British History, Culture & Sports, History of Freedom, Heroes, Inventors, Brits at their Best.com, English country scene

Blog Home | All Posts

There was an old woman

Looking for some presents for my grandchildren, I found a nice one based on a song I used to sing to my children – There was an old woman who swallowed a fly.

Canadian folksinger Alan Mills wrote the music and Rose Bonne wrote the lyrics, and I must have sung it to my children pretty frequently, because the words came back to me as if I had sung them just yesterday. It’s a marvellous send-up of someone who makes a small problem worse and worse – and was always a great hit with the children.

Many folk songs carry a political message - Humpty Dumpty comes to mind - and today I couldn’t help reading a subversive political message into the old woman. Doesn’t it strike you that this is a fair description of Britain – trying to solve a small trade problem that didn’t really exist by swallowing the EEC fly, swallowing one EU treaty after another, until finally, she is about to swallow the whole horse. (Unless we stop her, of course.)

Here are the words – more or less – and the fatal ending.

There was an old woman who swallowed a fly
I don't know why she swallowed a fly

Perhaps she'll die.

There was an old woman who swallowed a spider

That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly

I don't know why she swallowed the fly

Perhaps she'll die.

There was an old woman who swallowed a bird

How absurd to swallow a bird

She swallowed the bird to catch the spider

That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly

I don't know why she swallowed the fly

Perhaps she'll die.

There was an old woman who swallowed a cat
Imagine that to swallow a cat
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
I don't know why she swallowed the fly
Perhaps she'll die.

There was an old woman who swallowed a dog
What a hog to swallow a dog
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
I don't know why she swallowed the fly
Perhaps she'll die.

There was an old woman who swallowed a goat
Just opened her throat to swallow a goat
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
I don't know why she swallowed the fly
Perhaps she'll die.

There was an old woman who swallowed a cow
I don't know how she swallowed a cow
She swallowed the cow to catch the goat
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
I don't know why she swallowed the fly
Perhaps she'll die.

There was an old woman who swallowed a horse
She's dead—of course!

COPYRIGHT