Curdridge and Curbridge – the same or different ?


                 Curdridge                                                       Curbridge

I have often wondered whether the two Curs in our parish[1] are the same or different. That is, are they of same etymological origin, or are they just an historical coincidence ?

The first thing I noticed when I began to explore this mystery is that the first edition of the Ordnance Survey 1 inch map of South Hampshire solved the problem by deciding that they were one and the same. According to the map there is no such place as Curdridge. Everything is labelled Curbridge – not only Curbridge itself, but also Curbridge Common (the fields from the top of Station Hill to Lockhams Road, Curdridge Lane and The Plantation) and Curbridge House (now Kitnocks House at the top of Kitnocks Hill). They should, of course, be Curdridge Common and Curdridge House. Either the surveyors got confused or maybe someone in the office decided that the surveyors had made a spelling mistake. Fortunately, this was all corrected in later editions.

The next thing I did was e-mail my friend, and local historian, David Chun. He has written a fine book on the history of the River Hamble and its surrounds so I thought I’d ask what he knew about Curdridge and Curbridge. He advised me that he had read that ‘place name interpretation is complex, and not something that an amateur should dabble in!’

However, he also referred me to ‘The Place-Names of Hampshire’ by Richard Coates (1989). He then pointed out that there was a copy available on Amazon for 79p. I bought it at once. The postage was a good bit more of course, but still, it was a good purchase: it answered my question.

Curdridge originates from an Anglo-Saxon name meaning Cuthred’s ridge. In other words, some chap called Cuthred ‘owned’ or had otherwise been granted possession of what we now know as the village of Curdridge, which lies – largely – on a ridge.

Curbridge, meanwhile, was variously known – or at least spelt –as Kernebrugge, Kerebrigge, Kernebregge and Cornebrigge. These names – or spellings – do not obviously have any connection to our man Cuthred. The common cur component in the two village names is, it would seem, a coincidence.

But then there is another mystery. Mr Coates is not at all sure what the meaning of Curbridgde’s Kerne, etc, might in fact be. He is convinced on historical-linguistic grounds that it comes from the Anglo-Saxon for quern – that is, the lower stone of a hand-driven grinding mill, once a common domestic item. He is then understandably unconvinced that anyone would try to build a bridge over a river with a collection of quern-stones. It is, he says, a question he prefers to leave open.

One possibility, of course, is that kern does not refer to – or describe – the bridge, but was, as it is now, the name of the river. But then why would you name a river after a grinding stone ?

My reluctant conclusion is that what David read is right and that this is not the sort of thing an amateur should dabble in.

Kevan Bundell

  1. The Parish is Curdridge, of which Curbridge is a hamlet.

Frog Mill or Paper Mill ?

Frog Mill or Paper Mill ?

A few months ago I mentioned in the Parish News that Frogmill Track – off Wangfield Lane – is so-called because it leads, by footpath, to the now derelict Frog Mill. This was a paper mill, not a corn mill. Rumour says that it used to make paper for Bank of England bank notes, or for the Morning Post newspaper. After my comment appeared I received a phone call from Miss Katherine Stone, formerly of `The Elms’, Outlands Lane, now living in Botley. She was keen to tell me that the correct name of the mill is Paper Mill, not Frog Mill. Her grandfather lived there and always called it by that name.

Here was a mystery. It is certainly known as Frog Mill, or Frogmill, nowadays, and is named as such on OS maps. But even within living memory it was also, it seems, known as Paper Mill. I immediately contacted Dennis Stokes of the Botley and Curdridge Local history Society to see if he could help solve the conundrum. He sent me a paper from the Society’s archives, researched and written by John Hammond , which tells the following story :

Just a quarter of a mile upstream from Frog/Paper Mill sits Durley Mill. In the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries this mill was owned by a family called Frogge. Furthermore the deeds of this mill called it `Frogmill’ right up to the 20th century. Our mill, meanwhile, was, from its earliest record, in 1648, `called a Papermill’ and it was not until 1738 that it is first referred to as Frog Mill. By 1834 it is clearly referred to as `a paper mill known as Frogmill’.

There was obviously some confusion over the centuries and the name Frog transferred from Durley Mill to the Paper Mill, despite the name Frogge remaining on the former’s deeds. John Hammond suggests that Durley Mill `was, no doubt, referred to generally by the name of whoever the owner at that time might be’. This would explain at least why it lost the Frog name over time, leaving the name free to float downstream.

By 1862 Paper Mill was, according to its deeds, `long since disused’, although people continued to live in its associated cottage. John Hammond reports that Jesse Bannell (who was Ms Stone’s Grandfather) and his family lived there from 1871 until at least 1891 and that Walter Henry Elliott and family lived there from 1901 until the 1920s. By 1938 the cottage was no longer occupied and by 1965 the building were all derelict.

It remains a minor mystery how it was that while everyone else followed the confusing of the names and mills, those who lived there still knew very well that the `correct’ name was in fact Paper Mill. We must thank Miss Stone for keeping this knowledge alive !

Kevan Bundell


Richard Phillimore (1907 – 2004).

Richard Phillimore

I first met Commander Richard Phillimore RN (Rtrd) in about 1969 when a friend took me to the Stamp Club which Richard hosted in the playroom of his ancestral home, Shedfield House, near Southampton.  The room had been Richard’s playroom when he was a boy, in the 19-teens’s.  Now it was full of young people again, swapping stamps.  It was not that Richard was particularly interested in stamps, it was rather that he was committed to helping young people, both practically and spiritually.

Richard first got  involved with young people when he was a junior officer in the Royal Navy in the late 1930s.  He was put in charge of boy recruits sent from shore based training establishments to his ship.  He was disturbed to find that they all behaved like zombies, highly disciplined and without personality.  He tried to encourage them to be individuals. (What his superiors might have thought of this approach is unknown . . . ).  But the key event in Richard’s commitment to young people came in 1940 when he found himself about to crash- land in an RAF Wellington bomber which had ran out of fuel.  Richard prayed for the crew and for himself.  He promised that if he should be spared he would like to give his life to helping young people.  He was spared, but he was left hanging upside down from the wreckage trapped by his twisted legs.  He was told by his doctors that he would never walk again.  Fortunately this proved not to be the case and after expert medical care he was back playing cricket – his favourite game – within a year.

I met Richard a few years after he had met the Focolare – an ecumenical movement originating in Italy.[1]  He was always looking for new spiritual movements, especially those which might be attractive to young people. He had gone to a Focolare meeting in London and inspired by what he had heard, he came home and started a group for young people.  I was one of those who became involved, attracted by the practical advice of how to put love into action.  Richard provided us with a place to meet and with transport in his old Volvo to meetings where we spoke about our experiences of trying to put love into practice.  He also took us to the annual Focolare Mariapolis in Manchester and to meetings in London.  He took groups to Focolare centres in Rome, Loppiano and Vallo and to Belgium. There were always young people coming to stay at Shedfield House, including from Belgium and from Northern Ireland – a mixed group of Catholics and Protestants.  Sometimes, however, Richard’s enthusiasm could perhaps overrun his understanding.  He once organised his own Mariapolis for local young people, somewhat to the alarm of the Focolare HQ in London, who only heard about it at the last minute !

The Focolare /GEN was only one of Richard’s many spiritual adventures.  At home he was a stalwart of his local Anglican Church and a Sunday-school teacher.  He was also involved with a local Community Church,  with an Alpha Group,  and with the YMCA, helping to tackle the very practical problem of homelessness and rough sleeping among young people in the 1980s.  He also took a group of young people to Taizé in France.


In 1996 I asked Richard if he wouldn’t mind me interviewing him in order to write a brief article on his life and role in the village, as a farmer and local Squire.  I was planning on an hour or two.  “We might as well start at the beginning”, he said, and proceeded to recount his entire life in month by month – sometimes week by week – detail.  We finally finished nearly one year later.

I was particularly fascinated by his experiences during the Second World War.  He had flown as an observer in Fairy Swordfishes and Grumman Avengers.  He had been deputed by his Admiral to check out the new rockets that the RAF were fitting to Hurricanes and Typhoons – which is how they came to be fitted to Swordfishes too.  He had visited Hiroshima only six weeks after the bomb.

However, he was particularly interested in telling his spiritual adventures and in 2000 Richard produced his own version of his life, entitled  ‘A Spiritual Odyssey’.

I had clearly failed him.[2]

Richard’s autobiography is a fascinating account of Richard’s thoughts and explorations of spirituality over his long life.  Near the end he writes :

‘I hope that this short book may be of value to lay people and especially to those like myself, who are of an inquisitive nature, and want to know what is God’s will for us on our Christian pilgrimage.’

He was indeed spiritually inquisitive, and he always kept to his promise to try and help young people find both themselves and God.  It was a privilege to be his friend.  Richard passed away in 2004 at the age of 97.


[2] I never did write my intended article.  However, my notes and recordings of the interviews now form part of the Phillimore Papers archived in the Hampshire Records Office.  So too does ‘A Spiritual Odyssey’, which you can read  here via the Menu tabs.

Bird Portraits – Poems

By Ivor Bundell
 © IMB (March 2015)


Blackbird………………………………………………………………………………… 3

Buzzard…………………………………………………………………………………… 4

Capercaillie…………………………………………………………………………….. 5

Cuckoo…………………………………………………………………………………….. 6

Goldcrest………………………………………………………………………………… 7

Heron………………………………………………………………………………………. 8

Merlin……………………………………………………………………………………… 9

Nuthatch……………………………………………………………………………….. 10

Red Kite………………………………………………………………………………… 11

Redwing……………………………………………………………………………….. 12

Sparrowhawk………………………………………………………………………. 13

Woodpecker…………………………………………………………………………. 14


 Image result for brooke bond wild birds in britain blackbird

The blackbird is belligerent, he bounds

Across the lawn and brandishes his beak

To send the song-thrush scuttling away;

Only the robin, eyeing with disdain,

Stands his ground; the foolish pigeon waddles

Away, picks at grass, distracted, and flies

With noisy effort into the oak tree;

The keen-eyed blackbird picks and pecks the core.

Like for like – the rest ignore, is Nature’s

Usual silent law, though here the blackbird

Breaks the bonds like some fierce dinosaur

Intent on holding his own territory.

But when I come across him, dazed by sun

On the tar road, I’ll rescue and be done!



Image result for brooke bond bird portraits buzzard

Above the corries and the tarns death wields

The raptor’s talons, flexing wing and claw;

Now buzzards fly where there were none before,

They mew and wheel and scream across the fields;

Crows raise a murder quick to mob the slow

And circling, higher and higher, finger-

-tips feeling the sudden wind-shift, linger

And twist, eyes burning cold on life below.

Nature moves and what was fixed unfixes,

The certainties of time and place removed;

That which was known is suddenly unproved

As evidence subverts and remixes.

High over fields the loitering buzzards soar

And mew and cry – where there were none before.



Image result for brooke bond capercaillie

The Capercaillie cracks the lek and strums

The throttle of his precious range; he arcs

His back with neck full-stretched and utters threats

To the intruding stranger, without fear

Or prejudice to bird or beast or man;

In his domain he rules unconsciously;

As if by right of birth he lords the stage

And plays his regal part with perfect art.

Upon the moors I ventured, all alone,

To feel the wind and watch the peregrine;

By rainbowed pools and swathes of black-burnt ling

I felt the blood that oils the marrow bone.

There is no solace in unbroken cloud

But here the Capercaillie reigning proud!



Image result for brooke bond cuckoo

From sub-Saharan Africa you flew

To take up residence in greener lands;

Whilst you by instinct made your travel plans

Your zig-zag flight we monitored and drew.

Our satellites above the blue relay

Your signals back to earth where we can plot

The path you take (we long ago forgot)

And watch you land somewhere not far away.

In April when the springtime showers fall

I listen for your soft deceptive call

But often not till May blooms on the tree

Do I hear your haunting melody.

Two notes repeated – such a simple song

To tell us Nature does no right or wrong.



Image result for brooke bond goldcrest

Beside the Itchen Navigation’s spate,

Among the willow root and bramble briar,

I watch the tiniest of birds inspire –

A flash of gold arrests and now I wait

And watch: I hold my breath to try and know

Which way it darts and where it lands in search

Of grubs and insects, driven from both birch

And conifer by the un-melting snow.

The light is fading as the waters spill

Across the meadow where the sedge lies flat;

The weeds beside the pathway weave a mat

That tangles weir and clogs the tumbled mill;

I turn to go but cannot fix my mind

On what it is that nature has designed.



Image result for frederick warne grey heron

Poised statue-still in gravestone grey he stands

Unblinking as the river flows by feet

That mirror in the mud; his crest curls neat,

His neck is white and thin; he understands

How Death’s deportment has an etiquette

To which he must adhere; he will not rush

The moment of dispatch; he will not flush

His prey but he will deftly dart and net!

Beware sleek eel that shimmers on the tide

Until the grey-bird spies you in the creek!

Beware lithe trout that streamlines near the side

Until the hunter hurls his spear-like beak!

The heron sheds no tear, does not regret,

Whilst nearby, ghost-like, walks the white egret.





I turned to hear the Spitfire roar again

Across the Solent’s wind-lashed waves and sky,

An angel sweeping over marshes by

The Mulberry harbour through the Eastney rain;

Instead I watch a sudden Merlin fly

Across the sea; then from its lookout post

It spies a lark so high as almost lost

Upon the whitewash canvas of the sky.

Spiralling further in the startling height

The lark evades each angle of the hawk

That plays and practices each feint by right

Of gifted grace above high hills of chalk.

Now in an echo of their finest hour

The Merlin re-enacts its splendid power.






Image result for brooke bond nuthatch

– even the robin must give way! He feeds:

yellow-shirt, eye-dash, coat of steel-grey blue,

Parading, searching, taking what is due,

Boldly selecting the black nigra seeds,

Scattering what he will not eat to the ground

Where blackbirds dash and squabble, pipe and fret;

Etiquette? He has no time for that

But feasts while frost is cold and food is found.


Among the trees in summer I have seen

The silent Creeper zig-zag up the oaks;

The Nuthatch noisily descends and pokes

His beak in crevices in search of green

Bugs and the bounty of returning Spring –


Then I shall walk in woods in search of him.


Red Kite

Image result for red kite illustrations

On Beacon Hill the red kite mews and wheels,

Effortless in wind and ridge-edge riding,

Seeking the heartbeats frozen in hiding,

See how the high hawk hangs then turns and keels.

Over the valley the long-barrowed hill

Silently watches the river below;

Way to the south Wight ferries to-and-fro;

All movement balances and then is still.

We walk among the tussocks and grey sheep,

See violets and earthstars at our feet,

And in the sudden moment are complete

For this is all there is and ours to keep.

On Beacon Hill the red kite cuts a reel

And we remember what it is to feel.




Image result for brooke bond redwing illustrations uk


Each year the redwing come to feed on red

Berries by the window; lashings of bright

Fruit beckons their beaks; the sharp birds alight

In wing-flash squadrons where the sap has bled.

Each year the wind-tossed berry-burdened trees

Roll out a crimson carpet for a queen

To walk at will and watch the redwing preen

Their arctic flights and feed as they may please.

A witness to the moment as it falls

There is no reason to deny its part

In rendering thought, as if struck by a dart –

To see at first, then feel as memory calls.

Now redwings gather in the tree again;

I see the bloody fields awash with rain.






I had left the Osteopathic Clinic

And was driving, cross-country, into town;

The road had re-opened over the downs –

Somewhat to my surprise as a cynic

Regarding road-works and diverted routes –

When, almost at the top of the long hill,

From right to left, split-second sight until

I quickly mark the sudden hawk that shoots!

And in that moment of the wind and sun,

When time was moving at a tempered pace,

I felt the thrill of life rush to my face

And steal a breath as if I could yet run!

But now these numbered days draw me to ground;

While songbirds sing I hide lest I am found.



 Image result for green woodpecker brooke bond


Green on green on grass with glaze-eyed stare he

Stands and stabs the passing ants and quickly

Licks his brackish beak and breaks with laughter

Like a clown, this red-capped madcap jester.

Not for him the drumming tree, the beetle

Under bark that burrows elm; not for him

The leafy grubs where cuckoos call in tall

Oak woods by Hamble’s mud and fallen limb.

His gambit here encroaches on the lawn

And pays no heed to new laid turf and signs;

Instead he feeds at ease along the lines

That flatten like the combing of the corn.

Without remorse, disdainful, dark and proud;

He will not turn to please the curious crowd.

Prices School Fareham ‘Folk’ Concerts – 1969-75.

The 1960’s and into the 70’s was a time of great socio-cultural change – as you may have noticed at the time, or heard since.   Even Fareham was affected – including Prices Grammar School for Boys.   We were encouraged by the spirit of the times – and by certain seditious teachers in English, Drama and Art – to be creative.  Music was the prime medium. The Beatles, Dylan, Paul Simon, and so on, meant that there was both a new permission and a new demand to be creative.  In any case, it was obviously fabulous/groovy/far out to be able to play the guitar and sing – and there was also the chance that the girls we knew might think so too . . .

And so we learnt to play the guitar and to write songs if we possibly could.

Meanwhile, it was a well known fact that the Headmaster, Mr Eric Poyner, believed that the guitar was ‘the instrument of the devil’.

I can see his point.  As a staunchly upper-middle class member of the Church of England, and of an older generation brought up in very different times, he must have been horrified when faced first with rock and roll and then by the libertine antics of The Rolling Stones and the aggression of The Who.   Worst of all,  the hippies :  free love, drugs and long hair.  Even the Beatles had become provocative during the second half of the sixties.  They had grown their long hair even longer.

Meanwhile, as mentioned, a lot of us had learned to play the guitar.

And we had long hair.

The origins of the Prices ‘Folk’ Concert tradition are difficult to pin down because for all those involved it was a very long time ago.   However, sometime in 1968 (probably) two sixth formers, Pat Gatland and Michael Knight – still with relatively short hair – managed to get permission to hold an evening Folk Concert.  Presumably they had the help of one or other of the younger teachers.  Certainly Mr Thomas (Physics) was involved as he had a spot playing the classical harp.  By that time, guitars and folk-style songs were even being heard in church ( Kumbaya, Shalom chevarim) – which must have helped.  Everything was acoustic of course and the songs were both traditional and modern – but folk.  There were even girl performers in the persons of Kathy Russell and a friend.    Other concerts followed in May 1969 and December 1969 – both of which I attended.  Among the performers, I recall Pat Gatland, Paul Hawes and Kathy Russell.  The material remained acoustic and folky – although it seems there may also have been a rendition of the song ‘Cocaine’. . .

The next event was in February 1970.  By this time Paul and Pat had moved on and the responsibility for keeping the ‘tradition’ going had been taken up by Chris Bard (Prices Head Boy, or soon to become so) assisted musically by Dave Cummins (Pricean) and Martin (Tink) Wood (former Pricean?).

Here’s what happened:  in January 1970, Chris and Co began to hire (or possibly just occupy) the Funtley Village Hall on Saturday afternoons in order to create and rehearse for a forthcoming event at Prices which was to be called The Light Show.  In addition to serious rehearsal there was also general music, general hanging out and a pool table.  Chris was good enough to give me a game of pool and wiped me out in about 60 seconds.  Others present included Andy Vores, Nick Manley, Bob Askew, Nick Kahn, Chris Giles and Lindsey and Carole-Jayne Bird – but there were many others.  When it came to the show itself, my important role was to assist on the lights. 

The Light Show introduced two key innovations to the tradition.  One was to add poetry reading and comic sketches to the mix.  Chris led in both.  He wrote and performed obscure poetry and bizarre sketches involving, for example, woodpecker sound-effects and inappropriate French translations.  The second innovation was more fundamental.  Dave and Tink had obtained a P.A. system and an electric guitar.  Andy Vores, meanwhile, was the enthusiastic possessor of a drum kit.   Prices ‘folk’ concerts went electric –  and this was only five years after Dylan had done the very same thing.

Meanwhile, the Saturday afternoon gatherings continued after the show and culminated on April 25th 1970 in an ‘event’ billed as TWEADIFARG ( The West End and District Folk Arts Revival Group), more music and hanging-out as I recall.

Another Prices concert/show/review took place on 6th November 1970.  Dave, Tink and Andy played, but that’s all I can discover.  There  was then another Chris and Co event on the 10th and 11th  December 1970 called Something to Remember.  Music, poetry, sketches, surrealism.  Dave, Tink, Andy and John Cameron played as Gigolo.  I believe I may have done the lights again.

The acoustic tradition had also continued throughout these shows and one of the acoustic performers was Dick Hubbard, an English Teacher at Prices.  He sang traditional ballads such as  the beautiful ‘Geordie’ – while playing the guitar.  (It was also he who reported to us Mr Poyner’s opinion of the aforesaid instrument).

Another performer was Nick Manley.  He had become well known for a entertaining us with an anti-war song of the time and another involving Adam and Eve and a snakeAt one or other of the concerts he was forced by audience demand to sing them again.  Unfortunately, on this occasion, Mr Poyner happened to be listening at the back.  “ I was suspended” says Nick “for singing the Fish Cheer/Fixing to Die Rag[1] and The One Eyed Trouser Snake. I don’t know which song caused the most offence.”

Chris and Co moved on.   The next event – not until December 1971 – was back to the concert format.  We called it Reflections of Summer.  I say ‘we’ because now I was a sixth-former and organised the event together with Paul Gateshill and others.  Perhaps that’s why our band – Lonene – had two slots in the programme while everyone else only had one !  Despite having moved on, Dave and Tink also played – as Morningstar – so too did Dick Hubbard, Bob Gilbert (Head of Music), Nick Manley and Springwind – Nick Kahn, Mick Daysh and Dave CledwynThey also supported Andy Vores who had by then become a singer-songwriter-pianist-composer.  In fact most of us were singer-songwriters – Nick Manley, Lonene, Morningstar, Springwind.  We were creating and delivering original songs and music – and our audience was kind enough to respond with enthusiasm.

Next came Gromboolia, in March 1972, organised by Nick Manley and poet Alan Hill.  The line-up was similar to the preceding concert but also included Andy Morely, Steve Cawte, Colin Andrews and a trio of Dave Andrews, Alan Smith and Colin Frances.

Note that Nick and Alan – who would then have been in the Upper Sixth Form – organised a concert after we – who must have been in the Lower Sixth – organised Reflections of Summer.  How the devil did we junior boys get away with it ?

Someone organised another concert in May 1973.  It could have been me and others.  I can’t remember.  However, Lonene performed again – Paul Gateshill, Tracey Coles, Dave Cledwyn and myself.  So too did Nick Kahn and Mick Daysh, but now with Jackie White (previously with Lonene); and the Andy Vores band, which incorporated folks promiscuously from other bands and elsewhere.  Kathy and Rosalind Russell also made a reappearance after long absence.  New performers included PINT (among whom were my brother Ivor Bundell) and Tarsus (Chris Nash, Mark Luckham and Andy Sandham ).

This concert was recorded.  I had a cassette recorder which I must have put in front of the PA speakers and pressed play and record.

I also recorded part of the last concert I attended – after I had left Prices – in July 1975.  This was, once again, of the highly promiscuous, now even further expanded, Andy Vores band – which included Ivor Bundell, Tracey Coles,  Mick Daysh, John Cameron, Kate Burleigh and Liz Kearns – who both sang and danced.  This recording is available now in digital format should you wish – for some reason – to hear it.

What happened to the tradition beyond 1975 I do not know.  Prices was beginning its transition from Grammar school to Sixth Form College and times were [a-]changing.  If anyone knows what happened next, please tell us.


Dramatis personae.

There seems to be a general consensus still that Dave Cummins was the most talented and creative guitarist of the time.  He also had a wonderful Swedish Hagstrom acoustic guitar with a built-in pick-up – unheard of in those days.  Early on he played with Martin (Min) Gateshill and was thereby an influence on Min’s younger brother Paul Gateshill.  Paul, in turn,  helped me learn how to play the guitar. That is, I had to strum chords for him for hours while he practised his magic-fingered lead.

Martin WoodTink – (Mar[tin K]enneth Wood) also played with Dave from early on.  I was always puzzled that he played a nylon-strung Spanish Guitar rather than steel.  It was even suggested to me once  that Tink was a better guitarist than Dave.  The fact is they were both an inspiration and wrote some great songs together, and with Nick Manley too – see below.

Chris (No-holds) Bard was a general inspiration to us all – an impresario rather than a musical influence – although I’m told he played the saxophone.  He was a huge creative talent – founder of and contributor to the ‘Black Lion’, organiser of ‘folk’ concerts/shows/’reviews’ and other events, Head Boy at Prices – when he seemed to take over morning Assembly, leaving the Headmaster and staff diminished in his wake.Chris_Bard

Unfortunately, Chris, Tink and Dave are no longer with us.

You can find an obituary for Chris at

I met Tink again when we travelled up to London on the train together in the early 2000s.  He was as delightful, gentle and kind a man as I had always remembered him.  Then timetables changed and we no longer coincided.  Next thing I heard, he had gone.  Tink’s wife Jane (Suter) had also been part of the creativity – the sketches in particular.  She is also gone.

Dave I never knew so well.  He took to writing music for computer games before his  health gave out on him.

Lamentations for each of them, and for the loss to us of their great talents.

  Nick Manley emerged for me as a solo performer – as described above.  But he also played in Springwind and, writing songs together with Dave, Tink and others and forming the truly wonderful band Red Shift –   Nick has since had a long and prolific writing and performing career in various bands and solo – much of it in France. More recently he has been generous enough to play together with myself, Mick Daysh (see below) and Chris Nash (ditto) under the banner of The Old Boys Band.  Our oeuvre has included some Red Shift  classics.

Nick Kahn originally learnt to play classical guitar and this led him to write some beautiful instrumental pieces performed together with Mick Daysh and Jackie White on flutes.  He has since gone on to write and perform fine songs, often accompanied by his daughters Anna on bass and Eleanor on guitar, and by Mick Daysh on flute.

  Andy Vores was a prolific composer/song-writer on piano.  Having first been a rock drummer, his piano-playing was often frenetic.  In fact he sometimes played faster than his fingers could follow.  The results were wonderful, and very different from the songs the rest of us wrote on guitars.  He was also a showman and liked to organise large numbers of musicians, singers and even dancers on stage to help perform his creative complexities.  He went on from Prices to study music composition and then moved to the US , where he became a successful modern-classical composer and Chair of Composition, Theory and Music History at the Boston Conservatory.

  Mick/Michael Daysh fluted with most of the above.  It is always good to find someone who plays a real musical instrument – more colours on the palette. Mick still flutes, but nowadays he also writes songs and sings, with guitar or keyboard and a band.  Mick also plays with electro-acoustic classical guitarist Chris Nash.

  Chris Nash went on from Prices to take a music degree and to record instrumental music with Andy Sandham.  He has also performed regularly in folk, rock and jazz bands. He currently partakes of an instrumental guitar duet, ‘Nash and Thompson’, playing jazz, acoustic and classical pieces (

  Paul Gateshill has never stopped writing and performing – and playing some great lead guitar (owing to my strumming for him for hours you understand).  He has also recorded two solo Albums/CDs  (search Spotify, Amazon, YouTube) and been an essential contributor to the four Albums/CD’s produced by my brother Ivor and I.


We also all recorded an actual LP in 1976 called Presence, which is now available as a CD.  Details of our various doings – and some of our songs to listen to – can be found at .  I particularly recommend you have a listen to ‘Mr Mitchell’s Angel’.

Paul Gateshill, Ivor and Kevan Bundell, Chris Nash, Michael Daysh, Nick Kahn and Nick Manley have also become regular performers at Tanglefest.   This is an annual Summer Garden Party and Concert event which happens at my place in Curdridge.  2020’s Tanglefest has now had to be cancelled, but we plan to create a Youtube version instead.  Please send me an e-mail if you’d like to know the link or to be invited for the future. All old friends/acquaintances/Priceans and everyone else are very welcome.

Kevan Bundell (Prices 1966 – 1973)

PS  Comments, corrections and additions to the above most welcome –


[1] Country Joe and the Fish’s anti Vietnam War anthem which begins ‘Give us an F ! . . .’

Why is Rupert Bear so popular ?

By Kevan Bundell


When it comes to fictional bears in Britain, there are three great allegiances:  to Paddington, to Poo and to Rupert.  It may be that your family sensibly enjoyed all three.  Mine was exclusively devoted to Rupert.   This was the doing first of my Great-Uncle George and then of my Mother.   On the 3rd November 1930  Great-Uncle George cut out from the Daily Express newspaper part one of  a  new Rupert adventure  ‘Rupert and Bill keep shop’.  He did the same each day until  the adventure was complete and then gave the cuttings to his grand-niece – my mother.  He continued to do the same, almost without interruption, until the 5th February 1937.

I know this because these cuttings are now on my bookshelves.  They lived for many years at my Grandma’s, each adventure in a numbered paper bag.   I must have gone through them a dozen times during my childhood.  When they  were passed to me and I came to sort them out I found the bag numbers were quite random and I had to consult the Rupert Museum in Canterbury to discover how to order them chronologically.  I then got Mum to slip them into photo albums in an organised fashion.  She recalled with pleasure how her Uncle George (with no children of his own) would bring each completed adventure and read them to her – while she looked at the pictures.

My siblings and I were then brought up on Rupert Annuals from the mid 1950s to the mid ‘60s.   This means that while Mum was brought up on Rupert in a blue jumper (on the then contemporary book covers) and on stories written and illustrated by Rupert’s creator, Mary Tourtel, we were raised on the red-jumpered, yellow-check trousered  Rupert created by Alfred Bestall.  He took over the task of continuing the already hugely popular Rupert comic strip in 1935 when Mary Tourtel retired.

Rupert continues his adventures in the Daily Express and in Rupert Annuals even now.  New artists took over after Bestall retired in 1965 – but they were all obliged to follow him closely.  Since 2010 the paper and the annuals rely on recycling old stories.  Fortunately there is no shortage – and the audience, of course, is renewed constantly.

But why did Rupert become so popular in the first place and why has he remained so popular ever since ?

Rupert is of course a bear.  He is not exactly a teddy-bear, but he is close enough.  By the time Rupert arrived, the teddy-bear was already a well established part of British childhood – a companion, a comfort at night, a half real, half imaginary friend.  At the same time, Rupert is also a child – with a mother, a father and a home.  (Rupert even has his own bedroom).  He is also, by the way, the ‘baby’ bear of three bears (even if there’s no Goldilocks).[2] Rupert and his family are both (teddy)bears and people.   Everything adds up to a character which a young child could and can still  identify with.

Rupert also has playmates – friends of his own age:  Bill Badger,  Algernon Pug, Edward Trunk, Podge the pig and the little girl Margot (all Tourtel creations), Pong Ping, Tiger Lilly, Gregory Guinea-pig, Rastus Mouse (introduced by Bestall) and many more.  He also has animal friends – Tourtel’s fox, Beppo the monkey and the ubiquitous black cat – somewhat like the pet a child might have at home – or might hope to have.  Rupert is also surrounded by caring grown-ups – not only his parents, but many others :  the Professor and his curious dwarf servant, Sailor Sam, the Wise Old Goat, the Nutwood police constable, even Gaffer Jarge.  In between, there are the three Girl Guides and Rollo the gypsy boy.

In other words, Rupert lives in a world which is caring, safe and full of friends of all ages – just like his young audience.

Rupert also has rather more secret friends –  the Imps of Spring, the merboy, the King of Birds and his entourage,  Jack Frost.  He also has friends which are really animate toys – the golly and the boy scout for example.  These are the kind of friends familiar to most children – in their imaginations.  He is even friends with Father Christmas himself !  Rupert also talks to animals and birds – the fox, the wise owl, the hedgehog, a passing sparrow.  Interestingly, these various friends are usually known only to Rupert himself, and not to his friends.  They are part of Rupert’s own secret, ‘imaginary’ world – just as his young audience might have their own secret, imaginary world known only to themselves, not even shared with friends.

Rupert also has adventures.   His adventures range from the scary to the mysterious and on to the enchanting – sometimes all of them within one story.  Tourtel’s adventures were often based on the traditionally menacing world of fairy-tales – with witches, ogres and gangs of robbers.  In fact she raided a whole range of children’s stories – some scary (pirates, a wolf in a bed, a wicked uncle, a Black Knight, African chiefs and white hunters, Red Indians), some friendly (Robinson Crusoe, Father Christmas), and some simply difficult (Humpty Dumpty).  When Bestall took over he was explicitly instructed that there should be no ‘bad characters’.   The editor was afraid  that the stories were in danger of scaring off their young audience.  So was Bestall, but he couldn’t help it.  In Rupert and the Travel Machine, for example, one of the earliest Bestall stories (1937) there’s an evil inventor who imprisons Rupert and Bill and will only set them free if they test his new invention.   In Rupert and the Pine Ogre (1957) we meet a megalomaniac Lord of Silence who plans to replace all the green woodland of Nutwood with a dark and silent forest of pine.  Rupert’s adventures often involve him getting lost in one way or another – in a forest, in a crowd – a familiar child’s anxiety.  Or imprisoned – in a castle, in a cave. The fact is, scary makes a good story, and children like to be scared – as long as it all ends safely – as it always does.  Both Tourtel’s and Bestall’s stories begin at home – with Rupert off on an errand for his mother, going out to play, or on a day out somewhere. Both end their stories with Rupert safely home again – running to his mother’s arms,  recounting his day’s adventures to his incredulous parents.

Nonetheless, Bestall did manage to move Rupert’s adventures away from the dark world of traditionally grim fairy-tale to a world of more delightfully mysterious goings-on and, usually, more friendly, or at least less wicked characters.  He also moved from the medieval to more contemporary times – with  Rupert visiting London to see the Queen for example, or going on seaside holidays by train.   There were always characters still rolling up anachronistically in historical costume though, keeping up the connection to times past and to fairy tales.

Bestall was also told ‘no magic’.  But children love magic, as he well knew.  He replaced the magic of fairy tales with the magic of Tiger Lilly and her father, the Chinese Conjurer.  He introduced the Imps of Spring and of Autumn. They are ‘fairy’ characters but also necessary in a practical way to ensure the proper functioning of the seasons.  Still, he managed to replace Tourtel’s magic boots and other magically flying items with more ‘scientific’/mechanical devices such as spring-loaded boots, balloons and propellers.  He also introduced the Professor and his various ‘scientific’  inventions and, once, a secret underground travelator which got Rupert back from lost in London to safely home in Nutwood.

Both Tourtel and Bestall were particularly fond of flying – every child’s dream. Tourtel had Rupert  flying by magic mostly – although also by aeroplane.  Bestall continued the aeroplane and practical theme, but he also had Rupert carried on the back of an eagle, on a winged horse and even on the wind.

Often Rupert’s adventures and the characters he meets are enchanting – the imps, the merboy, talking crabs, even the sea-serpent.   And the frogs.  Especially the frogs – as Paul McCartney noted.

Rupert’s own character is also an important part of his attractiveness.  He is always kind, even when the characters he meets lead him a dance – Raggety  the tree-creature, for example.  He always tries to do his best to help, even though he is often quite out of control of what’s happening to him – but in the end he succeeds and all ends happily.  This is a comforting message to young children who must often feel lost and powerless in their real world.

A key ‘character’ in Rupert’s adventures is the idyllic countryside of Nutwood and its surroundings. Nutwood village sits in a scene of green fields and woodlands.  There are hills nearby, sometimes gentle, sometimes rocky and almost mountainous.  The landscape is apparently an amalgamation of the Sussex Weald, Surrey, the Cotswolds  and Snowdonia (where Bestall had a holiday cottage).  Meanwhile, the seaside holidays that Rupert and his family take seem to be to places like the fishing villages and coves of the West country.  In any case, Rupert’s local world is an invocation of an ideal English – and Welsh – countryside.

But why should this be of interest to young children ?  They would surely be too young to have imbibed the cultural ideal, so it would have no particular draw for them.  Unlike their parents.  This is the clue of course.  Nutwood and its surroundings resonate for adults.  So too does the time – the period – in which Rupert’s world is set.  Rupert began in the twenties and thirties and when Bestall took over he kept him in that world – which is where he largely remains.  For adults Rupert invokes not only the nostalgia of childhood but also a nostalgia of place and time.   Meanwhile, young readers become adults and the cultural ideal of the countryside is still absorbed from many sources – including from Rupert presumably.

Adults can also be amused by the puns which Bestall sometimes employs for his story titles – The Mare’s Nest, The Flying Sorcerer, the Blue Moon.  Others have pointed out the filmic and dynamic qualities of the illustrations – which work for both children and adults.  Ewen Mackenzie-Bowie has shown how the unique combination of rhymes and prose which accompany the stories provide a step ladder for children from being read to by adults through to reading themselves.[3]

But what now ?  How long can Rupert survive on the re-cycling of old stories ?  Or is that how it best should be ?  There is no imperative that Rupert should go on having new adventures forever.   His place in cultural history, children’s literature and graphic art is firmly established.  And, as noted, a new audience  – for whom everything is new – will of course continue to arrive.


[1] The cover of the 1973 Rupert Annual – the common version.  See

[2] In fact Tourtel occasionally gave Rupert a younger sister too, which makes four bears.

[3] Rupert – an innovative literary genre, Ewen Mackenzie-Bowie


See also :

Murder memorial stone at Botley Station

Behind the Victorian Fountain at the entrance to Botley Railway Station (so called – it is of course in Curdridge) there is a cast iron plaque mounted on cemented stones :


It reads :

This Stone is Erected to Perpetuate a Most Cruel Murder Commited on the Body of Thomas Webb a Poor Inhabitant of Swanmore on the 11th of February 1800 By John Diggins a Private Soldier in the Talbot Fencibles Whose remains are Gibbited on the adjoining Common

The Talbot – or Tarbet – Fencibles were barracked in Botley at the time. Private Diggins, with two other soldiers, had come upon Thomas Webb, a poor and elderly pedlar, somewhere near Kings Corner (Pinkmead) in Curdridge. They not only robbed him of what few shillings he had, but then – according to a contemporary newspaper report – stabbed him, threw him in a ditch and stamped on him. Despite his injuries, Webb was able to crawl to a nearby cottage and get help – including the removal from his body of six inches of bayonet by a local surgeon. He was also able to tell what had happened – before he died. Diggins was found guilty of the murder at Winchester Assizes and sentenced to be hanged. The other two soldiers were acquitted for lack of evidence. Diggins was hanged in Winchester and his body then gibbited – that is, hung to rot – on Curdridge Common, between the main road to Shedfield and Outlands Lane. Thomas Webb was buried in St Peter’s Church graveyard, Bishops Waltham.

Meanwhile, the stone referred to on the plaque is not the cemented stones on which the plaque itself is mounted, but the undistinguished stone, without inscription, which sits half buried behind it. This suggests that the plaque was a later addition, Victorian perhaps, by when local history had became a subject of much interest.

All this can be found in more detail in local historian Dennis Stokes’ Botley and Curdridge – A history of two Hampshire villages, published by the Botley and Curdridge Local History Society (2007) –

I became curious about the plaque when I came upon the following:

Hampshire Treasures, Volume 1 ( Winchester City District), Page 82 – Curdridge

Memorial Stone Site of murder. Culprit hanged on local gibbet, cast iron plaque removed to Portsmouth City Museum. SU 520 130
1904 27

( )

How can the plaque have been ‘removed’ to Portsmouth and yet still be present in Curdridge ?

I wrote to the Museum about it. Their reply was :

“The original plaque was donated to the Portsmouth City Museum before 1945 & is kept in storage there, although it has been used in a display at Southsea Castle. The plaque at Botley Station, therefore, must be a copy.”

Our plaque a copy ? Why, that practically makes it a forgery !

Or, perhaps, for some reason, two copies of the plaque were made at the same time? But why ?

History, it seems, is full of mystery . . .

Still, if anyone knows anything more about this matter, do let me know.


Another account of the murder can be found at :



Eeny meeny miney moe, eeny meeny macka racka

Playground rhymes.

For anyone brought up in an English-speaking playground, the books of Iona and Peter Opie are not to be missed. Their subject is the world of children’s play – songs, games and rhymes found in street and playground, passed from child to child, a lost world, half remembered, mostly forgotten, and hardly noticed by much too busy and serious adults. The success of their first book – “The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren” (1959) – or  perhaps just the pleasure of watching children play – set the Opies off on a lifetime’s career of observing, listening to and writing about children’s play.

 I asked my eight year old daughter[1] what she and her friends sang or played together at school in the playground, but this was evidently not a sufficiently sensible or interesting question. “Games”, she said, “You know…” It was not until I gave her an example – from the Opie’s book “The Singing Game” – that she came up with the following:

My boyfriend gave me an apple

My boyfriend gave me a pear

My boyfriend gave me a kiss on the lips

And threw me down the stairs

I gave him back his apple

I gave him back his pear

I gave him back his kiss on the lips

And threw him down the stairs

I threw him over China

I threw him over Spain

I threw him over Australia

And never saw him again.

This is a song or chant for a clapping game. The girls (and these singing games are mostly performed by girls) stand face to face and clap against each other’s and their own hands in a set pattern in time with the beat of the song – as my daughter demonstrated as best she could, having only an inexpert adult – myself – to clap with.

The song is part of what the Opies record as “I am a pretty Dutch Girl“, which, they say, seems to have arrived in Britain in about 1959 from America and then “spread through the country like wildfire”. Clapping games themselves are much older, with records from Britain and the United States over the last one hundred years and more, but they apparently enjoyed a revival in Britain in the 1960’s as this and other American songs arrived.

Another `song’ my daughter chanted was this :

I had a little brother

His name was Tiny Tim

I put him in the bath tub

To see if he could swim

He drank up all the water

He ate up all the soap

He tried to eat the bath tub

But it wouldn’t go down his throat

In came the Doctor, in came the Nurse

In came the lady with the alligator purse

`Measles’ said the Doctor, `Mumps’ said the Nurse

`Pizza’ said the lady with the alligator purse

Out went the Doctor, out went the Nurse

Out went the lady with the alligator purse.

The first eight lines are identified by the Opies as coming from an early twentieth century bawdy song and the remainder as a game-song of American children from at least the 1920s. There, however, they sang of “a big black purse”. Wherever it came from, the “alligator purse” is certainly an improvement in rhythm, even if the meaning remains utterly mysterious. Meanwhile, Steve Roud, another excellent student of children’s games[2], provides a version of these last lines collected in London in 1907, only there, its not a lady that comes in, but the devil !

The only other clapping song my daughter came up with is recorded by the Opies under “Less Popular Clapping Songs” without comment (and without the curious first four lines):

In Bombay, in the land of Alaska,

Far away, in Bombay

Uncle Duffy is puffing his pipe

Puff puff, puff puff

All the girls in Spain

Wash their knickers in champagne

And the boys in France

Do the belly wobble dance

And the dance they do

Is enough to tie a shoe

And the shoe they tie

Is enough to tell a lie

And the lie they tell

Is enough to ring a bell

And the bell they ring

Goes : Dingalingaling!

Perhaps, like others, this had a bawdy origin somewhere, or maybe it is just the result of childish wit and delight in language.

Another of my daughter’s rhymes went :

I went to a Chinese restaurant

To buy a loaf of bread

I gave the man a five pound note

And this is what he said:

“My – name – is

Hong Kong fuey


Ice cream cornet

Fish and chips.”

Alternatively, the last four lines can go:

Elvis Presley

Girls are sexy

Sitting in the back seat

Drinking Pepsi

Having a baby

Calling it daisy

Come and join the fun fun fun!

The lines above are obviously no older than the 1960’s and may be American. However, the first four lines –concerning a Chinese restaurant (or laundry) – are reported by the Opies from the 1950s, when they were often used as an introduction to a counting-out rhyme – that is, for de-selecting from a group until the last person becomes `it’ or `he’ or ‘on’, in a chasing game for example. In that guise the rhyme continued with whatever was the local and current form of “Chinese counting” – something along the lines of:

Eeny meeny macka racka

Ooray dominacker

Dominacker chikaracker

Om pom push!

I ‘invented’ that one. There are hundreds like it, more or less similar, and that is my half-remembered and approximate version of what we chanted many years ago. I have the feeling that there was a “lollipopper” in there somewhere too[3].

A female friend who was at primary school in Middlesex in the early to mid nineteen-sixties remembered it without a moment’s hesitation, and with the lollipopper too:


Eeny meeny macka racka

Rare-rye dominacker

Chickenpokker lollippopper

Om pom push!

Another (male) friend, who was at primary school in southern Hampshire in the early nineteen seventies, also knew it – but not to recite, because it had been strictly a girl’s rhyme, which they used in skipping games. So too my male, eighty year old neighbour who was brought up in Woolston (Southampton) in the 1930s/early 1940s, who only knew it by repute and not to recite, as “it was a girl’s game”.

My daughter had never heard of anything like it. She had heard of “Eeny meeny miney mo”, but she didn’t know how it went after that – which is, perhaps, an indication of some success in efforts to change old attitudes – as is the fact that among those who do know it the offending word has now been replaced by ‘tiger’, ‘tigger’ or similar


In “Children’s Games in Street and Playground” (1969) the Opies conclude that while the Eeny meeny macka racka ‘gibberish’ rhyme itself is of no great antiquity (they found no records of it before the 1920s), its origins and those of similar rhymes – especially those beginning Inty minti, Eenty teenty or Zeenty teenty instead – are old – possibly very old. The connection has been made between at least some of these rhymes and the “Shepherd’s Score”, a traditional way of counting sheep, fish, stitches, and so on, in a number of counties in the north of England. The Opies found children in Keswick (in Cumbria) still using this method in their counting out. The Shepherd’s Score in turn has been traced, speculatively, to medieval welsh drovers; to still more ancient Celts driven to the hills by invading Anglo-Saxons; or, as the Opies prefer, to the ancient British tongue of Cumbria.

This seems an ambitious claim at first glance, until you get to numbers three and four in the Shepherd’s Score. Here is the beginning of a counting-out rhyme from Edinburgh (for some reason Scotland seems to be particularly rich in this form of the rhyme) : Inty, tinty, tethery, methery [4]. Here are the first four numbers of the traditional counting system used by the children from Keswick : Yan, Tan, Tethera, Methera – which is identical to the Shepherd’s Score reported, for example, from the Derbyshire Dales, and very similar to those from elsewhere [5]. The similarity of these otherwise peculiar and unfamiliar words is striking. And there are more. The earliest of this family of rhymes found by the Opies is this :

Zinty, tinti

Tethera, methera

Bumfa, litera

Hover, dover

Dicket, dicket

. . . etc

Charles Taylor, ‘The Chatterings of the Pica’,1820,where described as being old

The Shepherd’s Score, meanwhile, includes bunfit/bumfit (15), lethera (7), hothera (8), dovera (9) and dick/dik (10)[6]. Also noteworthy is that both the Shepherd’s Score and the gibberish rhyme words for five are usually something starting with a plosive ‘p’, such as pimp or pump or push. As the Opies note, the Shepherd’s Score seems to be the ‘starting point, or inspiration, or source of occasional words’ of various versions of the children’s rhyme.

However, while a connection between the Shepherd’s Score and some versions of counting out rhymes does not seem to have been entirely dismissed, the idea that the Score is of so great a vintage is no longer respectable. Steve Roud summarises the scholarly situation thus[7] :

‘Unfortunately . . . there is no evidence to support the assumption that the ‘shepherd’s score’ is of great age. The earliest mention of it in Britain is about 1745. In fact, in the opinion of many post-war experts, internal linguistic evidence, such as these numeral’s affinity with modern rather than old Welsh, demonstrates that they were introduced into the areas they were found a great deal later than the period of Anglo-Saxon settlement.’

On other words (I think), the Score probably arrived with Welsh speakers moving into England during the 18th Century.

Roud’s scepticism, meanwhile, is well trumped by Michael Barry[8]. In mild frustration at the unknowability of the origins of the Shepherd’s Score, he very nearly argues that it was only after folklorists started collecting and disseminating versions of the Score that they began to be known, but only ever second-hand and by repute : no one is ever found who actually uses such a Score – for counting sheep, stitches, fish, or whatever ![9]

Roud’s summary of the scholarly situation is disappointing of course. However, while I am not qualified to comment on the linguistic evidence, I am not convinced that the lack of mention before 1745 is a clincher. A great deal of folk culture was not recorded before 1745. In fact most of what we know was not written down until the nineteenth century, when collecting folklore and customs became fashionable.

Similarly, Roud also seems to suggest that counting out rhymes are not so old either, on the grounds that the earliest recorded example is from 1759 (or possibly 1611 in France)[10]. On the one hand, the fact that childhood was, for most, a very different experience before formal education arrived – lots of work and no ‘rithmatic – could support Roud’s suggestion. But on the other, to suggest that children neither played together nor knew how to count even to five before the eighteenth century seems unlikely. It seems to me much more likely that we simply have no records.

But to return to the ‘gibberish rhyme’, these examples are from an on-line exchange on :[11]

From Salford in the 1930s, where my mum lived as a girl, and passed on to me.

Eeny meeny mackeracka
Rare eye dummeracka
Chickeracka rare eye
Om pom push

My great uncle Albert who lived from 1902-1979 used to tell me

Eeni meeni mackeraca er rye dominacka chicka packa lullapacka rum pum push

From my nan born in 1920s west London

Eeny meeny mackaracka
Rare rye dominacka
Chickalacka lollipoppa
Om Pom push

Note that, like Barry’s Shepherd’s Score, these are all second hand reports !

Nonetheless, these examples do support the Opie’s report that they could not find examples of the ‘gibberish rhyme’ before the 1920s. However, it depends what you’re looking for. They specifically say that ‘Eenie, meenie, macca, racka’ was not known to Bolton, the author of one of the first collections of children’s counting-out rhymes, in 1888. However, the following was known to Bolton :

Eenie, Meenie, Tipsy, toe;

Olla bolla Domino,

Okka, Pokka dominocha,

Hy! Pon! Tush![12]

It is clearly the `same’ rhyme, even though it lacks the macka racka.

Incidentally, as I recall, we used parts of the rhyme as a rousing chant in Cubs/Scouts in the 1960s – led by adults – much in the manner of the contemporary All Blacks’ Maori-style chant:

Dominakka chikkarakka, Dominakka chikkarakka, Dominakka chikkarakka

Om pom push !

Eeny meeny miny moe.

Historically speaking, the most well- known version of the eeny meeny family of rhymes is probably :

Eeny meeny miny moe

Catch a nigger by his toe

If he hollers let him go

Eeny meeny miney moe

As noted earlier, the offensive word has been replaced over time by tiger or tigger, or some-such. This seems to have happened during the 50s in the States and in the 70s in the UK, presumably reflecting the advance of awareness of racism in each country. Meanwhile, the rhyme is first reported from the late 19th Century, by Bolton again, who suggested that it probably originated in America. [13] The Opies agree, given the vocabulary.

On the other hand, there is also a theory that the original origin of “Eeny meeny miny moe” and possibly of the mention of a black person too, is from the Portugese/West African Creole language of the islands of São Tomé and Principe, which lie off the West coast of equatorial Africa. The language is known as São Tomense.

Derek Bickerton notes the following: in São Tomense, ine is used to turn the next word into a plural; the next word (of the rhyme) is mina, which means child – therefore, children. Meanwhile, mana means sister and mu means my. In other words, ine mina mana mu is São Tomense for my sister’s children !

Bickerton also notes, in support of the theory, that we have a children’s rhyme on the one hand and a reference to children on the other; a reference to a black person in the rhyme and a language spoken by black people – presumably including at least some black slaves in 18th or early 19th Century America. He then suggests that, somewhere in the US, children already familiar with Score-derived counting-out rhymes heard the São Tomense expression, noticed the resemblance and proceeded to incorporate the new words into a counting-out rhyme. He also confesses that he has no evidence to back this history up, but concludes that an Afro-Creole source for eeeny meeny miney mo `would seem to be at least as convincing as a Celtic one.’[14]

Or possibly not. The only subsequent writer I can find picking up on this theory is the Carribbean poet, novelist, and local creole language advocate, Frank Martinus Arion. Arion is from the Dutch Antilles, and his topic is a creole known as Guene. Having repeated Bickerton’s analysis of the São Tomense expression (without acknowledgement), and noting that a creole word maina means to quiet down, he concludes that the real meaning of the eeny meeny rhyme is in fact : “Children quiet down/You have to go to bed now/It is finished. Look at this whip” ! This would have been used by a, probably black, nanny to the children in her charge. [15]

And that is not all. Arion is a Dutch speaker. According to a Dutch contributor to the thread mentioned above, he also discusses the well know Dutch version of the eeny meeny rhyme, also used for counting-out.[16] It goes like this :

Iene miene mutte       Eena meena mutte
Tien pond grutten       Ten pounds of groats
Tien pond kaas            Ten pounds of cheese
Iene miene mutte       Eena meena mutte
Is de baas             Is the boss         

Arion then reports a creole – probably São Tomense – song, sung by black slaves, which goes (or went) like this :

Iene miene muito      
Tempo de n’grutta
Tempo de n’kasala
Iene miene muito
Es de baixe.

Arion’s analysis goes like this : Iene is a pluralizer; miene is from the Portuguese word for girl, menina; muito is the Portuguese word for much/ many; tempo means time; n’grutta means to make love; kasala comes from the Portuguese casar se, to marry; baixa is the Portuguese word for down or below.

So the translation of the song into English would be :

Many girls.         
Time to make love
Time to marry
Many girls
Down there below.

(Male slaves were put on the upper decks, the women below in the lower decks).

Of course one has to note that as an advocate for the contribution of West African-origin creoles to Western culture, Arion’s arguments may be somewhat motivated. Nonetheless, it’s a great story.

Eeny meeny . . .

It is time now to return to basics, that is, to eeny and meeny. Whatever contribution Shepherd’s Scores or West African slaves may or may not have made to the eeny meeny family of rhymes, it is noteworthy that a great many of the rhymes begin with these two words, or versions thereof. And It is also the case that these rhymes are usually used by children for counting-out. As we have seen from the Dutch example above, the rhyme is not confined to English speakers, and similar beginnings are to be found in German (including by Bolton), Danish, Norwegian and elsewhere[17].

It is clear enough that eeny is simply a version of one – een in Dutch, ein in German, aan in old English, eena in a Shepherd’s Score from North Yorkshire[18], oan in Scottish Gaelic, un in Welsh. The addition of the y, that is, the ee sound, would then be just a bit of fun, playing with sounds, as in the more obvious onery, twoery way of counting (which was the most common way in Bolton’s day). Meeny would then be simply a fun rhyme to follow.

But we can go on : miney and mo alliterate with meeny; an n occupies the same position in eeny, meeny and miney; the vowels go ee i o, which form a natural series produced from the front to the back of the mouth (as in fee, fi, fo fum, or ee eye, ee eye o). David Rubin and colleagues point out these and other structural-linguistic features to explain how children manage to remember these rhymes.[19] My point is that they also help to explain why they are so popular and persistent. The fact is, they are fun !


It seems reasonable to conclude that the eeny meeny family of rhymes probably has multiple sources. It certainly has multiple traditions and probably multiple occasions of semi-independent invention, when the need for a means of counting-out was (and is) required. Above all, it is the result of generations of children in countless playgrounds delighting in playing with the musicality of language – and with nonsense.


While counting-out rhymes are common to both boys and girls, clapping games and their songs, as mentioned above, are generally girls’ games. Perhaps that’s why I recognised none of the songs in the Opie’s singing games book, and none of my daughter’s. One game we used to play, however, was for the boys only – the utterly serious game of flick cards . . .

  1. This was in 1994. She attended Ridgemead Primary School, Bishops Waltham, in Hampshire, England.

  2. Roud, Steve The Lore of the Playground: One hundred years of children’s games, rhymes and traditions, Random House, London, 2010, p169

  3. I was at Eastwick Primary School, Great Bookham, Surrey, England, from 1960 to 1966.




  7. Roud, Steve The Lore of the Playground: One hundred years of children’s games, rhymes and traditions, Random House, London, 2010, p354. NOTE : I began this piece recommending the Opies’ work. I would now also recommend Steve Roud’s book, which is much shorter and covers everything you need to know.

  8. Traditional Enumeration in the North Country, Michael Barry, Folk Life, Volume 7, Issue 1 (01 January 1969), pp. 75-91

  9. See also : Major and Minor Chronotopes in a Specialized Counting System, Donald N Anderson, Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, Vol. 21, Issue 1, pp. 124–141, ISSN 1055-1360, EISSN 1548-1395. © 2011 by the American Anthropological Association.

  10. Roud, Ibid


  12. Bolton, Henry Carrington, The Counting-out Rhymes of Children: Their Antiquity, Origin, and Wide Distribution. New York: D. Appleton & Co. (1888).

  13. See,_meeny,_miny,_moe

  14. An Afro-Creole Origin for Eena meena Mina Mo, Derek Bikerton, American Speech, Vol. 57, No. 3 (Autumn 1982), Duke University Press.; p227

  15. The value of Guene for folklore and literary culture, Frank Martinus Arion, in A History of Literature in the Caribbean: English- and Dutch-speaking countries, Albert James Arnold, Julio Rodríguez-Luis, J. Michael Dash, John Benjamins Publishing, Jan 1, 2001, p 415-419

  16. My research became complicated here. The contributor gives no reference other than to say she found the information on Wikipedia. I have been unable to do so, even in the Dutch version. Meanwhile it is possible that the material is to be found in the Arion paper referenced immediately above. However, I do not have access to the complete paper to confirm this.

  17. Opies 1969


  19. Children’s memory for counting-out rhymes: A cross-language comparison, David C Rubin, Violeta Ciobanu, William Langston, Psychonomic Bulletin and Review 1997, 4(3). 421-424

Flick cards

By the early 1960s, cigarette cards had long gone – ended by the austerities of the War – but tea cards had replaced them. The games that my father used to play with cigarette cards, we learned to play from our older schoolmates with the new tea cards – or, more correctly, trade cards. We collected them avidly, and won and lost great fortunes daily playing the game of flick cards.

Two boys (only boys) would stand some eight feet or so from a playground wall, each armed with a handful of cards. A card was held between two fingers and then launched towards the wall, by each player in turn, by means of a quick flick of the wrist. There were two versions of the game. The object of one was to get your card to land on another already lying on the ground. The first player to achieve this won all the cards previously thrown. In the other – known as ‘Death’ – the aim was to knock down two or more cards that had been lent against the wall. The player that toppled the last card was the winner and, again, took all the cards already thrown.

‘Death’ called for accuracy and a strong wrist, but in terms of rules was uncomplicated. In the other game, however, as with many children’s games, the simple scenario of the one card landing on another was qualified by a number of arcane requirements. Should a card overlap another by only its merest edge – defined by the thin white border surrounding the card’s illustration – this was called “tipses” and did not count. All ambiguous overlaps were anxiously examined at close quarters. If necessary, spectators would adjudicate. If the case was judged to be “tipses” the game continued. Should a card stall in mid flight and flutter down onto another, this was called “flutters” and was also invalid. So too was “undies”, where a card slid beneath another on landing. With these rules, vast numbers of cards could accumulate, and tension intensify, before at last the prize was won.

These tea cards were issued by a range of companies but circulation was dominated by Brooke Bond. At that time, their cards were almost wholly devoted to wildlife subjects. They began in 1954 with “British Birds” and thereafter produced a series or two each year, covering birds, wild flowers, butterflies, fish and animals from Britain and across the world. By the time we started collecting, probably in 1963 or ‘64, cards from the very first series were hardly to be found – occasional and somewhat mysterious relics of some ancient past. However, subsequent sets were still in circulation and new sets kept arriving, providing fodder for our boyish kleptomania as well as for our effortlessly assimilative young minds.

Card swopping
Card collecting, Eastwick Primary School, Great Bookham, Surrey, 1966.

I inherited an interest in wildlife from my parents, but there is  no doubt that Brooke Bond’s tea cards fed that interest and caused it to grow and become knowledgeable. By the age of ten I not only knew my British birds – those illustrated in “Bird Portraits” (1957) and “Wild Birds in Britain” (1965) at any rate – and my butterflies (“British Butterflies”, 1963) and wild animals (“British Widllife”, 1958) – but I was also familiar with the wild animals of Africa and Asia (“African Wildlife”, 1961; “Asian wildlife”, 1962), exotic birds (“Tropical Birds”, 1961) and endangered species from across the world (“Wildlife in Danger”, 1963).


All these sets were explicitly “issued in the interests of education”, according to the backs of the albums in which we stuck them, and they clearly served their intended purpose. It’s a pity then that although Brooke Bond continued to issue picture cards, they later stooped to trivia – cartoon turtles for example, or anthropormorphised chimpanzees – offered, presumably, in the interests of increasing sales.

To be fair, Brooke Bond continued to return to wildlife subjects, and to other educational topics, including in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund, as they first did with “Wildlife in Danger”. What they did not do, however, was to maintain the pictorial quality of the earlier sets, a feature which was at least as important as the information they conveyed in catching and keeping our interest. Between 1957 and 1966 those early sets were more often than not illustrated by C.F. Tunicliffe, whose both naturalistic and visually attractive style of painting was perfect for our unsophisticated eye – and our desire for facts. Some of his illustrations still rank among the finest examples of wildlife art, those for “Bird Portraits” in particular – the teal leaping from the water; the house sparrow in flight; the barn owl floating cream and white against the dusk :

BP Teal   BP House sparrow   BP Barn owl

Tunicliffe’s work seems to have established a house style during those years, so that when other artists were brought in – EV Petts for “Freshwater Fish” (1960); Richard Ward for two butterfly series (“British Butterflies”, 1963 and “Butterflies of the World”, 1964) – the cards remained instantly recognisable as coming from Brooke Bond.


I rediscovered how much I had learnt as a child, how many animals and birds had become familiar to me through collecting Brooke Bond’s tea cards, many years later. I was living in South India and I went with a friend to visit the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary in the southern state of Kerala. The Sanctuary is set in the forests of the great chain of the Western Ghat mountains, centred around a long and many fingered lake created by the damming of the Periyar River.

We rode up into the hills by bus and then walked from the village into the reserve. The narrow road ran between thick forest on one side and the lake on the other. In the water, or perched on grey stumps of drowned trees with wings held wide to dry in the sun, were thin, cormorant-like birds. I knew at once that they were darters (“Tropical Birds”, 1961). They are not the most beautiful of birds – snakelike, ragged, prehistoric – but they were old familiars and a thrill to see for the first time in the feather.

Shortly afterwards I spotted an animal moving in the trees above us, a brown, cream and enormous squirrel – the Indian Giant Squirrel (“Asian Wildlife”, 1962) – providing for a moment an almost exact image of Tunicliffe’s illustration, before it turned and made off, heavily, through the foliage.

A few yards further on a herd of wild pigs burst out of the long grass and hurried across the road, long snouted and round bellied – indistinguishable in fact from the domestic Indian pig which roots and wallows in every village ditch. However, these were wild and also familiar  from “Asian Wildlife”.

Darter  Giant Squirrel  Wild pigs

The next day we went out onto the lake in a motor launch, together with other visitors to the reserve, and my private adventure continued. There were many more darters, and more wild pigs along the shore. Then we spied a dark line of animals making their way slowly across a hillside, too distant for a satisfactory view even through my binoculars, but instantly recognised anyway. These were Gaur, the largest member of the ox family.

We could not have imagined a closer view of the wild elephants we came upon next. Seeing them at the edge of the lake, the helmsman brought the launch in close. While a huge bull led his herd unhurriedly away into the forest, two cows and a calf plunged into the water towards us. They stood knee deep – or in the case of the calf, up to its chin – and proceeded to threaten us by swaying their great heads and splashing on the water with their trunks, making their indignation at our intrusion  clear. Elephants, of course, are hardly unfamiliar even to those who have never collected Brook Bond tea cards. Nonetheless, the Asiatic Elephant is there among them.

I have continued to meet old friends in the wild in India ever since: Chittal, or Spotted Deer; Nilgai antelope, or Blue Bull; a Tiger in the scrub forest of Ranthambore in Rajasthan; Blackbuck; a Gaur bull, huge and unhurried in the headlights of our jeep, in Andhra Pradesh; Hanuman Langurs, named after the monkey-god hero of the Hindu epic poem the Ramayana; Giant Fruit Bats hung like peculiar fruits by day or rowing soundlessly overhead at dusk; and Mongooses in a back garden in Madras city.

 IMG_0001 IMG_0002 IMG_0003Gaur

  IMG_0005 IMG_0006IMG_0007

Not only animals, but tropical birds as well: the fairy bluebird, the painted snipe and the orange (or scarlet) minivet, the males black and bright red, the females black and brilliant yellow.

IMG_0009         IMG_0008


I still have my collection of Brook Bond tea cards, won so many years ago, or bargained for “swops”. I add to it occasionally, when an album turns up in a charity shop or on e-bay.  And even now, here in the UK, there are a number of long familiar birds and animals which I have yet to meet – the Natterjack Toad, the Purple Emperor butterfly and the ring ouzel for example.  If and when I do happen upon them, I will, of course, recognise them at once with a very special delight.