Jody Baker: Sherlockian Nursery Rhymes And TAMG

Wednesday, January 09, 2013 - by Jody Baker

During the Christmas season followers of Sherlock Holmes give special attention to The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle. 

Recently, on the Hounds of the Internet (the premier List-serve for Sherlockians), Ron Lies  posted a Sherlockian nursery rhyme built around the Blue Carbuncle story. In the posting,  Mr. Ries pays tribute to the Mother Goose Rhyme “Goosy, Goosey, Gander.” Mr. Ries posted this:

“Goosey, goosey, gander
Where do you wander?
From Brixton Road to Market
And to Peterson's' chambers
They found it held a shiny stone
As blue as it could be;
So the commissionaire rushed it over
To Two Twenty-one B.” 


Most Sherlockians are familiar with William S. Baring-Gould’s “Annotated Sherlock Holmes.” Others may not be familiar with Baring-Gould’s  “The Annotated Mother Goose”  (Privately published 1955, copyright and published 1962) co-authored with his wife Ceil Baring-Gould. It is to this monumental exercise in research and writing that we turn our attention. 

In doing so, we explore the underlying meanings and references in “The Annotated Mother Goose” (herein TAMG). The flap of the dust jacket gives us a hint of what we are about to enjoy.  From TAMG’s  dust jacket:  “The copious and erudite notes not only point out the meaning of the rhymes and words, but explain the many political allusions, jokes, later parodies, ….”   

Against this backdrop may we examine the familiar “Goosey, Goosey Gander” rhyme. TAMG tells us that it first appeared as:  

 “Goose-a-goose-a, gander
Where shall I wander?
Upstairs, downstairs,
In my lady’s chamber.
There you’ll find a cup of sac
And a race of ginger.” 


The annotators point out that “sac” is dry wine (vin sec) and that “race” means “root” a meaning now obsolete except when used, as here, with ginger.

Somewhere in the history of this rhyme it became merged with “Old Father Longlegs” (Rhyme 62 in TAMG). Thus, now appearing as: 

 “Goosey, goosey, gander
Whither shall I wander?
Upstairs and downstairs,
And in my lady’s chamber.
There I met an old man,
Who would not say his prayers.
I took him by the left leg
And threw him down the stairs.” 


Of the rhyme in this form, Sherlock Holmes would say, “Ineffable twaddle.” Mrs. Baynes might say, “Flapdoodle.” Not so, with the Baring-Goulds. They have pointed out the hidden meaning. In TAMG they tell us that an accepted interpretation is this:

The “old man” was Cardinal David Beaton (1494-1546). He was archbishop of St. Andrews and the last Cardinal of Scotland prior to the reformation. He refused to conform to the reformed doctrines of the Covenanters or comply with their requirements. His castle was attacked, and he was thrown down the stairs. Upon landing he was grabbed and stabbed to death. Then, his bloody body was hung from the ramparts of his Castle of St. Andrews. 

And you want us to teach this to the little ones?

Respectfully,  Inspector Baynes


(Jody Baker is a Chattanooga attorney, who specializes in Sherlock Holmes lore. He can be reached at josiahbaker@bkhcw.com.)



Pam Fleenor Is Prepared To Serve As Chancellor

Pam Fleenor has demonstrated in both her legal experience and in her campaign that she’s prepared to serve as chancellor, Part 1, of Hamilton County.  Pam began her legal practice here in her hometown in 1986. Her experience in real estate, commercial and contractual cases fit the Chancery Court. But her work as a court-appointed guardian for seniors with dementia and with ... (click for more)

Supporting Ryan Epperson For Register Of Deeds

I have known Ryan Epperson for approximately nine years. He has served this county as a member of the Army National Guard, and has been serving the citizens of this county for years as a member of the Hamilton County Sheriff Office. He has the ability and knowledge to be a successful register of deeds. He has told me and others he that he would seek to better equip the office ... (click for more)

Catoosa Man Convicted Of Sexual Abuse Of 5 Young Girls Gets Life Plus 250 Years

A Catoosa County man convicted of the sexual abuse of five young girls and possession of child pornography has been sentenced to life plus 250 years. James Martin Ferris, 34, was found guilty after a recent trial. The day after his conviction, Judge Ralph Van Pelt set the sentence. Ferris on June 5, 2013, was indicted by the Catoosa County Grand Jury on 46 counts.   ... (click for more)

Jury Finds Glover Not Guilty Of Attempted Aggravated Robbery

A Criminal Court jury on Tuesday night found 22-year-old Imari Glover not guilty of the charge of attempted aggravated robbery. The trial only lasted several hours, and the panel deliberated about two hours. According to police, Glover and two friends made plans to rob the Moe's Southwest Grill on Gunbarrel Road on Nov. 17, 2010. However, they were stopped by police ... (click for more)

East Hamilton Can Grab No. 1 Seed In 5-AAA With Win Over Tribe

(Story will be updated) It will take one more game to completely settle the brackets for next week’s District 5-AAA baseball tournament, but the groundwork was put in place Wednesday when the league coaches met at Beef O’Brady’s in Ooltewah. The last piece of business is Wednesday night’s game between East Hamilton and McMinn County at Chattanooga State, which has a 6 p.m. ... (click for more)

Cleveland, Thompson Knock Trojans Out Of Share Of 5-AAA Lead

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – Cleveland right-hander Taylor Thompson sent Soddy-Daisy hitters a clear message early in Tuesday’s District 5-AAA baseball game – “I’m on tonight, boys.” Thompson threw a neat three-hitter and struck out 10 as the Blue Raiders defeated Soddy-Daisy, 6-1, at Raider Field to knock the Trojans out of a share of first place in the district. “If I get settled ... (click for more)