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U3A Writing: Songs My Father Taught Me

John Ricketts' dad was not one to sing him lullabies. Instead he gave voice to classic music hall songs.

When I was small I didnít have a single lullaby sung to me and I cannot remember my mother or father telling me a bedtime story of the usual kind. I know that both my sister and my brother told me stories (they were twelve and eleven years older than me) I cannot remember my sisters stories but my bother was into ghost stories and he often scared me stiff, but thatís another story.

In January 1903 my Dad came home with his first wage, five shillings.(He was twelve years old at the time) and his father told him that as he now a wage earner he could get out and not come back. For a few days he lived with his sixteen year old married sister (She had left home to get away from her father) and then he found lodgings in the servantís quarters of Birmingham Conservative Club where he was working as page boy.

As a youngster in such an environment he had three interests, boxing, gambling and the music hall. (girls came later). He became a very good boxer boxing at less than eight stone. Unfortunately he was gambler for the rest of his life. When he was not working, boxing or gambling and he had the few pence necessary he was at the music hall. There were many in Birmingham at the time and, as it was on the A circuit, all the starts of the day appeared. Ho told me once that he had seen Charlie Chaplin at the Gaiety which in my time was a flea pit cinema, just up the road from where we lived. It was very much down on its uppers from what my father remembered.

So as a result of his misspent youth when my father used to take me up to bed my lullabies were:

There was I waiting at the church,
The ruins that Cromwell knocked about a bit,
O,O Antonio, heís left me on my own io,
The man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo,
My old dutch,
Henry the eighth I am,
The soldiers of the queen,
Two lovely black eyes,
Silver threads amongst the gold,
The little shirt my mother mad for me,
Iím shy Mary Ellen, Iím shy,
My old man said follow the van,
Oh Mr. Porter what shall I do,
My valentine,
Burlington Bertie,
K, K, K, Katie
What a mouth, what a mouth, what a north and south.

And so many, many more .


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