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Sunday 17 July 2016

The Prisoner – It’s Childs Play! IV

    ‘Once Upon A Time’……..traditionally most every story or fairy tale nearly always begins with the words “Once upon a time” and the 16th episode of ‘the Prisoner’ is no different, at least as far as the title of the episode is concerned!
   Number 6’s mind is regressed back to his childhood. However it’s not all child’s play for Number 2, who spends the night reciting nursery rhymes to the slumbering Number 6 with the pulsator just above his head.

“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,   
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again!”
    Humpty Dumpty was a colloquial term used in fifteenth century England describing someone who was obese. This gave rise to various but inaccurate theories surrounding the identity of Humpty Dumpty. The image of Humpty Dumpty was made famous by the illustrations included in the ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’ novel by Lewis Carroll. However Humpty Dumpty was not a person pilloried in the famous rhyme.
    Humpty Dumpty was in fact a large canon! It was used during the English Civil War {1642-1649} in the siege of Colchester {June 13th 1648-August 27th 1648}. Colchester was strongly fortified by the Royalists and was laid to siege by Parliamentarians {Roundheads}. In 1648 Colchester was a walled town with a castle and several churches and was protected by the city wall.
     Standing immediately adjacent to the city wall, was St. Mary’s Church. A canon, colloquially called Humpty Dumpty, was strategically placed on the wall next to St. Mary’s Church.
    June 15th 1648 – St. Mary’s church was fortified and a large canon was placed on the roof which was fired by ‘One-eyed Jack Tompson’.
July14th/15th 1648 – The Royalist fort within the city walls at St. Mary’s Church was blown to pieces and their main canon battery {Humpty Dumpty} was destroyed.
    August 28th 1648 – The Royalists laid down their arms, opened the gates of Colchester and surrendered to the Parliamentarians.
    A shot from a Parliamentary canon succeeded in damaging the wall beneath Humpty Dumpty which caused the canon to tumble to the ground. The Royalists or Cavaliers, ‘All the King’s men’ attempted to raise Humpty Dumpty on another part of the wall. However, because the canon, or Humpty Dumpty, was so heavy ‘All the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.
This had a drastic consequence for the Royalists as the strategically important town of Colchester fell to the Parliamentarians after a siege lasting eleven weeks. Earliest publication was in1810.

“Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.               
Up got Jack, and home did trot
As fast as he could caper.
He went to bed and bound his head,
With vinegar and brown paper.”
    The roots of this story, or poem, of Jack and Jill lay in France. Jack and Jill referred to, are said to be King Louis XVI - Jack who was beheaded {who lost his crown} followed by his Queen Marie Antoinette - Jill, {who came tumbling after}. The words and lyrics to the Jack and Jill poem were made more acceptable as a story for children by providing a happy ending! The actual beheadings occurred during the ‘Reign of Terror’ in 1793.
    The first publication date for the lyrics of Jack and Jill poem is 1795 – which ties in with the history and origins. The Jack and Jill poem is also known as Jack and Gill – the miss-spelling of Gill is not uncommon in nursery rhymes as they are usually passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth.
    It was the device known as the Guillotine, or Madame Guillotine which was used extensively during that ‘Reign of Terror’ in 1793. Yet the origins of the Guillotine are to be found here in England, contained in the following nursery rhyme.

“Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
how does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockleshells
    And pretty maids all in a row.”
    This nursery rhyme doesn’t appear in ‘the Prisoner’, but bear with me for a moment, as it does demonstrate the origins of the Guillotine. Mary of course is Mary Tudor the daughter of Henry VIII. Queen Mary was a staunch Catholic and the garden referred to is an allusion to graveyards which were increasing in size with those who dared to continue to adhere to the protestant faith – protestant martyrs.
    The ‘Maiden’ shortened to ‘Maids’ in the nursery rhyme was in fact the original Guillotine. The ‘silver bells’ were in fact thumbscrews! And ‘cockleshells’ are believed to have been instruments of torture, which were attached to the genitals!
But that’s another story………..

“The Grand of Duke of York he had ten thousand men,
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.
   When they were up, they were up
And when they were down, they were down
And when they were only halfway up
They were neither up nor down.”

    The words of “The Grand old Duke of York” are believed to date back to the Plantagenet dynasty in the 15th century and refer mockingly to the defeat of Richard, “The Grand old Duke of York in the wars of the Roses {1455}, the war between the house of York {whose symbol was the White Rose] and the house of Lancaster {whose symbol was the Red Rose}. The wars of the Roses lasted thirty years and were equivalent to a Civil War.
    The words of the nursery rhyme are believed to refer to Richard Duke of York, claimant to the English throne and protector of England and the Battle of Wakefield on December 30th 1460.
The Duke of York and his army marched to his castle at Sandal where Richard took up a defensive position against the Lancastrian army. Sandal castle was built on top of the site of an old Norman Motte and Bailey fortress. Its massive earthworks stood 33 feet {10m} above the original ground level. The Duke of York “he marched his men to the top of the hill”. In a moment of madness he left his stronghold in the castle and went down to make a direct attack on the Lancastrians “he marched them down again.” His army was overwhelmed and Richard Duke of York was killed.

    ‘Boys and Girls come out to play’ is a tune played during the episode of ‘Once Upon A Time’, and previously to be hummed in the outer office of the Labour Exchange in ‘Arrival,’ the lyrics of the nursery rhyme are;
    “Boys and girls come out to play,
The moon doth shine as bright as day,
Leave your supper and leave your sleep.
And come with your play fellows into the street.
    Come with a whoop, come with a call,
Come with a good will, or not at all.
    Up the ladder and down the wall,
A halfpenny loaf will serve us all.
    You find milk, I’ll find flour,
And we’ll have pudding within the hour.”

    This nursery rhyme probably dates back to the middle 17th century, when all children were treated as small adults and would therefore often be found playing outside in the moonlight.

“Seesaw Margery Daw
Johnny shall have a new master
He shall earn but a penny a day
Because he can’t work any faster.”

    The seesaw is the oldest ride for children, easily constructed from logs of different sizes. The words “see saw Marjory Daw” reflect children playing on a seesaw and singing this rhyme to accompany their game. There is no such person that can be identified who had the name Marjory Daw and so we can therefore make the assumption that it was purely used to rhyme with the words ‘seesaw’.
The last three lines of “Seesaw Marjory Daw” seem to reflect the use of child labour in workhouses where those with nowhere else to live would be forced to
work for a pittance “a penny a day” on piece work “because he can’t work any faster”
The words of “Seesaw Marjory Daw” might be used by a spiteful child to taunt another implying his family were destined for the workhouse.
    It is interesting at this point to note that during ‘Once Upon A Time’ when Numbers 2 and 6 recite “Seesaw Marjory Daw” between them, the name Johnny is substituted for Jackie;
Seesaw Marjory Daw
Jackie shall have a new master
Marjory Daw
Jackie hall have a new master
A new master
New master
   So why the substitution, perhaps because if the original name of ‘Johnny’ had been used by both Number 2 and Number 6, it would have given the impression of ‘Johnny’-John-John Drake as in fact the Prisoner being John Drake and with the possibility of now having a new master!
So substitute Jackie for the original Johnny and you have…….
See saw Marjory Daw
Johnny shall have a new master
Marjory Daw
Johnny shall have a new master
A new master
New master
………. Takes on a different meaning, wouldn’t you say?

“Half a pound of tu’penny rice,
half a pound of treacle,
that’s the way the money goes,
pop goes the weasel.
Up and down the city road
In and out of the Eagle
That’s the way the money goes
Pop goes the weasel.”
    Pop means to pawn, and it is quite possible, even highly probable that weasel has, over the years, been corrupted from Whistle, which would be cockney rhyming slang for suit, whistle and flute. Father’s best suit was pawned on Monday to pay for food for the week because he had drunk all his earnings in the Eagle public house over the weekend. His suit would then be redeemed on the Friday so that he could go out for a drink over the weekend! A never ending circle of poverty, all because of drink!
    From Charles Dickens ‘Christmas Carol’ we know that Scrooge’s counting house is in the city, near Cornhill, and that Bob Cratchit runs home to Camden Town, where Dickens lived as a boy. The walk is uphill but not uplifting, and he probably cut up City Road, passed the infamous Eagle slum dwellings, that gave us the nursery rhyme “Half a pound of tuppeny rice, half a pound of treacle! That’s the way the money goes, pop goes the weasel.”  
The next verse, busy with its “in and out of the eagle”, ends with the same “popping,” or pawning that poor Bob must have had to do once a week on his dismal 15-shilling salary.

    And so it is that ‘Once Upon A Time’ closes with the gentle tune of;
 “Twinkle, Twinkle little Star, how I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky.
When the blazing sun has gone, when he nothing shines upon
Then you show your little light, twinkle, twinkle all night
Then the traveller in the dark, thanks you for your tiny spark
He could not see which way to go, if you did not twinkle so.
In the dark blue sky you keep, and often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye, ‘till the sun is in the sky’.
As your bright and tiny spark lights the traveller in the dark,
Though I know not what you are - twinkle, twinkle little star.”

    The beautiful words of Twinkle, twinkle little star have been immortalised in the poem and music has been added thus increasing its popularity. The simile ‘like a diamond in the sky’ teaches children how words can be used to paint a picture in the imagination. The words create a comparison between the twinkling of a star and a sparkling diamond thus providing a perfect illustration of clever imagery and excellent used of the English language.
It was first published in 1806, its joint authors Ann Taylor {1782-1866} Jane Taylor {1783-1824}.

   I hope you have enjoyed this excursion into the childishness of ‘the Prisoner,’ although I think you will agree that nursery rhymes in themselves are not quite child’s play! As far as I am aware it is an aspect of the series which has never been touched on before. And now all I am left to do is wish you, as Uncle Mac used to sign off on ‘Children’s Favourites’ and ‘Children’s Hour;’

Good night children everywhere.

Be seeing you

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