Rhodri Marsden's Interesting Objects: 'Mary had a little lamb'
Rhodri Marsden is the Technology Columnist for The Independent; he has also written about crumpets, Captain Beefheart, rude place names and string. He's also a musician who plays in the band Scritti Politti, and won the under-10 piano category at the 1980 Watford Music Festival by playing a piece called "Silver Trumpets" with verve and aplomb.
Saturday 17 May 2014
* In 1815, John Roulstone, a teenage boy on a mission, galloped over the fields to the schoolhouse on Redstone Hill in Sterling, Massachusetts. In his pocket was a piece of paper on which he'd written a 12-line poem, describing the scene he'd witnessed the previous day where a local girl, Mary Sawyer, had brought her pet lamb to class. While the lamb had caused a small commotion, Roulstone's verse was to become one of the most recognised in the English language.
* At least, that's one story. Today in 1830 saw the publication of a book by Sarah Josepha Hale with the snappy title Poems For Our Children, Designed For Families, Sabbath Schools, And Infant Schools, Written to Inculcate Moral Truths And Virtuous Sentiments. It was the first publication of "Mary Had a Little Lamb", and included some moralistic verses advising kindness to animals. Hale claimed that she'd written the whole poem herself; Sawyer stuck to her story.
* The lamb never lived to see its immortalisation in print, having been gored by a cow on Thanksgiving several years earlier. Mary, however, became something of a local celeb: "If I had known that the interest I took in my little pet was to have given me so much notoriety," she said later in life, "I don't know that I should have carried out the plan that I did." She, of course, never heard the song by Paul McCartney and Wings, which reached number 9 in May 1972.
* Motor magnate Henry Ford had a curious interest in Mary's story, buying her old schoolhouse and moving it 20 miles away. A statue of the lamb ("as symmetrical a sheep as ever walked," according to Mary) can be found in Sterling, while its place in the annals of recorded sound is forever assured, thanks to a recording made by Thomas Edison of a man bellowing the rhyme at preposterous volume on 22 June, 1878.
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Mario Balotelli: Staff at arson-hit Manchester Dogs' Home convinced Liverpool striker is behind five-figure donation
- 2 Scottish independence live: Scotland gives a clear 'No' in historic referendum - as it happened
- 3 iOS 8 is full of shiny new features - but it's terrible news for app developers
- 4 Friends 20th anniversary: Six things we wouldn't have without influential comedy series
- 5 Scottish independence: Tory revolt against 'devo max' grows as Rail Minister Claire Perry joins
Jay Z fights lawsuit over use of oh in 'Run This Town'
Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams cast in Channel 4 drama about cyber bullying
Downton Abbey: Liam Neeson wants role as stableman in period drama
Star Wars 7 leaked photo of Adam Driver changes everything
The Walking Dead season 5 synopsis: Spoilers and existential questions revealed
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Scottish independence: The Queen breaks silence on referendum debate – as think tank warns of £14bn black hole if Scotland votes Yes
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'