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Origins: London's Burning / Scotland's Burning

GUEST,george Henderson 02 Nov 08 - 04:11 PM
Sorcha 02 Nov 08 - 04:31 PM
Sorcha 02 Nov 08 - 05:43 PM
Liz the Squeak 02 Nov 08 - 05:51 PM
Phil Edwards 02 Nov 08 - 05:54 PM
Malcolm Douglas 02 Nov 08 - 06:22 PM
Susan of DT 02 Nov 08 - 10:56 PM
Phil Edwards 03 Nov 08 - 02:58 AM
Mr Red 03 Nov 08 - 03:38 AM
GUEST,leeneia 03 Nov 08 - 10:38 AM
Jack Blandiver 03 Nov 08 - 11:34 AM
Jack Blandiver 03 Nov 08 - 11:48 AM
GUEST,George Henderson 04 Nov 08 - 05:03 AM
GUEST,Sheila 04 Nov 08 - 09:22 AM
GUEST,leeneia 04 Nov 08 - 10:09 AM
GUEST 06 Dec 08 - 02:22 PM
Dave Hanson 07 Dec 08 - 10:35 AM
Jack Campin 07 Dec 08 - 11:10 AM
GUEST,Nessie 15 Feb 09 - 12:52 PM
GUEST,Jen Wolf 25 Feb 10 - 11:13 AM
Richard Mellish 25 Feb 10 - 12:17 PM
Anne Lister 26 Feb 10 - 12:05 PM
Jack Campin 26 Feb 10 - 12:28 PM
GUEST,crazy little woman 26 Feb 10 - 06:06 PM
Tangledwood 26 Feb 10 - 08:19 PM
Anne Lister 27 Feb 10 - 08:27 AM
GUEST,Kim 22 Apr 10 - 05:06 PM
Jack Campin 22 Apr 10 - 06:52 PM
GUEST 05 May 10 - 07:10 AM
GUEST,Jo Who 11 Aug 11 - 04:01 AM
GUEST,Rose Carroll 17 Jun 12 - 11:01 AM
Gibb Sahib 17 Jun 12 - 11:15 AM
Nigel Parsons 18 Jun 12 - 03:23 AM
GUEST 22 Jun 15 - 04:28 PM
Rumncoke 23 Jun 15 - 06:10 AM
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Subject: Londons Burning
From: GUEST,george Henderson
Date: 02 Nov 08 - 04:11 PM

During a visit of my Grand Daughter earlier today I was playing a CD of nursery rhymes to keep her amused.

An interesting discussion took place between her parents and me and my wife as to the age of the song. The mention of the engine suggested to her parents that the song was of recent origin. However I am convinced that it dates back to the great fire in London.

Has anybody any idea of its origins.

Text

London's Burning, london's burning,
Fire fire, fire fire,
get the engine, get the engine
pour on water pour on water.

Aslo sung as a round.


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Subject: RE: Londons Burning
From: Sorcha
Date: 02 Nov 08 - 04:31 PM

I believe there were horse drawn engines during the Great Fire, and I tend to agree with you.


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: Sorcha
Date: 02 Nov 08 - 05:43 PM

Advertisement for a comparatively small and manoeuvrable seventeenth-century fire engine on wheels: "These Engins, (which are the best) to quinch great Fire; are made by John Keeling in Black Fryers (after many years' Experience)."

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Fire_of_London


The quote is the caption of a drawing there. You must scroll down to see it. So, perhaps NOT horse drawn 'engines'. Seems that most of the fire fighting of the time involved mostly demoliton ahead of the fire, which became impossible in the fire storms.


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 02 Nov 08 - 05:51 PM

The Egyptians had fire engines... of a sort, based on a pump developed in the 3rd Century BC.

Romans also had water pumps for putting out fires, and one or two rather lucrative blackmail rackets which involved setting light to your competition's premises and then charging to put it out.

LTS


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 02 Nov 08 - 05:54 PM

I am convinced that it dates back to the great fire in London.

Why?


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 02 Nov 08 - 06:22 PM

Generally speaking, people just assume that it must be about the Great Fire because they've heard of it. Many such assumptions are made about children's rhymes, usually without any foundation whatever.

In this case, though, it may really be true; though the round (not strictly a nursery rhyme, so not in Opie) is actually older than that. I wouldn't like to guess at a date for the form universally taught in schools in modern times, but a round beginning 'Scotland it Burneth', set to what is essentially the same tune, appears in the Lant Manuscript of 1580 (Kings College Library, KC 1). Notation can be seen at

http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/ravenscroft/songbook/scotland.html


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: Susan of DT
Date: 02 Nov 08 - 10:56 PM

A couple of versions of that round:

London's burning, London's burning
Look yonder, look yonder
Fire, fire, fire, fire
And we have no water


Fire's burning, fire's burning
Draw nearer, draw nearer
In the gloaming, in the gloaming
Come sing and be merry

Girl Scouts? summer camp?


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 02:58 AM

Well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs. Pedantically, you could argue that the song doesn't date back to the Great Fire in the sense of being written in response to it. But it was clearly around at the time, and the 'London' part may well have stuck to it as a result of the fire. Score one for folk etymology!


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: Mr Red
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 03:38 AM

Well I was always taught that it dated from the time of the Great Fire, and maybe (or I assumed) it was in response to it. But Folksong is about adaptation and mutation, so Folksong definitely. As I remember it was considered a childrens song, but not a nursery song. But that may be because it is the kind of song taught in schools as an example of a round.

And apparently the King dithered about blowing-up houses around the fire storm for several days when he had to sanction the destruction of a greater swathe. He feared compensation to friends and supporters.


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 10:38 AM

I thought I learned it as 'Scotland's Burning.' It was a round.

So I googled 'Scotland's burning pour on water' and got scads of hits. Many, many people sing it that way.

We didn't have any engines, just:

Scotland's burning, Scotland's burning.
Pour on water, pour on water!
Fire, fire, fire, fire, fire, fire, fire!


I suspect that, even if the original was about London, considerable time had to pass (say 50 years) before something as dreadful as the fire was commemorated in something as playful as this song.


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 11:34 AM

London's burning! London's burning!

All across the town, all across the night
Everybody's driving with full headlights
Black or white turn it on, face the new religion
Everybody's sitting 'round watching television!

London's burning with boredom now
London's burning dial 99999

I'm up and down the Westway, in an' out the lights
What a great traffic system - it's so bright
I can't think of a better way to spend the night
Then speeding around underneath the yellow lights

London's burning with boredom now
London's burning dial 99999

Now I'm in the subway and I'm looking for the flat
This one leads to this block, this one leads to that
The wind howls through the empty blocks looking for a home
I run through the empty stone because I'm all alone

London's burning with boredom now...
London's burning dial 99999


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 03 Nov 08 - 11:48 AM

Lots of excellent versions on YouTube, including This masterful rendition. Look at Joe Strummer's footwork at the beginning. You did us proud Joe, RIP...


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: GUEST,George Henderson
Date: 04 Nov 08 - 05:03 AM

Thanks for the input. I am intrigued by Scotland's burning which I have never heard before.


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: GUEST,Sheila
Date: 04 Nov 08 - 09:22 AM

I learned it as
"Scotland's burning, Boston's burning,
Look out, look out,
Fire, fire, fire, fire,
Pour on water, more water."


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 04 Nov 08 - 10:09 AM

Well, Sheila, that's different. I've never heard "Boston" before.

Yes, George, I agree with you that "Scotland" is intriguing. Well, in my opinion, "puzzling" is more like it. I've never heard of a big fire anywhere in Scotland. And while I couldn't say that the entire country is fireproof, yet much of it is so soggy that fire danger doesn't come to mind much when composing a round.

Insane Beard, I believe that the performance you linked to is slightly different from the round most of us are discussing.

Ahem.


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: GUEST
Date: 06 Dec 08 - 02:22 PM

Hello,

I am a Canadian graduate student doing an MA thesis dealing with ballads in Shakespearean drama. The earliest known version of "London is Burning" actually reads "Scotland is burning / Scotland is burning" etc. and can be found on the Lant roll at Kings College, Cambridge. It is dated 1580. You can find a reference to it in Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" Act 4.1. lines 15-16.

Cheers,

Paul Faber
University of Calgary
Canada


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 07 Dec 08 - 10:35 AM

Londons burning, Londons burning,
Fetch the taties, fetch the taties...........

eric


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: Jack Campin
Date: 07 Dec 08 - 11:10 AM

Edinburgh was burnt to the ground (mostly by English armies) several times. The nearest in time to 1580 was the invasion under Edward VI in 1547 - this involved greater loss of life than any other conflict between England and Scotland (by a very large margin) and would certainly have been remembered both sides of the border a generation later. (I don't think any other war had a higher Scottish death toll until WW1). A triumphalist ditty like that would make a LOT of sense for English kids to sing.


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: GUEST,Nessie
Date: 15 Feb 09 - 12:52 PM

I also learned it as Scotland, this way:

Scotland's Burning! Scotland's Burning!
Look out! Look out!
Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire!
Pour on water. Pour on water.

I am of Scottish ancestry, Douglas Clan, and so are many other Texans where I live.   My husband of the Cody(Oda)family, was also Scottish, and he learned it as a child, as I did, with the word Scotland's.

Thank you. Canadian graduate & Jack Campin, thanks for the history. All others, it would be interesting to know if everyone's ancestry determines which song their parents taught them. Would like to know.
sbach@warpspeed1.net
My link did not come out blue, here, so you can just write to me at sbach@warpspeed1.net.    Nessie


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: GUEST,Jen Wolf
Date: 25 Feb 10 - 11:13 AM

I have english ancestry but learned it the song as Scotland's burning. It makes sense what Jack Campin said about english kids"taunting" the scots with this song.


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 25 Feb 10 - 12:17 PM

It also reached Norway, where they sing "Brand in Tuddal" to the same tune.


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: Anne Lister
Date: 26 Feb 10 - 12:05 PM

I'm just wondering who I can taunt by singing a round at them ...it's a rather more pleasant and subtle form of taunting than most childhood insults! (And you'd have to have three friends with you at least to make it work). Do you think the taunters stood one side of the border and sang to those on the other side? Or did they turn up at dinner parties, uninvited?

I'm sorry - I'm on a roll now. I just can't quite see it. Especially as it seems it's mostly those with Scottish ancestry who remember it that way - wouldn't you think someone would have changed the words, if it was upsetting, instead of passing it on down the generations?

IMHO, I suspect the words were fairly irrelevant, as they are to most rounds. I've only ever come across London as the location for the fire and I've never seen it as any kind of triumphal taunt.


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: Jack Campin
Date: 26 Feb 10 - 12:28 PM

I think it would be unlikely for anybody with a Scottish connection to have an unbroken chain of transmission for the "Scotland" version going back to the 16th century. And it would be highly unlikely for kids either side of the border to know about the invasions of the 1540s, though just maybe kids in Musselburgh learn about the Battle of Pinkie.

It would be interesting to know how they did come by it, though.


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: GUEST,crazy little woman
Date: 26 Feb 10 - 06:06 PM

Originaly the song was about a barbecue gone amok.

Scotch the burgers, scotch the burgers!
Pour on water, pour on water!
Fetch a fire hose, fire, fire, fire!

References to Scotland, then London, are results of the intellectualization of this domestic drama.


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: Tangledwood
Date: 26 Feb 10 - 08:19 PM

It surprises me that a version remembered from childhood hasn't been mentioned.

School is burning, school is burning
Look yonder, look yonder
Fire, fire, fire, fire
pour on petrol, pour on petrol

I think "fetch the teachers" was in there somewhere, not sure if it was another verse or maybe instead of "look yonder".


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: Anne Lister
Date: 27 Feb 10 - 08:27 AM

If you google "Scotland's Burning song history" there's a couple of tales from the American Civil War which might explain its place in US memories. It also features in umpteen collections of children's songs, apparently, so it wouldn't need to be an oral tradition.


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: GUEST,Kim
Date: 22 Apr 10 - 05:06 PM

I'm teaching this song in 3rd grade right now, and the students were dying to know what the story of the song is. I told them I'd look it up and I found myself here - looking forward to sharing this entire conversation with them in the morning. Maybe I'll ask them first where they think the song comes from? Sure to produce outrageous tales of horror and woe!

The version in my resource and which I learned as a kid (growing up in the US outside Chicago) is the same as Nessie:

Scotland's Burning! Scotland's Burning!
Look out! Look out!
Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire!
Pour on water. Pour on water.


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: Jack Campin
Date: 22 Apr 10 - 06:52 PM

Here is one account of an English raid into Scotland of the period:

The Earl of Hertford's 1545 expedition to the Borders (PDF)

It might be interesting for the kids to look at Kelso, Melrose and Dryburgh Abbeys as they are today, on Google Maps Street View. Most of the ruination dates from that time. And that was the smallest of the three invasions of the 1540s. (The language of that description will be completely unreadable for any third-grader, but they will be able to make sense of the list of places "raced" - i.e. razed).

Many of those placenames are still identifiable on the map, but in a lot of cases there is absolutely nothing left above the ground from before the raids. In the whole of Edinburgh there are only a handful of buildings left from before Edward VI's reign, the devastation was more comprehensive than Hiroshima.


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Subject: RE: London's Burning
From: GUEST
Date: 05 May 10 - 07:10 AM

SCHOOL IS BURNING, SCHOOL IS BURNING,
HURRAY, HURRAY, HURRAY, HURRAY,
FETCH THE TEACHERS, FETCH THE TEACHERS,
POUR ON PETROL , POUR ON PETROL!


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Subject: RE: Origins: London's Burning
From: GUEST,Jo Who
Date: 11 Aug 11 - 04:01 AM

Because of the London riots (2011)I was trying to remember the words of this rhyme, from chanting it in a 1950s NZ childhood, in case it shed any light. It was definitely London then (and now). What goes around comes around eh?


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Subject: RE: Origins: London's Burning
From: GUEST,Rose Carroll
Date: 17 Jun 12 - 11:01 AM

I always thought the song Londons burning dated back to world war 2 because of all the bombing done which would have caused lots of fires around london


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Subject: RE: Origins: London's Burning
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 17 Jun 12 - 11:15 AM

A chanty verse on the theme:


"London town is a-burning,
Oh, run with the bullgine, run.
Way, yay, way, yay, yar,
Oh, run with the bullgine, run."
(Clark 1912)

Also seen with New York instead of London.


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Subject: RE: Origins: London's Burning
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 18 Jun 12 - 03:23 AM

Or, the more recent, as used at Scout/Guide camps as a campfire opening song:

Campfire's burning, Campfire's burning.
Draw nearer, Draw nearer.
In the gloaming, in the gloaming,
Come sing and be merry.


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Subject: RE: Origins: London's Burning
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Jun 15 - 04:28 PM

Apparently the evacuees did not like hearing it sung because of the Blitz


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Subject: RE: Origins: London's Burning
From: Rumncoke
Date: 23 Jun 15 - 06:10 AM

Not all engines are shiny bright red contrivances with sirens - or bells.

A fire engine can be a double action pump made from wood and leather, moved on a cart and powered by humans.

The crew, working a see-saw type mechanism with two pistons could sent a lot of water some distance into a burning building directly into the places burning most fiercely. Presumably there were other men bringing water to keep the reservoir topped up.

I think there was an episode of 'Time Team' where they built one, and then were surprised at how well it worked.


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