00:45:17]. The schoolgirls discuss with Iona some of the games that they play on the playground, based on high physical content. One girl notes that they play 'Squeak, Piggy, Squeak' [00:36:35 - 00:37:18] and 'One, Two, Three, Block' [00:27:19 - 00:39:12]. The recording finishes with the girls explaining to Iona that as they attend such a small school, the girls often play 'with the infants' which, as Iona remarks, is unusual. The girls also remark that they play with a boy who they refer to as a 'Mongol' [00:39:35 - 00:42:18].

  • Description

    Item notes: Recording of children demonstrating songs and discussing playground games with Iona Opie. An interview with Jean Hersall.. Speakers' notes: Group of Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Yorkshire schoolchildren. Recording notes: Slight L/R imbalance, variable throughout. Otherwise good.

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