The song is sung to the tune of "Go In and Out the Window"...


Lynn Barnard wrote:

"This is what we sang as children in Essex:

My Mother said I never should
Play with the gypsies in the wood.
The wood is dark and the grass is green.
There goes Sally (any name) with the tambourine."


Tim Sharrock wrote:

"The version that I knew in my childhood in Kent in the 1940s/early 1950s went:

'My mother said, I never should,
Play with the gypsies in the wood;
Grave were the dangers, so said she,
Of mucking about with Romany.'

(I'm not sure about the 'mucking about'; it might have been 'playing there' or something similar.)" – Dr Tim Sharrock

Mark Arnold wrote:

"I grew up in the 1950's in Essex and my mother told me many nursery rhymes. I remember them all pretty much. He is how she recited the 'my mother said' rhyme, which we played hand-clapping games to.

My mother said that I never should
Play with the gypsies in the wood
Grave were the dangers, so said she
Of playing with the Romany.

When I did, she would say
'Naughty girl to disobey,
Your hair shan't curl, your shoes won't shine
You naughty girl you shan't be mine.'

My father said that if I did
He'd bang my head with the teapot lid.

The woods were dark, the grass was green
Up comes Sally with a tambourine
Alpaca frock, new scarf-shawl,
White straw bonnet and a pink parasol.

Went to the river, no ship to get across
I paid ten shillings for an old blind horse
I up on his back and off in a crack
Sally tell my mother I shall never come back."

Frank Spence wrote, "After reading 'My mother said I never should ...' I've searched for the version I first heard in East Sussex in the early 1950s, and later, from our children growing up in Berkshire in the 1980s. Every time I heard the song, it started with 'My mother told me I never should ...' which scans better, and 'told me' is far more definite and appropriate than 'said'." Best wishes, Frank


Sometimes only the first verse of this song is sung. You can hear part of it sung here online.

Thanks and Acknowledgements

Thanks to Tim Sharrock for sharing his Mom's version of this song. Thanks to Lynn Barnard for sharing her version. Thanks to Mark Arnold for sharing his momn's version. Thanks to Frank Spence for writing about his version.

Thank you!