Here's a story you might like from my coppering days ...
Back in the early 1980’s, a sergeant from Lambeth borough came up with an idea that he hoped would help tackle the problem of kids being knocked down by traffic. He decided that he’d teach them road safety through the medium of song. The result was a slim printed volume called Road Safety Songs intended for use by police schools officers all over London. I've clung on to a copy all these years and I'd like to share some of the highlights with you.
The officer’s primary method seems to have been shock; during the course of just 18 pages, he manages to mow down over a dozen kids, mostly using lorries. Take this cautionary tale from an unnamed song listed simply as ‘Sung to the tune of Clementine’:
But she dashed right on the roadway
Never heeding brothers nine
And a lorry came and hit her
Foolish foolish Clementine.
Or the royal tragedy laid out in the gripping 'Sung to the tune of The Grand Old Duke of York':
And a lorry came along
And knocked him off his feet,
And now all that's left of the poor old Duke
Is his statue in the street.
Or the tear-jerking ballad of John the Brixton schoolboy in Ode to John - the only song with a title (but with no hints as to a tune):
But then one day it happened
As John was out to play.
A lorry come and hit our John
Now he's not feeling gay.
And so it goes on. My favourite is 'Sung to the tune of Daisy, Daisy' and it goes like this:
David, David, mind how you cross the road
You're half crazy if you don't use the Code
You may be a boy of courage
But if you don't avoid that carriage
Then you'll be sweeped (sic) right off your feet
And you'll end up in hospital.
Did it work? I don’t know. But at least he had a go. The songs may have had no impact at all. But they might also have frightened enough crap out of those kids to have saved some young lives. I salute him for that. So, children, remember to use your Green Cross Code and...
Little girls and boys,
Happy in your play,
We don't want an ambulance
To carry you away.
Goodness me, no.
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