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Posts Tagged ‘horrible histories’

This evening, I stumbled upon this article by a criminologist who claims that no one has heard of serial killer Mary Ann Cotton. It’s true of course, that she isn’t as famous as Jack the Ripper and certainly isn’t the first who pops to mind when you consider serial killers. Nevertheless, I immediately knew her name.

It only took me a minute to realise why: “Mary Ann Cotton was ever so rotten.” Or perhaps: “Mary Ann Cotton, she’s dead and she’s rotten.”

Those who know the name Terry Deary and are familiar with the Horrible History books may recognise those rhymes instantly. They come from ‘The Vile Victorians’.

What interests me is not that this criminologist has wrong asserted that no one knows who this woman is. It is the fact that her name has stayed in my head, even though it was about ten years ago that I last read a Horrible History book.

It isn’t the name Mary Ann Cotton that has stayed in my head. I am admittedly awful with names, and only remember them after repeating them constantly in my head. I am a face person. It was the Horrible Histories rhyme that has stayed with me, and proves just how rhyme – and song – can last in your head.

A friend of mine recently visited an old person’s home, many of whom are suffering with a form of dementia. They don’t always remember where they are, the fact that their parents have been long gone, and wander around in circles trying to get somewhere. And yet, they remember the really old songs they used to listen to as teenagers and adults.

There must be many scientific studies that explain why people remember songs and poems throughout their lives, but all I can offer is that it’s very useful to remember rhymes.

It can be useful when remembering dates or names or places.

And songs can trigger memories in the way very few other things can. I can’t listen to Stacie Orrico without thinking about playing The Sims on my Playstation, because I always had her CD on for background noise whenever I played it.

It’s nice to think that even if my brain turns to mush, there may always be something that links me to myself and my personality. Or at least, I can hope so.

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