Bits and Pieces


 

In 1976 Gomer Press published ‘A  collection of Poems and Pictures for Children’ edited by Don Dale-Jones and W Randal Jenkins. It is a collection of poems and rhymes for children by well known writers, school children and rhymes from various Welsh locations. While leafing through it in the Christmas holidays I was struck by one which I felt strongly misplaced in Swansea rather than Carmarthen in a slightly different version. The Swansea version was thus

Mary Jane

“What’s your name?”

“Mary Jane.”

“Where d’you live?”

“ Down the Lane.”

“What d’you keep?”

“ A little shop.”

“What d’you sell?”

“ Ginger pop.”

“ How many bottles do you sell in a day?”

“ Twenty four now go away.”

The version known in my family, and it was used as a rhyme rendered in a singsong voice when small children were rocked on an adult foot, was

“What’s your name ?”

“Mary Jane.”

“Where do you live?”

“ In Jackson’s Lane.”

“What do you keep?”

“ A little shop.”

“What do you sell?”

“Ginger pop.”

 

I wonder if there are any more versions [as of course I am sure that it originated in Carmarthen!] that were adapted from it when people migrated from this area as people followed work opportunities in the mining and metal working areas of South Wales. Randal Jenkins came from the Swansea area. 

Another ‘children’s rhyme from Carmarthen’ made me think of the museum. I wonder if this was the matriarch Hannah White whose pet dog we have in our collection? 

Mrs White and the Ghost.

Mrs White

Had a fright

In the middle of the night.

She saw a ghost

Eating toast

Halfway up a lamp-post.

Wales is renowned for its nick names-so necessary when so many people had the same given names and surnames. I was always confused as a child about who Mary the Red Cow’s daughter was, the Merry Widow, Mrs One-Eye and many more. In Christ Church it was necessary to distinguish between two large Lewis families who took such an active part in church activities. B.A.’s family was easily labelled as ‘Lewis the Gas’ since he was manager of the town gas works. The other Lewis’ were the ‘Gas Lighters’ as the father lit and extinguished the streetlights. At the beginning of the last century the whole family went to Sunday school, not just the children, and Mrs Lewis the Gas Lighter was in the same class as my grandmother. Every Spring, or so it seemed, she carried a babe Welsh fashion in a shawl. When it was remarked upon once she said it was strange that they always come in the spring - hence ‘Tulips’ as the alternative name for the family. The boys were stalwarts of the church choir and all achieved distinction in the church or as teachers.

Mary Binding

First published in The Friend September 2003