Singalong with Harry
QUESTION When I was young, my dad used to sing The Little Shirt My Mother Made For Me. Can anyone remember this song? MY GRANDFATHER was Harry Wincott, one of the great comic music hall songwriters. He was born Alfred James Walden in London on January 1, 1867.
Harry penned hundreds, possibly thousands, of songs in his 60-odd years in Tin Pan Alley and was dubbed t he King of Comic Songwriters.
His songs included The Old Dun Cow Caught Fire, Mademoiselle From Armentieres, How’s Your Father? For Me, For Me, I’m Gettin Ready For My Mother-in-Law and The Little Shirt My Mother Made For Me. Obituaries at the time of his death incorrectly attributed to him the songs Boiled Beef And Carrots and Any Old Iron.
Charles Spencer Chaplin Sr, father of Charlie Chaplin, was one of the artists who sang Harry’s songs, along with many of the famous music hall stars, such as Harry Champion, Vesta Tilley, Marie Lloyd, The Great Vance, Dan Leno, Gus Elen, Little Tich, Florrie Forde, Kate Carney and Albert Chevalier.
Despite his popularity, much of Wincott’s life was spent in penury. There were no royalties and songs were sold directly to the artist or publisher for a guinea or so.
Harry and a few friends formed a society calling themselves The Nibs and managed to force up the price a little.
He was constantly under threat from the bailiffs. One day, after he found they had taken his furniture, he responded by penning The Broker’s Man. He lived in cheap lodging houses and even slept on the Embankment, but kept his sense of humour, writing It’s A Fine Institution Is The Workhouse!’
In 1914, Harry attempted to sign up for the war, but was told to stick to songwriting. His three sons went to war whistling Harry’s new tune, Mademoiselle From Armentieres.
His resistance against the blows of fate broke down when, in 1925, his daughter Irene was burned to death when her party dress caught fire. A few months later his wife, Eliza, died of a broken heart.
In 1937, Harry married Margaret Pink, better known as Daisy Pink, a former music hall star herself.
Harry died in Yeovil on April 20, 1947. He had been admitted to the town’s public assistance institution and his last request was for a pint of beer. Harry was buried in the local cemetery in an unmarked grave.
Harry’s song The Little Shirt My Mother Made For Me tells the story of his attachment to a childhood piece of clothing. It has been sung by numerous artists and was a hit for country singer Marty Robbins. Its first and last verses go: I can’t forget the day that I was
born Was on a cold and frosty winter’s
morn’ The doctor said I was a chubby chap But when the nurse, she took me
on her lap She washed me all over I remember And after powder-puffin’ me, you
see She laid me in the cradle by the window In The Little Shirt My Mother Made For Me. Last year when I was on my
holiday Upon the briny ocean I did gaze The water looked so nice I thought
I’d go To have a swim, but, in a minute, oh All the girls along the beach at me
were starin’ And some were takin’ pictures, I
could see Was a good thing for me that I was
wearin’ The Little Shirt My Mother Made
Karen Gee, harrywincott.co.uk Christchurch, Dorset.
QUESTION In 2 Kings 2:2325, the prophet Elisha is teased by children because he is balding. He responds by calling down two she-bears to tear them, and several innocent children, apart. What is the moral of this tale? THE message is clear, though it may seem extreme to modern sensibilities. Jehovah knows that young people have a sort of herd instinct. Young people can testify to the strong pressure they feel to speak, dress and act like their peers.
If their associations are good, this peer pressure can be beneficial, but i f they’re surrounded by bad influences then the result can be damaging.
‘He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm,’ to quote Proverbs 13:20. It was to protect the young people, and all the people, of Israel against contamination by bad, rebellious i nfluences that the Mosaic law prescribed the death penalty in extreme cases.
A stubborn, rebellious son was put to death to ‘clear away what was bad from their midst’ (Deuteronomy 21: 18-21).
The Bible shows just how bad things can get when people herd together without discipline.
Travelling from Jericho to Bethel, Jehovah’s prophet Elisha encountered a band of juveniles. They jeered him, showing great disrespect for him and his prophetic office. ‘Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!’ they shouted (2 Kings 2:23).
They may have meant for him to get off the earth, as his predecessor Elijah was supposed to have done, and calling him ‘baldhead’ mocked his religious office rather than hair loss, like abusing a monk for his tonsure.
They didn’t want God’s representative around. Elisha endured their jeers and taunts for a time before: ‘Finally, he turned behind him and saw them and called down evil upon them in the name of Jehovah.
‘Then two she-bears came out of the woods and went tearing to pieces 42 children of their number.’
How the parents must have wished that they had taught them respect for their elders.
Many youths today routinely mock teachers, parents and anyone in authority. TV scriptwriters portray children as clever and adults as stupid.
The moral is: cultivate wholesome respect for older people, especially your parents. Richard Barrett, Belfast.
QUESTION What started Earth spinning and how does it keep going? FURTHER to the earlier answer, surely the correct answer is — And on the eighth day, God said: ‘Let there be spin.’ R. J. Andrews, Farnborough, Hants.
QUESTION Have any Premier League players become referees? FURTHER to the earlier answer, the highest ranking referee to have played professional football is Dick Jol from Holland.
Aside from officiating in more than 400 games i n the Dutch Eredivisie (Premier League equivalent), he supervised several games in the 2000 European Football Championship in Belgium and the Netherlands, was referee of the 2000 FIFA Club World Championship final between Corinthians and Vasco da Gama and the Champions League final 2001 between Bayern Munich and Valencia.
He was also the referee in charge of the friendly international between the Republic of Ireland and England in Lansdowne Road in 1995 that was abandoned due to the violent conduct of some England supporters.
Jol formerly played football for NEC Nijmegen in the Dutch league, before moving on to Belgium, where he played f or Menen, Berchem Sport and KV Kortrijk. Jan Bakker, Bristol.
QUESTION Why aren’t you meant to fasten the last button of a waistcoat? FURTHER to the earlier answer, though the standard explanation is that it was a fashion started by the rather portly Edward VII, an alternative, and equally plausible, explanation is that the habit was derived from men loosening the waistcoat to facilitate the up-down motion of horse-riding.
Mrs S. J. Lemming, Cardiff.
With a song in your heart: Music hall stars such as Vesta Tilley sang the songs of Tin Pan Alley composer Harry Wincott (inset)