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.

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65 thoughts on “I went to the pictures tomorrow

  1. 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.

    1. The version I learned as a wee boy in Belfast:

      I went to the pictures tomorrow
      And took a front seat at the back.
      I told the lady behind me
      I couldn’t see over her hats,
      She gave me some sweets
      And I ate them
      And then I gave her them back.
      I fell from the floor to the balcony
      And broke a front bone in my back!

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

    2. Hi, I remember my Grandad (1894 to 1983) quoting versions of these ‘nonsense poems’ in the 1970s and I’ve always assumed that they were probably late Victorian or Edwardian in origin.

  2. 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

  3. 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

    1. 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).

  4. 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?

  5. 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

  6. 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

    1. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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…

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. 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.

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

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

    1. 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.

  15. 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!)

  16. 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!

  17. 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’

  18. 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

    1. Has long has I remember I hope I won’t forget to put my umbrella when it comes on wet if you’ve any shews of bacca throw them in

  19. About 65 years ago my Dad used to tell us 3 sisters
    ‘I went to the pictures tomorrow. I took a front seat at the back.
    I fell from the pit to the gallery, and hurt a front bone in my back.
    A woman she gave me a biscuit – I ate it and gave her it back.
    Said she to me ‘Is that you?’ Said I ‘Who?’ Said she ‘You!’
    Said I ‘No!’ Said she -‘It’s hell of a like you!’

    He’d say the last 2 lines a lot quicker, but I never got over the eating of the biscuit and giving it back. I thought it was thwe funniest thing a 7 year old could ever hear!

  20. I went to the pictures tomorrow
    I got a front seat at the back
    I fell from the pit to the gallery
    And hurt my front bone at the back
    I sat at the corner of a round table
    Eating a plain cake with currants in
    Along came a stagecoach drawn by 10 dead horses
    Which ran over a dead cat and half killed it

  21. Another version from my Dad born 1900 in Portsmouth
    I went to the Peoples’ theatre
    And took a front seat at the back
    I fell from my seat to the ceiling
    And hit the front of my back.
    On entering I looked at the signboard
    And there upon it was inscribed
    ‘No orphans admitted without their parents. Admission free. Pay at the door. Plenty of seats. Sit on the floor’

  22. I went to the pictures tomorrow
    And took a front seat at the back
    I fell from the pit to the gallery
    And broke a front bone in my back.
    I bought a plain bun with currents in
    I ate it and gave it them back.
    I went round a straight crooked corner
    And saw a dead donkey alive.

    Told to me in the sixties. Does anyone remember a rhyme about a grocer – it begins ‘a pennorth of rice if you please Mr Grit, the jar in my cupboard needs filling…..’

  23. My Nan always used to sing this to us
    Her version was :
    I went round a straight crooked corner
    To see a dead donkey die
    A man he handed me a pistol
    and I landed him one in the eye
    I went to the pictures tomorrow
    I took a front seat at the back
    A lady she gave me some chocolate
    I ate it and gave it her back

  24. On a similar note from over 60 years ago via my grandparents….
    In the month of Liverpool the city of July,
    The snow was raining heavily, although the streets were dry.
    So I got aboard a tramcar for to cross the Irish sea,
    When a submarine came above and dropped a bomb on me!

    Singing the wind blew the candle out, the donkey swallowed a lamp post,
    The fender picked the poker up and charged the frying pan.

    Several more verses which I cannot remember, then:

    The nanny goat took ill one day, it died the day before,
    And that’s all I can tell you cause I don’t know any more!

    If anyone has any ideas, I’d love to hear them

  25. My dad always used to amuse us with this version which I have passed on to our children:
    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
    I went round a straight wiggly corner
    To see a dead donkey die
    I took out my pistol to stab him
    And he gave me a yellow black eye

    1. I went to the pictures tomorrow
      And took a front seat at the back
      I fell from the pit to the gallery
      And broke a front bone in my back.
      Then a barefooted man with clogs on went slowly whizzing by,
      He went round a straight crooked corner,
      To see a dead donkey die,
      He took out his pistol to stab him and the donkey spat in his eye.

      Something like that!

  26. This is from thw late forties from Sheffield Yorkshire. “I bought a plain cake with currents in, and buttered it all over with fat, I sipped it, drank it and swallowed it and thanked them and gave it back. We also sang most of the other verses which have debentures mentioned

  27. My dad taught me this version

    I went to the movies tomorrow
    Got a front seat at the back
    A lady gave me an orange
    I ate it and gave it her back

    We lived in Calgary but he was from Petworth, Sussex

  28. From Limerick in Ireland in the 1940’s
    As above finishing as follows:

    I walked it home in a taxi,
    I bought a penny haepenny bun,
    I ate it and gave it to my mother,
    And that was the end of my fun

    1. My father’s version up in Aberdeen was as follows ,
      I went to the pictures tomorra, had a front seat at the back a lady gave me a tomata I ate it and gave her it back .

  29. My grandad used to say:

    I went to the pictures tomorrow,
    I bought a front seat at the back.
    A lady gave me her banana,
    I ate it and gave it her back.
    I went round the corner with knobs on,
    And I saw a dead donkey alive.
    I took out my gun and stabbed it,
    And that’s how the poor donkey died.

  30. The way my granddad taught me was,

    I went to the pictures tomorrow,
    I got a front seat in the back,
    I told the lady behind me,
    I couldn’t see over her back,
    She gave me a biscuit, I ate it then I gave it back,
    I fell from the floor to the balcony,
    I broke a shin bone in my back,
    I got a taxi to walk me home
    Admissions were free, pay at the door,
    There’s plenty of seats, so sit on the floor.

  31. One fine day in the middle of the night two dead men got up to fight back to back they faced each other drew there swords and shot each other

  32. I went to the pictures tomorrow
    I took a front seat at the back
    A lady gave me a piece of plain cake with currants I’m it
    I ate it and gave it her back

  33. My mum died last year aged 84. Last night when trying to get off to sleep thinking about her, this song came into my mind. I hadn’t thought about it for over fifty years but my sister and I used to be fascinated when she sang it to us.

    I went to the pictures tomorrow
    I took a front seat at the back
    A lady gave me a biscuit
    I ate it and gave it her back

    I fell from the floor to the ceiling and broke the front bone in my back

    I went round a straight crooked corner, to see a dead donkey alive
    When I took out my pistol to stab him, he gave me one right in the eye.

  34. i went to th pictures tomorrow i got a front seat at the back a woman gave me some chocolate i ate it and gave her it back,,,,,,,,,this is original version i was only seven when me and my pal made it up

  35. This is what i recall, Huddersfield late 1960’s

    I went to the pictures tomorrow
    And brought a front seat at the back
    I fell from the pit to the gallery
    and broke a front bone in my back
    They took me to Leeds Hospital in Dewsbury
    All the way there and back
    They gave me a plain currant teacake
    I ate it and gave it them back

  36. On the donkey theme my father Bradford in the 1950’s used to say to me – we’ve a dead donkey at our house I won it you 2 it I 3 it etc up to AND YOU ATE IT!

  37. the version my father taught me in 1960’s New Zealand

    I went to the pictures tomorrow
    I took a front seat at the back
    I fell from the floor to the ceiling
    And broke a front bone in my back
    I walked all the way home in a taxi
    I saw a dead donkey die
    I picked up a stone I couldn’t lift
    And threw it at a cow
    Bullseye

  38. I was taught this in primary school but it was different

    I went to the pictures tomorrow
    Took a front seat at the back
    I fell from the floor to the ceiling
    Broke all the front bones in my back
    They walked me to hospital in a ambulance
    And starved me with plenty to eat
    I saw a dead horse eating dog food
    And a man with posh shoes but no feet

  39. I remember bits from lots of these, but my memory from one set of Grandparents was it starting with:

    I went to The Empire Theatre and got a front seat at the back.

  40. My father wrote this in my Autograph book in grade 5. Around 1966 (He never authored it)
    I went to the show tomorrow
    I sat in the front seat at the back
    I fell from the floor to the ceiling
    And hurt the front part of my back

  41. So i was going though some old boxes and came across a poem exactly like this dated in the 1940s. You wrote that is was documented in the 50s and wanted to know if there had been any more earlier documentation?

    1. I’m not aware of any earlier documentation. However, there was very little collecting of children’s playground rhymes before Iona and Peter Opie’s book was published in 1959. They mention Norman Douglas’s 1916 London Street Games as a predecessor (https://archive.org/details/londonstreetgame00doug/mode/2up), which does not seem to have any rhyme similar to that in the Opie’s book, though it is much slimmer and was published when cinema was still young. The Opies speculate that the rhyme was originally about the theatre, but have no evidence to support this. I think it is likely to derive from the 1910s, when “the pictures” first became common as a term for the cinema. At any rate, it is no surprise that there would be an example from the 1940s.

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