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  • Sheena and Linda

The grand old Duke of York (Songs from childhood ~ Linda)

Linda, white hat, with friends lined up ready to dance the Grand Old Duke of York at the Christmas party

My big sister, Linda, and I grew up on the North East coast of Scotland. We both have memories of the children's parties put on by the school at Christmas and at the end of the summer term. In much more recent years, Linda ran Playsongs, sorting the orders, sending them out and enjoying the daily contacts with our customers whether shops, music groups, distributors or mums and dads. Now she's a three-times granny and this is one of the songs from childhood, which she'd like to pass on to her grandchildren.

I have many favourite childhood songs but The Grand Old Duke of York always comes into my mind along with a clear picture of singing and dancing to it. It is the 1950s and I am wearing a party dress - nothing special and probably home made by my Mum. It is the school Christmas party, we are all friends for the day, we are all sugar fuelled and happy. The small primary school has no space big enough for us all so events take place in the village hall, which is old, with a scuffed wooden floor over which has been strewn a white powder to make it a little bit less rough and excitingly slippy. Benches are placed all around the side walls and there is a stage at one end with dusty plum coloured curtains. The hall is sparsely decorated, there is a tree but no fairy lights and the lighting comes from harsh lightbulbs with utilitarian shades, but we don't care, it is party time and we are having great fun. Another game is announced, the music teacher strikes familiar chords on the piano and off we go skipping the Grand Old Duke of York with his ten thousand men, who march up and down hills for no apparent reason except for us to sing and dance the song!

Oh the Grand Old Duke of York, He had ten thousand men, He marched them up to the top of the hill And he marched them down again.

And when they were up they were up,

And when they were down they were down, And when they were only half way up They were neither up nor down.

(Dance: two lines of children stand facing their partners. The first pair join hands and skip along between the two rows during the first verse - up then back. They part and each doubles back along the outside of their row - followed by the other children. The leading pair meet again and hold hands in an arch, through which the others pass to form two rows again. Now the new pair at the top of the line, take their turn to skip between the rows. And so it goes on until every pair has had their turn.)


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