These children really loved "funeral" games, and
recited sad little rhymes such as:
Green gravel, green gravel, the grass is so green;
The fairest young lady that ever was seen.
Ah, Mary! Ah, Mary! your true love is dead
He sends you a letter to turn round your head.
"Green gravel" is possibly a corruption of
"green grave, O". It has been wondered if the words "turn round your
head" refer to an old custom of visitors, when approaching a corpse newly laid out,
going backwards into the death chamber.
I watched the children play a funeral game that ends with
the "mourners" having fun at the funeral procession. In Lychett Heath, the game
is called "Jimmy Jones"; the only significant difference with the version I
learned as a child was in the chorus which these children sang, which ran:
Very well, ladies, ladies, ladies,
Very well, ladies, and gentlemen too.
Irish children play the same game, but call it "Peggy
O'Neill". Two children are picked to be Peggy and her mother by "counting
Mistletoe and shamrock,
Three geese in a flock;
One flew east and one flew west,
And one flew over the cuckoo's nest.
O-U-T spells "out",
And out you GO!
Peggy kneels behind her mother, who stands with her skirts
spread. A straight line of children faces them, singing as they march, four steps forward
and four steps back. The mother goes through the motions of washing as the children sing:
"We're very glad to hear of it".