Radio actuality recordings

A unique collection of original BBC and other radio actuality recordings brings to life the London of the 1920s to the 1950s. These sounds were captured at street markets, fairgrounds, skittle alleys, auction houses, hopfields and elsewhere.

Children's singing game Wandsworth 1938

THIS RECORDING WAS made at Heathcote School, Wandsworth in the June of 1938. It appears on a 12-inch 78 rpm transcription disc (BBC catalogue number 873132) alongside three recordings of children’s singing games from a school in Millwall, east London. They’re reproduced in this entry on the London Sound Survey.

Heathcote School has either disappeared completely or has been renamed, since no mention of it can be found on the Wandsworth council website or anywhere else on the Internet. Pre-war Wandsworth was a predominantly working-class district and, judging by the children’s accents, the school’s make-up reflected that.

The little girl at the beginning answers the (unnamed) interviewer’s questions clearly, enunciating the word yes with a drawn-out sibilant –s, exactly like the Millwall girl who speaks on the Muffin Man recording.

Perhaps this is an overcorrection resulting from teachers drilling the children not to use the demotic yeah. That pronunciation has very old roots which may extend as far back as the Proto-Indo-European y? (‘already’) via the Proto-Germanic ja. An anonymous account of a public meeting outside the Guildhall in 1257 describes the voice of the crowd:

[. . .] and so, by reason of such words and pleasant promises, the populace gave assent, crying aloud, ‘Ya, ya,’ to taking the oath.

The children sing the nursery rhyme as follows:

Sally go round the moon
Sally go round the sun
Sally go round the chimney-pots
On a Sunday [?] afternoon

Nowadays the rhyme is commonly known as Sally Go Round the Sun and is reproduced in collections of children’s songs on both sides of the Atlantic.

Recording © copyright BBC. Audio digitisation and restoration by the London Sound Survey. Many thanks to BBC Worldwide for granting permission to reproduce this recording here.

Childrens singing game Wandsworth 1:44