Old mother shuffle paper
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.