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A-Z Blogging Challenge: E is for...Elsie Marley

This is a rhyme that I hadn't heard until I started this challenge although some people I have spoken to have been surprised that I hadn't heard it so I'm learning stuff from this too.

'Elsie Marley's grown so fine.
She won't get up to feed the swine,
But lies in bed 'til eight or nine!
And surely does she take her time.'

This little rhyme seems innocent enough. Elsie is obviously a lady who has, for what ever reason, got ideas above her station. She has become so fine that she won't get out of bed before 8 or 9am and refuses to feed the pigs. When she does get up she certainly doesn't rush to do anything.

The rhyme has been changed with good reason. Her name was actually Eppie Marly. Here is the original.

Bonnie Prince Charlie
'Saw ye Eppie Marly, honey,
The woman that sells the barley, honey?
She's lost her pocket and a' her money,
Wi followin' Jacobite Charlie, honey.

Eppie Marly's turned sae fine,
She'll no gang oot tae herd the swine,
But lies in her bed 'til eight or nine,
And winnae come doon the stairs tae dine.'

Jacobite Charlie is Charles Edward Stuart (1720 - 1788) also known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, The Young Chevalier and The Young Pretender. For 40 years the Stuarts had been exiled in Italy and France; England was ruled by King George II but Bonnie Prince Charlie decided it was time to make a comeback and laid claim to the thrones of Scotland, England and Ireland.

In 1745 he arrived in Scotland and started to rally his troops. He was a popular figure and men women and children readily followed him. Eppie Marly was clearly one of them. As this is not a history lesson I'm not going into great detail here but the culmination of all this was the Battle of Culloden. The Scots were outnumbered by the English and the massacre began. The order 'No Quarter Given' was issued. This means that no-one should be allowed to live. Every wounded Highlander was killed. Virtually no-one survived. The killing continued with men, women and children being massacred at every opportunity by bayonet, hanging, musket...many others lay where they fell as entire villages were burned to the ground. Bonnie Prince Charlie survived and returned to Italy where he eventually died but the 1745 Rebellion and the Battle of Culloden will never be forgotten.

After that any reference to Bonnie Prince Charlie would be very dangerous and so the first part of the rhyme was discarded and the name changed to Elsie Marley.


Unknown said…
The history of rhymes fascinates me, thanks for sharing this.

Look forward to your challenge run…
--Damyanti, Co-host A to Z Challenge April 2012

Twitter: @AprilA2Z
Unknown said…
Fabulous post - I'd never heard of those rhymes but it's amazing how history affected them. The Battle of Culloden - not England's finest hour :-(
I've never heard this one either but I love it. And I love the language in the original version. I love reading your posts.
K.S. Lewis said…
Very, very interesting. Love learning the truth behind these rhymes, especially the ones I've never heard of before. Can't wait to see more.
Shannon said…
Very interesting and informative post..I myself have never heard that rhyme...will be following you now.

(new running blog about surviving cancer to becoming a runner)
Thanks for the background on this rhyme. I used to read it to my kids. I always knew nursery rhymes did not mean what we think they do. Great perspective.
Ella said…
This was fascinating! Thanks for sharing :D
Nice to meet you~
Denise said…
Damyanti - glad you're enjoying the rhymes.

Susan - thank you. The thought of what went on at Culloden makes me very sad.

Jaye - thank you. The Scots language actually flows really well.

K.S. - thanks. I'm learning stuff every day too from this.

Shannon- thanks. Just popping over to your blog now. Enjoy the rest of the challenge.

Yvonne - thank you. It's funny to think that perfectly innocent little rhymes like this can actually mean so much.

Ella - thanks for dropping by. Enjoy the challenge.
Jenni Steel said…
I have always been aware of the fight at Culloden with the English but I never really knew the story behind it.

Thanks for enlightening me.

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