In 1879 George R. Sims published his famous melodramatic monologue It is Christmas Day in the Workhouse, written as a traditional rhyming poem. it was a criticism of the harsh conditions in workhouses under the 1834 Poor Law.
Diligent research has never established why this poem, which has a certain grim power, became part of a theatrical tradition, with many parodies performed in music halls, most of them rather gross. Blogger wouldn't like me to publish one in its clean and proper pages.
Here, however, is one by Billy Bennett, which is hardly rude at all.
'Twas Christmas Day in the cookhouse
And the place was clean and tidy
The soldiers were eating their pancakes...
I'm a liar... that was Good Friday.
In the oven a turkey was sizzling
And to make it look posh, I suppose,
They fetched the Battalion Barber,
To shingle it's parson's nose!
Potatoes were cooked in their jackets,
And carrots in pants - how unique!
A sheep's head was baked with the eyes in,
As it had to see them through the week.
At one o'clock 'Dinner Up' sounded,
The sight made an old soldier blush,
They were dishing out Guinness for nothing,
And fifteen got killed in the rush!
A jazz band played in the mess-room,
A fine lot of messers it's true,
We told them to go and play Ludo,
And they all answered 'Fishcakes' to you!
In came the old Sergeant Major,
He'd walked all the way from his billet,
His toes were turned in, his chest was turned out,
With his head back in case he'd spill it.
He wished all the troops 'Merry Xmas,'
Including the poor Orderly Man;
Some said 'Good Old Sergeant Major,'
But others said 'San Fairy Ann.'
Then up spoke one ancient warrior,
His whiskers a nest for the sparrows,
The old man had first joined the army
When the troops used to use bows and arrows.
His grey eyes were flashing with anger,
He threw down his pudden' and cursed,
'You dare to wish me a Happy New Year,
Well, just hear my story first.
Ten years ago, as the crow flies,
I came here with my darling bride,
It was Christmas Day in the Waxworks,
So it must be the same outside.
We asked for some food, we were starving
You gave us pease pudden' and pork.
My poor wife went to the Infirmary,
With a pain in her Belle of New York.
You're the man that stopped bacon from shrinking,
By making the cook fry with Lux,
And you wound up the cuckoo clock backwards,
And now it goes oo' fore it 'cucks'.
So thank you, and bless you, and blow you,
You just take these curses from me,
May your wife give you nothing for dinner,
And then warm it up for your tea.
Whatever you eat, may it always repeat
Be it soup, fish, entree, or horse doovers,
May blue bottles and flies descend from the skies
And use your bald head for manoeuvres.
May the patent expire on your evening dress shoes,
May your Marcel waves all come uncurled,
May your flannel shirt shrink up the back of your neck
And expose your deceit to the world.
And now that I've told you my story,
I'll walk to the clink by the gate,
And as for your old Xmas Pudden'
Stick that - on the next fellow's plate.'