Main Banner

 

This Old Man


This old man, he played one,
He played knick-knack on my thumb,
With a knick-knack paddywhack,
Give the dog a bone,
This old man came rolling home.

This old man, he played two,
He played knick-knack on my shoe,
With a knick-knack paddywhack,
Give the dog a bone,
This old man came rolling home.

This old man, he played three,
He played knick-knack on my knee,
With a knick-knack paddywhack,
Give the dog a bone,
This old man came rolling home.

This old man, he played four,
He played knick-knack on my door,
With a knick-knack paddywhack,
Give the dog a bone,
This old man came rolling home.

This old man, he played five,
He played knick-knack on my hive,
With a knick-knack paddywhack,
Give the dog a bone,
This old man came rolling home.

This old man, he played six,
He played knick-knack on my sticks,
With a knick-knack paddywhack,
Give the dog a bone,
This old man came rolling home.

This old man, he played seven,
He played knick-knack up in heaven,
With a knick-knack paddywhack,
Give the dog a bone,
This old man came rolling home.

This old man, he played eight,
He played knick-knack on my gate,
With a knick-knack paddywhack,
Give the dog a bone,
This old man came rolling home.

This old man, he played nine,
He played knick-knack on my spine,
With a knick-knack paddywhack,
Give the dog a bone,
This old man came rolling home.

This old man, he played ten,
He played knick-knack once again,
With a knick-knack paddywhack,
Give the dog a bone,
This old man came rolling home.

 

This traditional rhyme was first published in 1906 but almost certainly originates from earlier possibly from the time of the Irish potato famine.


The biggest clue to the meaning lies in the lyrics most particularly 'paddywhack' and to a lesser extent 'knick-knack'.

A Paddy is still used by the English to refer to the Irish. Whack means to hit once hard and forcefully. A knick-knack is a trinket or other trivial object. Knick-knack may also refer to the practice of tapping out a rhythm using spoons.

Historically there was a great deal of resentment by the Irish people towards the English who conquered Ireland and began to settle in the sixteenth century. The English owned much of the best land and rented houses and land to the native Irish. The staple food of the Irish was the potato. However, in 1845 the potato crop failed and the resulting famine led to a 25% fall in the Irish population from deaths and emigration. English landowners did nothing to help their tenants and often turned them out of their houses. Animosity between the Irish and English rose and in Ireland the Irish Republican Army was formed to drive the English out.

Many Irish men became tinkers selling pots, pans, cutlery and other knick-knacks door to door in England. Most of them were told to 'go away' and may have been given a whack as they were sent on their way. The old man may also have played knick-knack using spoons or other objects hoping for his audience to throw him a few pennies. The people that would see the Irish starve would happily give a bone to a dog. Irish tinkers traditionally lived in a caravan on wheels that was pulled by a horse - hence 'rolling home'. Alternatively 'rolling home' may refer to the old man coming home drunk - possibly having spent what he had earned in the pub.

 

 

 

 

 


Updated 23/08/2014

© 2015 Kookaburra Technology, Inc. All Rights Reserved.