A children's singing game, reported from all over the country whose haunting tune and strange imagery have intrigued folklorists and children alike.Green gravel, green gravel, the grass is so greenThe fairest young damsel that ever was seenO Mary, O Mary, your true love is deadHe sent you a letter to turn round your head…
This is the earliest known version, collected in Manchester in 1835 (Opie and Opie, 1985: 240). The players join hands and walk round in a ring, singing the words. At the end of the text, the one who is named stays in the ring but turns to face outwards. The whole thing begins again and another child is named. Versions were still being collected in English playgrounds into the 1980s.
Opie and Opie, 1985: 239–42;Gomme 1894: i. 170–83.