Rhymes trivia quiz
nursery rhyme lyrics & origins

Nursery Rhymes Lyrics and Origins

Goosey Goosey Gander Rhyme

Nursery Rhyme & History


Zealous Protestants & Secret Priest Holes
Goosey, Goosey Gander is a Rhyme with Historical undertones - an attention grabber for a nursery rhyme which uses alliteration in the lyrics designed to intrigue any child. The 'lady's chamber' was a room that once upon a time a high born lady would have her own chamber, (also referred to as a solar). The origins of the nursery rhyme are believed to date back to the 16th century and refer to necessity for Catholic priests to hide in 'Priest Holes' (very small secret rooms once found in many great houses in England) to avoid persecution from zealous Protestants who were totally against the old Catholic religion. If caught both the priest and members of any family found harbouring them were executed. The moral in Goosey Goosey Gander's lyrics imply that something unpleasant would surely happen to anyone failing to say their prayers correctly - meaning the Protestant Prayers, said in English as opposed to Catholic prayers which were said in Latin!

Our grateful thanks go to Stan Evans for the following additional information:
"I read that it referred to the post Civil War period (middle 17th century) and Cromwell's soldiers who marched in "goose-step", which gives the title and first line. Also, the version of the rhyme I heard had the third line as, "There I met an old man a-saying of his prayers". This referred to (as you mention) a Catholic, possibly a Priest, praying and the line: "I took him by the left leg and threw him down the stairs" alluded to the nickname "left-footer", that a Catholic is sometimes called in Britain. The overall meaning was that the Roundhead soldiers were searching out Catholics, particularly Priests, hiding in the houses of friends, and when found they were ill-treated".


Goosey Goosey Gander image



Caught in the Act - Religious Intolerance 

Goosey Goosey Gander poem

Goosey Goosey Gander where shall I wander,
Upstairs, downstairs and in my lady's chamber
There I met an old man who wouldn't say his prayers,
I took him by the left leg and threw him down the stairs.

Goosey Goosey Gander poem


Note: A Rhymes lyrics and the perceived origins of some Nursery Rhymes vary according to location


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Written By Linda Alchin