Saturday, 30 January 2016

Ring a ring o'roses

Ring-a-ring o'roses
A pocket full of posies
A'tishoo! A'tishoo!
We all fall down

I naturally thought as a toddler that when I sneezed and my mother said "Bless you!" that I looked so cute as my face exploded with surprise.

This was not so for many hundreds perhaps thousands of years for a person sneezing was often an initial sign that the plague or other incurable sickness had arrived. Former rural or nomadic life was changing to permanent settlements. Many families were now gathered together without running water other than a river in which washing clothes or disposing of bodily wastes was carried out as there was no sewerage system or clean running water only the river itself or wells sunk close to cess pits if no other fresh water was close by.

So as my heart skipped a beat as I or my forebears sneezed just for one second you can't decide whether to stay or go to heaven. So mother's "bless you" would either keep me safe or help me on my journey.

The children's round song "Ring a ring o'roses" was once thought to be related to this as the roses were another sign that the disease had taken hold with a rash on the skin confirming that you might be struggling for your life. 

Bless little children
That their lives may be happy
To fulfill their dreams

Image found at


  1. Nothing worse than sneezing when you don't have a tissue! Thanks For the history lesson OE.

  2. In the third world people still live in these conditions. Interesting and informative post.

  3. What a lovely post (no not the dying children!) ..i remember the whole school doing this and a teacher bellowing how lucky we were not to be dying of the plague as the rain lashed down and the boys pulled the girls through the puddles..happy days..but thank god they are over and we could grow up (sort of!)