school holidays

Our song is done, we must be gone, No longer can we stay. God bless you all, both great and small, And we wish you a happy day.

There was a time in living memory when most children knew and could repeat by heart a collection of schoolyard verses and doggerel. Some of the poems were pure nonsense as in…

Kids on slide

I went to the pictures tomorrow
And took a front seat at the back
A woman he gave me some chocolate,
I ate it and gave it him back
I fell from the pit to the gallery
And broke a front bone in my back.
I phoned for a taxi and walked it
And that's why I never came back.

Others were tongue twisters…

There's no need to light a night-light
On a light night like tonight,
For a night-light's a slight light
On a light night like tonight

There were threats…

See my finger,
See my thumb,
See my fist,
Here it comes!

There were insults…

1953 school holidays

Billy Smith is no good,
Chop him up for firewood.
When he's dead, boil his head,
And make it into gingerbread

And there were ‘pick up’ choosing rhymes…

Dip dip dip
My little ship,
Sails on the water,
Like a cup and saucer
You are the one To - Be - It!

But the most popular, the most universal of these rhymes, concerned the end of the school term and the beginning of the holidays. There will be people reading this today who can still remember…


One more day of woe,
One more day of sorrow,
One more day in this old dump.
The holidays start tomorrow.

Or the more violent…

Kick up tables, kick up chairs,
Throw our teachers down the stairs.
No more school, thank goodness for that,
Ha ha ha I can go and slack!

Or the slightly more sophisticated…

No more Latin, no more French,
No more sitting on the old school bench.
No more English, no more stick,
No more flipping arithmetic
One more day and we'll be free
From this place of misery.

There were also rhymes and poems popular with girls for friends who were leaving the school for good…

Goodbye Joan, while you're away
Send me a letter every day
Be a good girl, lead a good life,
Get a good husband and
Be a good wife.

Do schoolchildren still remember and use these snatches of verse or have they been swept from memory by smart phones, E mail and the social networks? Should we be bothered by their possible demise? Like many things from our childhood they served their purpose in their time but that time may have gone. ‘Once was’ is forever replaced by ‘Is now’ and children have always known it…

The life of man is but a span
And cut down in its flower;
We're here today, tomorrow gone,
The creatures of an hour.

Have a great summer!

– from Martyn Day

CREDIT: For more information on children’s verses and rhymes I would recommend ‘The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren’ by Iona and Peter Opie. It is a window on our past.