steepholm (steepholm) wrote,
steepholm
steepholm

I haven't the heart to poke poor Billy...

Harry Graham's Ruthless Rhymes were rumbling through my mind last night. My mother's never quoted the one about Billy and his sash, but other lugubrious rhymes and songs from her childhood pop up regularly in conversation. Was it the place (Wrexham) or the period (the Depression) that made them so appealing - or a happy combination of the two? Either way, for me they evoke the era in vivid monochrome. One of her favourites:

'Why build a wall 'round a graveyard
When nobody wants to get in?
Why build a wall round a graveyard
When nobody wants to get out?
They say its a beautiful haven of rest
But you know that you'll be a permanent guest
So, why build a wall round a graveyard
When nobody wants to get in?

Why build a wall round a graveyard
When no body wants to get in?
Why build a wall round a graveyard
When no body wants to get out?
"You're not dead but sleeping", they put it with care
But no body calls you at nine o'clock there
So, why build a wall round a graveyard
When no body wants to get out?'

or - with shades of 'Long Lamkin', though sung to the tune of 'The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze'...

'There's blood on the table
There's blood on the knife,
Dr Buck Ruxton you've murdered your wife' (he had, too. Do today's children sing about Harold Shipman? I've not heard them - but I do not think that they will sing to me...)

Shading into the brittle insouciance of (what Google now tells me is Chesterton, which figures):

'I remember my mother the day that we met,
A thing I shall never entirely forget -
And I toy with the fancy that, young as I am,
I would know her again if we met on a tram.
But mother is happy in turning a crank
That increases the balance in somebody's bank;
And I feel satisfaction that mother is free
From the sinister task of attending to me.'

Happy days... I've lived with these all my life, but I've no idea whether they're well known in the world at large. Are they?
Tags: books, family history
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