There’s a Hole in my Bucket

A combination of things got me coming over all nostalgic yesterday. I was in the garage to get out the Christmas tree and decorations when I noticed there was a puddle of water on the shelf.

The roof developed a leak a few weeks ago and not been very keen or adept at DIY, my solution was to put a bucket beneath to catch the drips.

My first thought was that the leak must be growing, or that another one had sprung, but there was no sign of damp elsewhere. It took a while to come to the obvious conclusion that the bucket itself had sprung a leak.

While I mopped up and found a replacement, it was inevitable that I should start whistling ‘There’s a Hole in my Bucket’ and that’s where the nostalgia crept in because it reminded me of it being sung in one of the Christmas pantomimes of my childhood.

I’m guessing that it would have been in 1961 when the song reached no. 32 in the UK singles chart, sung by Harry Belfonte and Odetta.

If I remember correctly, it was part of Aladdin, performed at St Mark’s School, and sung as a duet between Widow Twanky and Wishy-Washy. (Bit of racial stereotyping there.)

A couple of things have puzzled me ever since. How did the hero of Arabian Nights get transposed to China? And how on earth do you mend a bucket with straw?

You will have heard of Harry Belafonte, but until now I didn’t know much of Odetta Holmes who was active in the civil rights movement, called ‘The Queen of American folk music’ by Martin Luther King no less.

I shall scan my memory bank for other pantomime favourites, but meanwhile here is a recording of Hole in my Bucket.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

15 comments… Add yours
  • Elizabeth 5th December 2011

    Re Aladdin, he was in older Chinese manuscripts before oral and written tradition took him to China.

    Mending a bucket with straw hails from the days when buckets were made from wood, using a very similar technigue to that for making barrels. If a whole in a knot or seam occurred, it was possible to cut a piece of straw (or several bound together) using a diagonal cut to fill the gap. Both straw and wood swell when wet and therefore blocked the hole effectively and with a waterproof seal until a more substantial repair could be done. Perfectly logical. x

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  • Elizabeth 5th December 2011

    My sincere apologies. That should read ‘took him to Arabia’. x

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  • Roger Green 5th December 2011

    Oh, I LOVED Odetta, and so did my late father. When she died a few years back, I was unsuccessful in getting her mentioned on one of those websites of famous dead people, because she was not famous enough, I gathered.

    In any case, my father used to sing “Hole in the Bucket” (both parts) but when my sister and I were teenagers, she and I performed it. We got so dramatic that I once almost fell into a pond at a summer camp.

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  • Roger Green 5th December 2011

    This did not seem to chart in the US.

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  • Leslie Green 5th December 2011

    Yes, my brother Roger and I used to sing this song with our late father for years as the Green Family Singers. Very fun. Thanks for the fond memories.

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  • Mr Parrot 5th December 2011

    Thanks all. This seems to have prompted nostalgia all round.

    And thanks Elizabeth for that explanation about repairing buckets. As you say, it makes sense if it is made out of wood.

    I have another theory about Aladdin though. That he was moved to China during the 1800s because China was the vogue for Victorians.

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  • Mr Quelch 5th December 2011

    A nice post and with Xmas approaching, very seasonal. Perhaps Madam Parrots can buy you an annual subscription to “Homebuilding and Renovating” to bolster your DIY skills.

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  • Reader Wil 5th December 2011

    Harry Belafonte is one of my favourite singers. I liked “There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza…”It’s fabulous, but I love “Long time ago in Bethlehem… “even more.
    Candlemas is new to me, I haven’t heard of it before. The Netherlands are a rather Calvinistic nation and seem to celebrate only Christmas, Easter and Whitsunday. And of course Saint Nicholas on the 5th December, today! We also celebrate New Year’s Eve with a lot of fireworks.

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  • Mr Parrot 5th December 2011

    Getting a subscription to ‘Homebuilding and Renovating’ would be akin to me presenting Mrs P with a new set of saucepans. Functional, but ultimately fatal.

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  • Mr Parrot 5th December 2011

    Hello Wil. Candlemas is based on the Jewish Jewish tradition that women were considered unclean after the birth of a child. Forty days for a boy and sixty for a girl, I don’t know why there should be a difference.

    Candlemas was the day that the church candles for the year were blessed and is also known as the festival of light, marking the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.

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  • Elizabeth 5th December 2011

    Certainly the Victorians were nuts about anything oriental, but Aladdin is included in the original 1001 tales which were collected between c. 750 CE – c. 1258 CE., set with the usual preface of the story of Schezerade. Aladdin is represented as the son of a Chinese tailor. The ‘princess’ he falls for is actually called Badroulbadour, and she is the daughter of the Chinese “Sultan.” It may have been that in the original oral telling, the most exotic place that the Islamic storyteller could think of was China. x

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  • Trevor Rowley 6th December 2011

    Whilst Mr Parrot is scanning his memory bank for some more “pantomime favourites” (this must surely be lost on most of our colonial cousins), I’ve just thought of the character, Dandini. If memory serves me well (sadly, it doesn’t always), he was the personal manservant of the Prince in Cinderella. His role always seemed to be to do all the private “fetching and carrying” (basically, he got things sorted) for his master. Nothing odd about that you might say until you realise that the part was always played by a woman. Not just any old woman, as the likely candidate always seemed to be about eighteen years old, extremely pretty and with “legs to die for” as she invariably wore an outfit with plenty of lace cravat and cuffs but which seemed to end rather abruptly in tight, short pants and showing off her lower half to best advantage. He/she indulged in a lot of raising her knee, thigh-slapping and, at such times, was prone to lots of quaint expressions like “gadzooks”, “what ho” and “zounds”. Us eight year old lads on the front row just couldn’t get enough of Dandini (usually when we visited Wellington Street Methodists Church in Dukinfield) and if we’d craned our necks any closer we’d have been up there with her and all the others on stage. Sadly, times have changed (somewhat alarmingly in my eyes) as the person playing the part in the forthcoming Tameside production of Cinderella will be a man. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about “which side he might bat for” (quaint little British expression).

    Exits stage left and waits for an appearance on stage from the censor (in Cinderella, wouldn’t this have been somebody like the Lord High Chamberlain or, in more modern times, the Chairman of the Watch Committee?)

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  • Mr Parrot 6th December 2011

    Wellington Street Methodist Church! I remember it well for the annual Christmas fayre which was the best in the town, at least for an eight year old. If I remember rightly, you weren’t allowed to spend money on the day because of some church ruling. You had to buy tokens or tickets beforehand instead that could be exchanged for goodies. I can smell the sawdust of the lucky dip tub even now!

    You’re absolutely right about Dandini and about the sex of the main pantomime characters. The principal boy was a girl and the dame was a man in the best mumming traditions.

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  • rhymeswithplague 6th December 2011

    I wish we had had pantomimes in the colonies….

    Reply
  • Nathan Stark 8th December 2011

    Nice post, harry Belafonte is one of my favourite singers. I liked “There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza…”It’s fabulous, but I love “Long time ago in Bethlehem… “even more.

    Reply

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