Mama Lisa's World
International Music & Culture
Huffity, Puffity, Ringstone Round
(English Kids Song)

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There's an interesting mystery concerning this fun song:

Does it date back to previous centuries or did it originate in a modern TV show?

Read below for details...

Huffity, Puffity, Ringstone Round
Children's Song

Huffity, puffity, Ringstone Round,
If you lose your hat it will never be found,
So pull your britches right up to your chin,
And fasten your cloak with a bright new pin,
And when you are ready, then we can begin,
Huffity, puffity, puff!

Notes

Many thanks to Jim Linwood for contributing this rhyme. Jim wrote me that this "...nursery rhyme comes from the English West Country (that of Thomas Hardy) and was sung by children as they played among megalithic stone circles like Stonehenge."
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A women named Sue wrote me the following regarding Ringstone Round, "I've been doing some research on the Quatermass series of films and television series, and came across the reference to the rhyme about Ringstone Round on your site. I thought you might like to check out it's authenticity, because as far as I am aware it was written by Andrew Kneale, specifically to refer to a megalithic circle in the final Quatermass series. The circle is called Ringstone Round. I can't be sure about it, but I suspect the rhyme wasn't heard until about 1979, when the series was aired."
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Mac Fayden wrote me, "...Slight correction, Quatermass was written by Nigel Kneale, not Andrew Kneale. Ringstone Round doesn't exist - it was created as a location for the show. Personally, even though the rhyme was made up for the show, I think it should become a proper, bona fide nursery rhyme."
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Pete Wickham wrote to me about Huffity Puffity. He thinks it's older than the Quatermass series:

"I recently moved and have just got round to getting a new desk set up more in keeping with the 21st century. The old desk was bought second hand late in 1973, and I think it dated from the late 1920s. It was substantial, oak I think, and it always served me well. It had seen better days and my daughter and her husband broke it up to dispose of it. When loading it into the car she spotted that something had been written in pencil on one of the internal panels, where it must have remained hidden since the desk was constructed. It was quite hard to read as it was written in pencil on dark stain, but if you get the light in the right place it's another version of the 'Huffitty, Puffity, Ring stone round' rhyme!

This version starts on the left of the panel;

huffity Puffity Puff
huffity Puffity Puff (Then the writer seems to have started again to the right. The start of the word 'huff' seems to have been written and then struck through or crossed out, then the whole rhyme is written out as follows underneath)
huffity Puffity
Ringstone round If you lose your
hat it will never be found So
tie up your briches right up to
your chin, and when you are ready
then we will begin.

I have transcribed capital and small letters exactly as written, britches is spelt briches and there is no punctuation. This differs from Jim Linwood's version.

Huffity Puffity Photo

Being a bit of a Quatermass fan I recognised it right way. I had never heard it before the program in late 1970s and assumed like many others that Kneale had made it up, but I'm sure this must have been written and incorporated in the desk at the time of its construction. Why anyone wanted to send it down the years in this way is obviously a mystery, I wouldn't let it go anyway and have managed to get the attached scans. The writing is already fading, either due to exposure to the light or handling, so I am now being very careful with it!

I have enjoyed looking through your site! Lots of interesting things!"

Good wishes, Pete Wickham
UK
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Jericho Morton wrote:

"Unlike the original BBC Quatermass serials, which had used stock music tracks, the new serial had a specially composed soundtrack by Marc Wilkinson and Nic Rowley which made particular use of the nursery rhyme 'Huffity, Puffity, Ringstone Round' devised by Kneale in his scripts.[21]" [From Wikipedia]

Why some people make up things like Wickham I will never know, it seems they prefer to just make things up to appear more than they are. I wager he's a bit of a new-age warlock person, a wannabe Erich von Däniken. That may have been rather the point of Quatermass."

Very Kind Regards,

Jericho Morton
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Andrew wrote:

"I was interested to read you entry on the Quattermass rhyme ringstone round. I remember watching the series on british tv as a kid and, being from the west county, fascinated by the ideas it raised. We had lots of small stone circles around us, many no one has probably every heard of, the possibility that there was once one called ringstone round is a distinct possibility. The words and lyrics has stuck with me ever since, which I suppose is another sign that it could be a real rhyme as they would have been originally designed to be easily memorized by children. One curious thing has always puzzled me about it is that it does not relate very closely to the events in the tv series - something you would expect from a piece of material totally created as a plot device. I personally believe that Keale was drawing on some vague recollection of a rhyme he may have heard in childhood, but that's just a guess. I don't think there is a biography on him, so I doubt we will ever know. Many thanks."

Andrew Novell

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Pete Rigg wrote:

"I'm pretty certain Nigel Kneale originated the 'Ringstone Round' rhyme. And I think I know what he based it on. The first two lines follow the rhythm and stress patterns of 'Cottleston Pie' from the Winnie the Pooh books.

Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie.
A fly can't bird, but a bird can fly.
Ask me a riddle and I reply:
Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie.


Similarly, the last four lines follow the pattern of Pete McGovern's song 'In my Liverpool Home', versions recorded by The Spinners and The Scaffold, a standard in the British folk clubs in the sixties and early seventies.

In my Liverpool Home, In my Liverpool Home
We speak with an accent exceedingly rare,
Meet under a statue exceedingly bare,
And if you want a Cathedral, we've got one to spare
In my Liverpool Home


I'm not convinced of the authenticity of Pete Wickham's prior version on the desk. In a conversation with the folklorist Dr Jacqueline Simpson, with whom he collaborated on 'The Folklore of Discworld', Sir Terry Pratchett quotes a variant, the fifth line being 'Ask me a riddle and we'll begin... Now was that made up? It was, wasn't it?'. Dr Simpson confirms this and goes on to comment 'I notice that it is developing variations, which is of course the mark of true folklore'. Which implies that in her expert opinion the rhyme has no known antecedent in the tradition, but has become a part of it."

Pete Rigg
Leicester, England

Post Script

"…and obviously Kneale's starting point, 'Huffity Puffity Ringstone Round' refers to the traditional idea that if you run around your local circle so many times at such and such a time of day or year the devil will appear and... well, you'll be out of breath from a long hard run!

Jacqueline jokes '...oh and I may say that is quite a job, someone in good health, a young energetic bloke could do it but I certainly couldn't have done it at any age, seven times round that without stopping, anyway...'"
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If anyone else would like to try to shed any light on the true origins of this song, please email me.

Thanks!

Lisa

Thanks and Acknowledgements

Thanks to everyone who commented on this song!

Thanks so much!

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