A poem from childhood

My niece  is almost two. My parents  often recite  little poems and rhymes to her that they told to my sister and I  when we were small.  Many of the poems they learned as children  making some at least three generations old.

One of my nieces favourite poems is How many miles to Dublin? which  is always recited while being bounced on one knee. It  goes a follows

Hupp, hupp my little horse, hupp, hupp again sir.
How many miles to Dublin? Three score and ten sir,
Will we be there by candle light? Yes sir and back  sir.


Photograph of a hansom cab, From ‘Street Life in London’, 1877, by John Thompson and Adolphe Smith (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hansom_cab#mediaviewer/File:London_Cabmen.jpg)


This is not an Irish poem. According to the book  A history of nursery rhymes,   during the 19th century the poem was  commonly recited to children in  Britain as well as Ireland,  where the word  Dublin was substituted  for London or other  English towns.

Around the Mount Leinster area of Co Carlow the poem went

Hupp  hupp little horse

How many miles from this to Ross
Three score and ten
Can you be there by candle light
Yes sir and back again

Here Ross is substituted for Dublin and  likely refers to the town of New Ross.This book suggests that this poem may date  back even further  to Tudor times. Its really interesting to see how simple family traditions can be preserved  through the generations.


Green, P. 1899. A history of Nursery Rhymes. London: Greening & Co. Ltd.


8 comments on “A poem from childhood

  1. Brian C Phelan says:

    My favourite: Here’s where the coachman sits (Index finger to child’s forehead)
    Here’s where he lashes down his whip (Draw index finger down child’s nose to chin)
    Chin chopper, chin chopper, chin chopper, chin (Gently strike under child’s chin)

  2. Jill says:

    This is fascinating! My grandmother (Oma) is from Germany and she used to sing us a very similar song, only in German. We would also be bounced on one knee and the song begins with “Huppa, huppa”. Amazing how we find traces of commonality between such different cultures!

  3. Kay says:

    I have recited that many times to my boys when they were little and they loved it – the faster the better!

  4. Tara says:

    Jepp Jepp the little horse, Jepp Jepp again,
    How many miles to London,
    3 score and 10,
    Will I get there by candle light,
    Oh yes and back again
    So open the gates and let me through
    Not until you show me your back and your blue
    Well here’s my black
    And there’s my blue
    So open the gates and let me through.

    My great grandmother from Dublin on my mother’s side taught my father who always played this bouncing me on his knee as a fun game when I was small. I remember the anticipation of ‘open then gates and let me through’ knowing at any moment now I was about to fall through and almost land on the floor!! My daughters always loved Jepp Jepp too.

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