“Goosey, goosey gander, whither shall I wander ?

Upstairs and downstairs and in my ladies chamber,

There I met an old man who couldn’t say his prayers,

So I took him by his left leg and threw him down the stairs.”


Once King Henry VIII had broken from Rome and declared himself head of the Church of England, the whole country’s religion changed. Monasteries were raided and priests burnt at the stake.  This situation was totally reversed when his daughter Mary became Queen and converted everyone back to Catholicism. This rhyme was first recorded in 1784 but it describes the time between 1532 – 1553 when Catholic priests were hunted down and executed. The Latin Mass could not be observed even in your own home.

Priests were thought to be corrupt, known to wave their vows of celibacy and indulge in relationships with prostitutes. Another name for a prostitute was a Goose ‘Goosey goosey gander’. Always used to saying the masses in Latin a priest, if he was caught, was expected to recite the Anglican Church communion ‘there I met an old man who couldn’t say his prayers’.

If the priest didn’t know the English words he was evicted ‘so I took him by his left leg and threw him down the stairs’. Many priests ended up being thrown out of brothels with their pants down. Rewards were offered to anyone who caught and executed a priest.



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