Old mother shuf­fle paper

The Week - Junior - - People -

One day, in 1943, Iona Opie walked with her hus­band Peter through a field of corn. Spy­ing a lady­bird, she picked it up. “Lady­bird, lady­bird, fly away home,” she re­cited. “Your house is on fire and your chil­dren all gone.” The in­sect flew, leav­ing Iona and Peter won­der­ing about the nurs­ery rhyme that had sprung into her mind. Where did it come from?

From then on, Iona and Peter ded­i­cated their lives to re­search­ing and doc­u­ment­ing chil­dren’s nurs­ery rhymes. In the early days, they had no money, so they ate net­tles col­lected from the park. Peter did all the writ­ing, and Iona the re­search, so he nick­named her “old mother shuf­fle paper”.

Iona said, “I have a way of life that comes from the chil­dren. I’m go­ing to go on play­ing un­til I ex­pire.” She passed away, aged 94, on 23 Oc­to­ber.

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