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God bless us and save us said old Mrs Davies

Posted by Graham Cambray on January 28, 2009 at 21:01

In Reply to: God bless us and save us said old Mrs Davies posted by Graham Cambray on January 20, 2009 at 13:18:

: : : : : "God bless us and save us said old Mrs Davies".

: : : : Wellerisms in Ireland: Towards a Corpus from Oral and Literary Sourcesý - Page 20
: : : : by Fionnuala Carson Williams - Ireland - 2003 - 321 pages

: : : : '"God bless us and save us," said old Biddy Davis,

: : : : above notes 1030's and it spread to Irish in Boston and such and appears in varied plays, books sometimes as Mrs Davis or Mrs O'Davis.

: : : : The basic "GBUASU" also is seen wiith other names but the Irish seems the source.

: : : ----------------------------------------

: : : Thanks, Joe. I hadn't heard of Wellerisms before, though it's an obvious name. You give a date as "1030's" - is this 1830's?

: : : Earler today I had a quick look on the web (for a second time) and found something I'd missed first time around. It's a script for the US (CBS) radio show from 1941 (, page 8). This ties in (possibly) with the nursery rhyme angle - and also with the Irish origins. It has: "Fire, fire said Mrs McGuire; Where, where said Mrs Blair; Down town said Mrs Brown; Heaven save us said Mrs Davis." To complete the circle to Wellerisms, I was able to use "McGuire" to make a more more fruitful search, and one ending of the rhyme appears to be "Oh help us and save us! said Mrs. Davis as she fell down the stairs with a sack of potatoes." It looks as if this may have been a school yard rhyme, at least in the US. How my father got hold of it, God alone knows. Thanks again - Graham C
: : .........................................

: : Interesting puzzle. The versions with "old Mrs. Davis" or "Mrs. O'Davis", even with the second line, "as she fell down the stairs with a sack of potatoes," can easily be scanned as dactylic tetrameter, one of the easiest meters to remember. This certainly supports the idea of a schoolyard rhyme, even if potatoes doesn't exactly rhyme with Davis.
: : SS

: ------------

: And (as I had another little surf following your reply - for which thanks) an OLD schoolyard rhyme, it seems:




: 1896


: " Fire, fire ! " Said Mrs. McGuire.
: " Where, where ? " Said Mrs. Ware.
: " Down town ! " Said Mrs. Brown.
: " Oh, Lord save us ! " Said Mrs. Davis.

: So, around for over 100 years, apparently. But not much closer it's origins.

: sys the rhyme commemorates the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, and that "Mrs. McGuire's cow kicked over a lantern in a barn and started the fire", but Wikipedia says "The traditional account of the origin of the fire is that it was started by a cow kicking over a lantern in the barn owned by Patrick and Catherine O'Leary". So that doesn't seem to be it.

: There is a hint that the "Mrs O'Davis" bit - where we started - has connections with Catholicism, possibly referring to the Virgin Mary. If true, this is leading in very odd directions. I'll keep digging, in odd moments, but any thoughts from others would be welcome.


I've taken advice re the religious angle (, and can find no support for it. Joe's response (the first one) is our best clue to the origin - Ireland in what I guess is the 1830s [Joe says 1030s, which we can probably take as a typo].
The little rhyme above DOES apparently refer to the Great Fire of Chicago in 1871, with presumably the older "Mrs Davis" line being incorporated into the doggerel verse. The above blog adds another line:
"Fire, Fire!" said Mrs O'Dwyer.
"Where, where?" said Mrs O'Hare.
"Down in the town." said Mrs Brown.
"Lord bless us and save us" said old Mrs Davis .
"I never knew a herring was a fish."
[Why the last line? - I have no idea!]
I'm not much clearer as to how this came into my father's little lexicon of odd phrases, but it seems to have been very widespread, and there is a recurring view (in various blogs) that the phrase was common in the armed forces in WW2.
And, by the looks of it, that's as far as we're likely to get. (GC).