October 24, 2011

Freak Show
Photo by Mike Bitzenhofer

When reading Peter Ackroyd’s Biography of London I was reminded of a rhyme my grandmother used to recite to me. In the book he refers to some of the freak shows to be seen at the London fairs, including the Horse and no Horse, whose tail stands where his head should do”.

My grandmother’s version was…

Owd Jem Hawker went Bury Fair
Bought three horses, one was a mare
One was blind
T’other couldn’t see
T’other had its head where its tail should be.

My attempts to find the background to this were unsuccessful but it was interesting to find a similar horse described in the tales of Mother Goose…

See, see

See, see! What shall I see?
A horse’s head where his tail should be.

It’s fascinating to thing that this tale (tail?) survived from the seventeenth-century Bartholomew’s Fair in London through to Victorian Lancashire.


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