Living Lore: Robbie Cheadle ~A nursery rhyme with an interesting history

Are you familiar with this nursery rhyme?

Now he sings of Jackey Horner

Sitting in the Chimney-Corner

Eating of a Christmas pye,

Putting in his thumb, Oh fie!

Putting in, Oh fie, his Thumb,

Pulling out, Oh strange! A Plum.

Perhaps you know a more modern version that goes like this:

Little Jack Horner

Sat in the corner,

Eating his (a) Christmas pie;

He put in his thumb,

And pulled out a plum,

And said, “What a good boy am I!

I was fascinated to discover recently that the original version of this nursery rhyme is thought to be about a man named Thomas Horner. Thomas was the steward to Richard Whiting, the last Abbot of Glastonbury. Legend has it that prior to the destruction of the Abbey in September 1539, Richard Whiting sent Thomas Horner to London with an enormous Christmas pie. The pie, a gift for the King, contained the deeds to a number of manor houses and were a last ditch attempt by the Abbot to prevent the nationalisation of Glastonbury by the Crown. Horner is said to have opened the pie and extracted the deed to the manor of Mells in Summerset which he kept for himself. Horner’s descendants have refuted this myth and there are records to support their claim that Horner bought and paid for the manor.

Richard Whiting was arrested on the orders of Thomas Cromwell on 19 September 1539. The Abbey was stripped of its valuables and Richard Whiting was hanged, drawn and quartered as a traitor on 15 November 1939.

The Abbey is now a ruin but it is still visited by 100 000 pilgrims a year. The Abbot’s Kitchen which served the Abbey survived the destruction and is considered to be one of the best preserved medieval kitchen in Europe.

8About the author

Robbie Cheadle was born in London in the United Kingdom. Her father died when she was three months old and her mother immigrated to South Africa with her tiny baby girl. Robbie has lived in Johannesburg, George and Cape Town in South Africa and attended fourteen different schools. This gave her lots of opportunities to meet new people and learn lots of social skills as she was frequently “the new girl”.

Robbie is a qualified Chartered Accountant and specialises in corporate finance with a specific interest in listed entities and stock markets. Robbie has written a number of publications on listing equities and debt instruments in Africa and foreign direct investment into Africa.

Robbie is married to Terence Cheadle and they have two lovely boys, Gregory and Michael. Michael (aged 11) is the co-author of the Sir Chocolate series of books and attends school in Johannesburg. Gregory (aged 14) is an avid reader and assists Robbie and Michael with filming and editing their YouTube videos and editing their books.

Find and follow Robbie

Robbie’s Inspiration Blog      Goodreads    Facebook    YouTube

Amazon author page   Twitter: @bakeandwrite

Books by Robbie and Michael Cheadle

The Sir Chocolate books are a delightful marriage of story, verse and cookery

… a perfect recipe for sharing with children.  Silly Willy goes to Cape Town tells the adventures of two very different brothers…and includes five party cake ideas.

You can purchase the Sir Chocolate books from:

Amazon    TSL Books

or you can buy them in South Africa directly from the authors by emailing Robbie Cheadle at

How did your granny predict the weather? What did your great uncle Albert tell you about the little green men he saw in the woods that night? What strange creature stalks the woods in your area?

So many of these old stories are slipping away for want of being recorded. legendary creatures, odd bits of folklore, folk remedies and charms, and all the old stories that brought our landscape to life…

Tell me a story, share memories of the old ways that are being forgotten, share the folklore of your home. I am not looking for fiction with this feature, but for genuine bits of folklore, old wives tales, folk magic and local legends. Why not share what you know and preserve it for the future?

Email me at and put ‘Living Lore’ in the subject line. All I need is your article, bio and links, along with any of your own images you would like me to include and I’ll do the rest.

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
This entry was posted in Guest post, Living Lore and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to Living Lore: Robbie Cheadle ~A nursery rhyme with an interesting history

  1. Marcia says:

    Ohh, good one, Robbie. I suspect many, many nursery rhymes have their roots in real incidents, political or not. I’d never heard this one before. Wish there were some way to know for sure, someday. Thanks for sharing this “Living Lore,” and thanks to Sue for having you. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I am glad you enjoyed the post and that you learned of a new nursery rhyme. You are quite right that many of them have historical origins. I have noticed that the US has different nursery rhymes of its own.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Marcia says:

        Oh, I know the second version of this rhyme, but I’d never heard the first, nor the possible background behind it. I think that’s fascinating. And sometimes our U.S. rhymes are variations of those from other countries, just like above, so some of them can probably be traced back that way, and possibly connected to events that happened way back when. Fun!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. My family and I had the pleasure of renting an apartment in one of these manor houses when we visited England a few years ago. We didn’t even realize its connection until we got there. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hanged, drawn, and quartered? They really wanted him dead! And people on death row now complain about an injection 🙂
    This story is interesting, Robbie. Crafty to place deeds inside a pie, it gets my suspense writer brain excited, lol

    Liked by 2 people

  4. That’s so fascinating! I always thought it was just a silly rhyme, but the history (or supposed history) changes it. Hung, drawn, and quartered is a gruesome way to go. Thanks, Robbie, for the interesting background.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Ritu says:

    Fascinating history!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Mary Smith says:

    I knew there was a meaning behind the nursery rhyme, Robbie, but couldn’t have said what it was. Thanks for this.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Funny, but I had heard, at one time, that most nursery rhymes were created to make real life, more palatable. I love learning the history that you share. Thanks, Robbie

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for sharing this post, Sue. I always enjoy visiting Ani and you. I will share again tomorrow. Hugs.


  9. Lyn Horner says:

    With Horner as a last name, you can bet I heard the American version of this nursery rhyme quite often as child. I had no idea of its history. Thanks for sharing, Robbie.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Very interesting. I know that most nursery rhymes were originally political, but I only remember some of them and seem to have forgotten the rest. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Thanks for sharing this! I love nursery rhymes for their historic content — which I find is often dark or political. I have this theory that none of them were written simply for ‘fun’.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Wonderful bit of history, but I hope they still weren’t drawing and quartering people in 1939.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. amreade says:

    Thanks for sharing this interesting piece of English history with us. It’s fascinating how so many nursery rhymes have their origins in grim events. This would make a great blog series.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Darlene says:

    A fascinating post, Robbie. I once read a book about the origins of many familiar nursery rhymes.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Jennie says:

    I did not know the history behind this nursery rhyme. Thank you for this! The only history behind a nursery rhyme I know of is that of Ring Around the Rosie. I suspect most know that story.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. willowdot21 says:

    Very interesting Robbie 💜💜💜

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Fabulous how these nursery rhymes take on epic proportions and become myths. What a great post. Love it. Thanks, Sue and Robbie. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  18. dgkaye says:

    Excellent share Robbie. I too wasn’t familiar with the original version. Make one wonder how many nursery rhymes evolved from a real story. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Thank you, Debby. I wasn’t familiar with it either. I came across it by accident.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. olganm says:

    Great post, Robbie, and thanks, Sue. Regarding the methods of execution, when I studied Criminology it became clear that cruelty had a different meaning then, and although the bloody code was the name people gave the English Criminal Law in the XVIII and XIX centuries (as many crimes were punishable by death), previous laws were not precisely kinder.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Always a delight to see Robbie.
    Yes… Nursery rhymes are as gruesome as fairytales. Hugs


  22. Pingback: Folklore, fairies and memories? Be my guest! | Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.