Showing posts with label rhymes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rhymes. Show all posts

Monday, February 9, 2015

Help find the missing words to "Here we go down, Sir Johnny Brown"

I recently wrote an article for The Telegram on singing games we used to play, about three traditional games: "Little Sally Saucer," "King William was King George's Son," and "Ring Around the Rosie." You can read more on "Little Sally" on author Leslie Lindsay's blog.

This morning, I received a response from Rosemary Thorne. Thorne now lives in St. John's, but was born in the early 1960s in Thornlea, Trinity Bay. She remembers playing Little Sally Saucer and Ring Around the Rosie.

Another song game she remembered was "Here we go down, Sir Johnny Brown," but she could not remember all the lyrics to the first verse of the song. Here is what Thorne remembers:

Here we go down, Sir Johnny Brown
This is the way to London town
.... here
.... by
Don't you hear your true love cry

On the carpet (carver?) here she stands
Take your true love by the hand
[Take] the one that you love best
Pick her out from all the rest

What a heck of a choice you made
You better be home and in your bed
Since you can no longer stay
Give her a kiss and send her away.

A quick internet search reveals little on "Sir Johnny Brown," but does turn up this fabulous query to the "Correct Manners" section on Page 13 of the Ottawa Citizen, for Monday, 1 February 1926:

Is the letter in question addressed to a real child named John Brown, or would Sir Johnny Brown be a name known to a child, presumably through some version of the rhyme related by Thorne? Does anyone have a memory of this rhyme or song? Any thoughts on the missing words? And who exactly is Sir Johnny Brown, Esq? 

Email me at if you have a lead! And I'll have none of your "monkey-shining," please.

update 9 Feb 2015:

I found this counting-out rhyme, from Indiana, printed in 1888 in "The Counting-Out Rhymes of Children: Their Antiquity, Origin, and Wide Distribution - a study in Folk Lore" by Henry Carrington Bolton (noted American chemist, bibliographer of science, lecturer, folklorist, photographer, and one of the founders of the American Folklore Society):

Oh! Johnny Brown
He went to town
Three score miles and ten;
He went at night
By candle light
And never got home again.