Stories behind the poems (3) – Wee Ann’s Fairies.

by Author on January 13, 2011

“Down the chimney,
‘neath the door
through the keyhole
more and more”

Among all of my father’s poems we found over the years, only one was written specifically for Children – “Wee Ann’s Fairies“.

Although it is unquestionably a “childrens poem”, as ever, the story that lies behind it shows it to be a whole lot more than that. Never judge a poem just by its rhyming couplets!

“Wee Ann’s Fairies” is written in a style most children should love, and it was indeed written for one in particular. But the poem was actually written as a present to a good friend of my father, on the birth of his first child. Think of all the presents you have had, or given, to mark a birth. Let me guess – you will probably find them on this list:

  1. Pink Baby clothes.
  2. Blue baby clothes.
  3. Baby toys.
  4. Mobiles or other nursery decoration
  5. Cot sheets
  6. Various baby changing artifacts/kits
  7. The more expensive stuff – cots, pushchairs,baby bank accounts….

Now, there is nothing wrong with any of these things; they are all extremely useful to the fledgling parents. But what if, in addition, one of your best friends wrote a poem just for you and your new baby? And one as good as “Wee Ann’s Fairies”. I wasn’t yet born when my father presented his friend with the poem for his new daughter, so I can’t vouch for the reaction. But I think it’s a fair guess to say a few tears were shed, maybe combined with a tentative man hug. This was sometime around the mid 1940s-late 50s, so great big public man hugs were not so common!

Now, the same effect would not be seen if nearly everyone had written a poem. I’m sure the if the answer to the question “What did you get for the baby?” was “Oh, sixteen poems and a babygrow”, this would have garnered a very different response to:

“Oh, lots of lovely things for wee Ann, but our favourite was from Johnnie Mallaghan. He wrote a beautiful poem especially for her – we can’t wait to see her face when she reads it for herself”.

Who was wee Ann, and which friend was her father? To be honest we are not sure.  We have some theories, but as time goes on, memories fade and merge. My father was never one to tell the world about what he was up to – his own personal satisfaction was always enough. So if wee Ann herself is out there, or if her parents are still alive and well – get in touch!

I’ll leave you with the first verse of “Wee Ann’s Fairies”, and your own imagination.

Now, who would I most like to give a great present to, something unique, one that costs nothing except time and thought. Who will I write my poem for……..

One night a little girl was born
A fairy blew a tiny horn
And when the fairies heard the sound
They all came dancing gladly round
Down the chimney
‘Neath the door
Thro’ the keyhole
More and more.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

isobel mathieson August 16, 2013 at 9:00 pm

john, my father (uncle davie), always thought it was written for ann mckenna. did you ever find who it was written for, it was always one of my favourites. isobel mathieson (shaw)

Author August 21, 2013 at 3:07 am

Hi Isobel

really nice to hear from you. I never did find out for definite – I’ve heard two or three different versions. The one that seemed to be the most believable was that it was written for a friend of his, but I couldn’t ever find out a name. There’s a bit of me that thinks maybe its best to leave it as a bit of a mystery – sometimes the stories you make up are the best ones!

All the best


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