I went to the pictures tomorrow

Source: Quoted in Iona and Peter Opie, The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren (London/Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 1959), p. 25

Text:
I went to the pictures tomorrow
I took a front seat at the back,
I fell from the pit to the gallery
And broke a front bone in my back.
A lady she gave me some chocolate,
I ate it and gave it her back.
I phoned for a taxi and walked it,
And that’s why I never came back.

Kirkcaldy

I went to the pictures next Tuesday
And took a front seat at the back.
I said to the lady behind me,
I cannot see over your hat.
She gave me some well-broken biscuits,
I ate them and gave her them back;
I fell from the pit to the gallery
And broke my front bone at the back.

Enfield

Comments: These are two versions of a popular children’s nonsense rhyme, documented during the 1950s in Kirkaldy (in Scotland) and Enfield (in London) by the folklorists Iona and Peter Opie for their classic compilation The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. They note that they had found versions of this rhyme at ten schools in the United Kingdom. They suggest that the rhyme could be quite old and may originally have referred to the theatre rather than the cinema. The mention of hats obscuring the view of the audience (even if worn by people behind them) echoes a common complaint of pre-First World War film audiences, which could be further evidence of the rhyme’s long-running popularity among children.

This entry was posted in 1950s, Poetry and rhyme, United Kingdom and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to I went to the pictures tomorrow

  1. ness says:

    The version I remember is:
    I went to the pictures tomorrow
    I got a front seat at the back
    I fell from the pit to the gallery
    And broke a thigh bone in my back
    I got a blind man to guide me
    I saw a dead donkey die
    So I took out my dagger to shoot it
    And it landed me one in the eye.

  2. Fantastic version – makes me think of Bunuel and Dali’s Un Chien Andalou (with its dead donkeys).

  3. Sara says:

    My version from Wakefield in Yorkshire 50 plus years ago is:-
    Next Friday I went to the pictures
    I took a front seat at the back
    I said to the lady behind me
    I couldn’t see over her hat.
    She gave me some whole broken biscuits
    I ate them and gave her them back
    I fell from the pit to the gallery
    And broke a front bone in my back

  4. Steve F says:

    The version I remember from 40+ years ago is
    I went to the pictures tomorrow
    I took a front seat in the back
    The woman beside me gave me sweets
    I ate them and gave her them back
    I fell from the floor to the ceiling
    Broke every front bone in me back
    Admission free, pay at the door
    Take a seat and sit on the floor

    • I like those last two lines. There must be as many variants of this as there were playgrounds in the UK forty years ago. I wonder when the rhyme died out (apart from in the memories of those who chanted it when young).

  5. Sara says:

    I reckon these things died out when ‘elf ‘n safety came in and stopped kids running round playgrounds!

  6. I don’t think playground rhymes have died out at all, but this particular one will have done so because ‘going to the pictures’ is no longer a regular part of children’s lives. Unless someone knows better?

  7. Ogy says:

    If I had a donkey and he would go
    Think I’d beat him no no no
    I’d put him in the stable give him some grass
    If he wouldn’t eat it is poke it up his arse

    Portsmouth version

  8. Ruth Bowen says:

    My poppa used to say:
    I went to the pictures tomorrow
    And got a front seat at the back
    I fell from the floor to the ceiling
    And broke a front bone in my back

    • Johanna says:

      Close to the versionof what my mother taught me that I recited as a child:

      I went to the show tomorrow,
      Got a front seat in the back,
      Fell from the floor to the balcony
      And broke the front of my back

  9. Kate says:

    My Nanny taught me this version:
    I went to the pictures tomorrow
    And brought a front seat at the back
    I fell from the pit to the gallery
    And broke my front bone in my back
    I went round a straight crooked corner
    To see a dead donkey die
    And when I bent down to look at him
    He kicked me in the eye

  10. Alexandrea says:

    My Grammie Anna’s version ;

    I went to the movies tomorrow
    I got a front seat in the back
    I fell from the pit to the gallery
    And broke the front of my back
    The band struck up and wouldn’t play
    So I sat down and walked away…

  11. Alice Iona says:

    I was taught:
    I went to the pictures tomorrow,
    I took a front seat at the back.
    I ate a plain cake with currents in it,
    I ate it then took it back.
    I walked down a straight-crooked lane,
    I saw a dead donkey a’dying.
    I picked up a brick that I couldn’t lift,
    I hit him in the eye and I missed him.

  12. kate says:

    i got taught
    i went round a crooked straight corner
    and saw a dead donkey die
    i took out my pistol to stab it
    and the dirty thing spat in me eye
    and
    i went to the pictures tomorrow
    and took a front seat at the back
    a lady gave me a plain cake with currents in
    i eat it and gave it her back
    also
    i was in the month of Liverpool
    in the city of July
    the rain was snowing heavily
    and all the streets were dry

  13. Rick says:

    I learned this about 50yrs ago. I think my father taught it to me but he didn’t remember.

    I went to the show tomorrow, I sat in the front near the back, I fell from the pit to the gallery and broke the front of my back. The tickets were free if you paid at the door, there were plenty of seats if you sat on the floor. The band struck up and didn’t play so I sat down and walked away

  14. I love the line “The tickets were free if you paid at the door”. Sums up life, really.

  15. Dawn says:

    My grandad taught me

    I went to the pictures tomorrow, I had a front seat at the back.
    They gave me plain cake with currents in, I ate it and gave it them back.
    I went down a straight crooked lane, saw a dead donkey dying, I picked up a stone I couldn’t lift and sent it flying.

  16. Just what is it about the dead donkey in many of these variations on the rhyme? It turns the absurd into the surreal.

    • Tom says:

      The dead donkey comes from another nonsense rhyme that starts: “it was Christmas Day in the workhouse, the snow was raining fast”

  17. Indeed it does, thank you, as shown on this link: https://uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070101043204AAY03fV, where one of the first two variations listed has the cinema theme:

    It was Christmas day in the workhouse
    The snow was raining fast
    A barefooted boy with clogs on
    Stood sitting on the grass
    He went round a straight bended corner
    To see a dead donkey die
    The farmer took a sword and shot it
    And the donkey asked him why

    and

    It was Christmas Day in the workhouse
    The snow was raining fast
    A bare footed girl with clocks
    Stood lying on the grass
    She offered me a plain cake with currants in
    I ate it and gave it her back
    I took her to the pictures
    The fronts seats at the back

    These nonsense tropes were clearly interchangeable.

  18. Colin Hollyman says:

    My mother said a rhyme about ” plain cakes with currents in”. I don’t know if it was part of the same rhyme because the only bit that I can remember was:
    “Sitting at the corner of a round table,
    eating plain cake with Currents in”

    But I suspect that these rhymes, although found by Iona and Peter, were not passed from child to child, but down the generations. Especially grandparent to grandchildren as I now try to pass on the old tricks and riddles to my grandchildren.

    • It’s interesting how many of those who have added comments here have noted that they learned the rhymes from a parent or grandparent. In The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren the Opies stress that such rhymes are handed on from child to child “beyond the influence of the family circle”. Maybe things are never so simple.

  19. Colin Hollyman says:

    I don’t think that things are simply told from child to child!
    I remember a TEACHER over 65 years ago when I was about 8 telling the story or a man who go out of prison by rubbing his hands together till they were sore.
    He took the saw and cut his bed into two halves. Two halves make a whole.
    So he climbed through the hole and escaped.
    Then he shouted until he was hoarse. He jumped on the horse and went home.
    There as a variation on the last line:
    A bee flew by and went “Buzz, buzz”. He jumped on the bus and went home.

    (Sorry this has nothing to do with films not even Laurel and Hardy!)

  20. Sue Linge says:

    No things aren’t just passed from child to child. The version my mum taught me was one she heard during the 2nd World War in Chester – ‘I went to the pictures tomorrow, I bought a front seat at the back, a lady gave me a banana, I ate it and gave it her back’. Mum had never had a banana and wasn’t quite sure what it was!

  21. Ken Harrison says:

    The version I remember is this:

    She went to the pictures tomorrow
    And took a front seat right at the back
    She put her false teeth in her handbag
    And her tongue, it went ‘clickety-clack’

  22. Robert Ebbage says:

    I went to the pictures tomorrow and sat in a front seat at the back
    I got a plan tea cake with currants in and buttered it well with fat

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *