‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Country Dancing, Nursery Rhymes, Singing Lessons, Assemblies.  The Music of Childhood That Stays With Us Forever!

‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Hippy Attempt on the Summit of Mount Snowdon. What Foolish Things We Did as Students! Cup of Tea Tales

  1. ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Hippy Attempt on the Summit of Mount Snowdon. What Foolish Things We Did as Students!
  2. ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Ashworth’s Sweet-Shop, Harehills. Sweets, Victory V Lozenges, Sweet Cigarettes and Other Delights We Have Lost Over The Years. 
  3. ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – A’ Levels, the Final Year at High School, Planning to Leave Home, Getting into College and Growing Older if Not Wiser.
  4. David’s Bookshelf Issue 5
  5. ‘Cup Of Tea Tales’- Remember, Remember the Fifth of November – Bonfire Night Shenanigans! Not Fun for Everyone!
Not really a Yorkshire Accent, but the best I can find.

It appears that our brains and memory work in mysterious ways. When I often wander into a room and wonder why I am there and what I was going to do, the distant past seems to be able to bubble up to the conscious memory on a regular basis. The odd sound, phrase or picture can draw experiences of our childhood to the fore. Music seems to be particularly good at this, as is smell, and the earliest memories are of my mother singing songs and nursery rhymes, the radio and television children’s programmes. I had a shower last night and as I got out, Andy Pandy sprang to mind, and I could happily sing the whole of the song, much to my wife’s surprise. She is becoming more and more sure that I am losing my mind, but of course, you had to have one to lose one.

When you think of one song from a period, it is hard not to remember others, and a host of other tunes and songs came forward for an outing: Nellie the Elephant, They’re Changing Guards at Buckingham Palace, The Runaway Train, There’s a Hole in My Bucket, Right Said Fred (the song not the duo), and Sparky, to mention just a few. As I got a little older, then TV themes such as Tales from the Riverbank, Four Feather Falls, Supercar, Robin Hood, William Tell, Petticoat Junction, Mr Ed, and The Adams Family were all firm favourites and have a special place in my childhood memories. They remind me of an innocent time, when we watched with wonder, what now look very basic programmes, often in black and white, and with the early puppet shows, the strings were clearly visible.

At my first schools, it was the games we played, The Farmer’s in His Den, where we formed a ring, joined our hands and someone was the farmer and when he wanted a wife another child was added. These were simple games that taught us rhythms, rhymes, movement and joy. London Bridge is Falling Down was another movement game with some non-politically correct words. Here comes the chopper to chop off your head, was great fun as a child, probably historically accurate, but not suitable for modern, squeamish attitudes. The nursery rhymes were often steeped in history, though in some cases their origins are vague, misreported or confused. Mary, Mary Quite Contrary, was apparently about Mary Queen of Scots, who came to a nasty end. Just to give it a local context, her husband, Lord Darnley, owned Temple Newsham house. It is suggested that Mary had her husband murdered, but that could be a protestant rumour just to discredit her as a catholic. Ring a Ring o’ Roses, we were told at school, was about the plague, but I have read that was not the case. In another we have a Yorkshire link as I have read that, Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush, was about the exercise yard in Wakefield prison. Goosey, Goosey, Gander is also an anti-catholic rhyme, as the old man who wouldn’t say his prayers is supposed to be a priest hiding in a large house, when catholic worship was banned. His fate was to be thrown down the stairs. A lovely story for young children, but I bet almost all of us can remember them! Some never made sense to me at the time, and I have no idea why Jack’s head wounds would be treated with vinegar and brown paper.

At Harehills County primary, we would often listen to or join in skipping games and the girls would have complicated rhymes to go with the skipping. When choosing who would be the catcher in tag, or hide and seek, it was often done with two fists extended in a circle and one person chanting, One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato, Four, Five Potato, Six Potato, Seven Potato More, and someone was selected. Another was Eeny, Meeny Miny, Moe! This apparently had a definite racist history, but we had no idea when we were young.

At Harehills School, from the middle primary, we started to have country dancing lessons. I don’t remember much of the dances, but they meant that we had to dance with the girls and hold hands. This was the cause of much hilarity at the time, but it was fun. It did show that some children had no sense of rhythm and timing at all. I can still picture the dancing, but I can’t remember the tunes we danced to. Music lessons were limited to singing and the songs are still clear in my memory, and I have taught them when I gave primary music lessons. The Keeper Did a Shooting Go, Oh Soldier, Soldier, Won’t You Marry Me?, The Mermaid (with a comb and a glass in her hand, her hand, her hand), Hearts of Oak and Greensleeves are firmly etched in my mind and I will probably spend the day singing to myself and anyone else in the house. The words are clear and as easily remembered as they were fifty-odd years ago, but their meaning still as confusing. Why were the landlubbers lying down below?

We did learn to play the recorder at Harehills, and that probably explains why I still have an aversion to the instrument. There is nothing worse than thirty unskilled children blowing the life out of the plastic instruments of torture, and I include here my youngest son teaching himself to play the bagpipes he bought a few days ago. I must add to this, as I think beginning violin is on a par with the recorder for testing human endurance. I did start lessons with my older brother, whilst at Harehills. I think I went to one lesson with an old lady, but on the second visit I held on to the metal railings outside her house and couldn’t be dragged in for a second go. I don’t think that was a great loss for music, and probably better for the tutor.

As a teenager, I believed that advertising had no effect upon me, and that I was above such things. The truth is that I can vividly remember the adverts from my youth and sing them, as can my wife. A Thousand and One Cleans a Big, Big, Carpet For Less Than Half a Crown, You’ll Wonder where The Yellow Went, When You Brush Your Teeth With Pepsodent, are just a couple of examples. Now I’ve reminded you, I bet you can’t get them out of your head. Aggh!! Here comes some more: John Collier, John Collier, The Window to Watch, Ticka, Ticka Timex, A Mars a Day Helps You Work Rest and Play, Fry’s Turkish Delight and the Milky Bar Kid. Real ear worms!

Of course, we loved Christmas carols and in primary school we had our own lyrics: We Three Kings of Orient Are, Selling Soap at Tuppence a Bar, Whilst Angels Washed Their Socks That Night all Seated Round the Tub, The Angel of the Lord Came Down and Showed Them How to Scrub! We all sang with gusto, but woe betide you if Mr Kelly caught you! I was genuinely puzzled why there was a green hill without a city wall, as hills don’t usually have walls, but the words were changed when I started primary teaching to outside the city walls, which made more sense to young children.

At assemblies, a record of classical music would be played as we waited for everyone to arrive and be ready. I never really thought about them, but it is interesting how many classical pieces I remember. I may not know the names or the composers, but I know the melodies. Some I remember as they were used as television theme tunes.

At Roundhay School, music is almost missing from my memory, which is sad. Mr Goldthorpe I do remember well, but not a lot about what he taught us. He did organise a trip to see the Mikado, and even though I wasn’t particularly taken with it at the time, I do remember the songs, and they have stuck with me. In assemblies, we had to sing hymns, but I can’t remember many. I believe we used to sing Jerusalem, and the Lord is My Shepherd. At the final assembly each year we would sing, God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again! One of the joys of assemblies, particularly the longer end-of-year ones, was the boys who fainted. There were always one or two, particularly if the weather was hot, but the final assembly could produce a series of dramatic ones.

This has just reminded me of a school nativity play and carol service when I was a teacher in Wakefield. It was held in the local church and got a decent audience. The crib scene was set around the pulpit, with a boy as Joseph and a girl as Mary. They had been there a while and suddenly Joseph fainted. He slid gracefully to the floor and somehow his head was stuck between the pulpit and the old central heating radiator. A teacher tried to pull him out, but his head was too big and it made the situation worse. All the time the children kept on singing, and it took several teachers, me included, to lift the boy horizontally upwards, until his head was above the thick radiator so he could be removed. It added a great deal of drama to the evening and the boy made a full recovery.

At Roundhay, the Christmas Carol service broke the monotony of the year and it was a major event, as all the boys had to be marched up to St Edmund’s Church. It was a rowdy rabble that arrived and sat in the old pews on the old stone flags. I used to enjoy the singing of the carols and, as in primary school carol services, we sang some interesting and rude lyrics to one or two of the carols. We certainly had to be careful not to be heard by certain teachers, as the punishment could be quite severe.

St Wilfrid’s

As a choir member at St Wilfrid’s Church, we used to sing a wide range of carols and my favourites for some reason were the Coventry Carol and Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel. Most of the time, I had no idea what the carols were about. Who knew or cared who Good King Wenceslas was? But the tunes were memorable and there is something very pleasurable in mass singing.

Of course, being from Yorkshire, there is one song that we all heard many times. On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at, was the anthem that we all knew, but often not many of the verses. Anyone who has ever been on the moor would know the folly of not wearing a hat! If you have read this, then I’m sure that you will have your own selection of tunes that will remind you of your youth. Happy Days!

My first ever novel set in a school based on one I taught in, in Wakefield. An easy read for anyone age ten or above, full of history, mystery and fun.

5 Replies to “‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Country Dancing, Nursery Rhymes, Singing Lessons, Assemblies.  The Music of Childhood That Stays With Us Forever!”

  1. What memories. Here are a few more. Bill and Ben – the flower-pot men, of course – not forgetting Little Weed; The Magic Roundabout (at university in Liverpool in the mid-60’s, the student union would go quiet to watch Uncle Zebedee and company), Noggin The Nog, The Clangers, but my favourite has to be Captain Pugwash and its jaunty musical intro. The latter is my oldest recollection of children’s TV shows, reminding me of our very first black and white TV with its enormous 10-inch screen. I think I was just ten years old at the time.


    Virginia, USA.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great times, Terry. I loved Noggin the Nog. Time really does fly away from us, but it is good to look back and remember. It is also great to look forward to some good times.


  2. Hi David, I love your cup of tea tales- revives many childhood and teenage memories. I was born 1954 and went to Coldcotes infants/ juniors but the music curriculum was exactly the same as yours – singing and recorder. Those songs we sang were certainly baffling.at times e.g the lyrics of Nelly Bly (piped her eye and then she went to sleep) and Polly Wolly doodle. Of the popular songs jof the time, 76 trombones, always brings memories flooding back- one of which is being taken to the pet shop Harehills to buy a tortoise. Goodness knows why these two are linked in my mind! Another TV programme theme I remember are Torchy (Torchy,Torchy the battery boy). Liked seeing the pictures of St Edmunds- I lived a few hundred yards down the road (15 North Park Avenue) in my teens. Went to youth groups and church there and got married there in 1976.
    Best wishes

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad that you enjoyed my tale, Jane. I think we lived through some marvellous times. Not everything was good, but as children we weren’t aware of what was going on. I loved Torchy, as well. Simple times. You lived in a lovely part of Leeds. It still is, but many of the big houses are now flats.
      Take care


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