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Poetry Pleases: The Well: 6 – Far Annie

Paddy Webb continues her account in verse of the life of her great grandfather John Charles Ayling, the first of three generations of elder sons of that name.

This story, set between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Centuries, is based on the recollections of Paddy’s grandmother.

In this episode young John, seeking work in London, finds himself under the iron-thumbed control of Fat Annie.

You know who I am?
I'm Fat Annie, Big Annie Of Flat Iron Square,
And no-one argues with me.
See them fists?
I can flatten Two men at a time with these
So don't try nothing.

You learn my rules.

Number one. Half of what you take
You give to Annie, understand?
You pick pockets, Annie has half.
You go on the game
I get my fifty percent.
You don't do nothing like that?
You going to work honest?
Oh yes, they all say that to start.
We'll see. But honest or not
You hand over half each evening
Or I'll hang you by yer heels
From a lamp post
Till it drops out of yer pockets.

And another thing,
the priwy's mine.
You make your own arrangements.
No-one goes till Annie's been!

Turn round, you're a nice looking lad,
I know some as would pay
For a bit of your company.
All right, don't blush. You go
With Taz and settle in
And in a day or two
You come and have a little drink
With Big Annie. She looks after
All her girls and boys, one big family
Here in Flat Iron Square.

Turn out your pockets.
Wot you got?
See, I'll take the penny.
You have This ha'penny;
lovely with The dear queen's picture on.
No-one argues with Big Annie My love,
just see you Don't forget it.


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