Was the Rhyme Ring Around the Rosie Connected to the Plague?

Was the Rhyme Ring Around the Rosie Connected to the Plague?




This is one of my outsider oils that I bought at an Oakland flea market. It reminded me in a way of a macabre Ring Around the Rosie.

We have all heard it repeatedly. I even recall my teachers discussing it in class. Supposedly, the well-known children’s chant “Ring Around the Rosie” is about the Great Plague of London which wiped out 100,000 people in about a year and a half during the 1600s. Or in some versions of the urban legend, the children’s game is about the Black Plague which is from the 1300s. Some dispute this, so I consider it a folkloric tale of a traditional rhyme.

The Black Death, otherwise known as the bubonic plague, swept through London, England, in the spring, summer, and fall of 1665. I am sure that the mere mention that this disease might be present in one’s household brought terror.

What did the victims think when the rosy red rash (ring around the rosie) first appeared on their skin? Did they fill pockets on their clothing with pouches of sweet-smelling flowers and herbs (a pocket full of posies) to try to hide that fact that the disease was tearing through their body? Not to mention that unplanned sneezes  would come along all too frequently.

The plague was spread by the bite of an infected rat or a flea that had bitten one of these rats. Conditions in 1665 London were not very sanitary, so the plague spread quickly and killed many. When the Great Fire of London happened in 1666, it destroyed many of the rats and fleas responsible for spreading the disease. The cold weather of late autumn took care of the rest of the fleas.

I even recall a teacher breaking down the poem in relation to the plague. “Ring around the rosie” was said to be the black circles that would appear on victims. “Pockets full of posies” were flowers carried to mask the smell of dead bodies. “Ashes, Ashes” was said to be a reference to burning the bodies, and “we all fall down” was about how the plague struck down everyone, young or old, rich or poor.

Believe it or not!!




This photo is from 1889. It is from Vassar College and it’s a photo of something called “The Trig Ceremonies’

 - n I IIfiTIITILj AT TiSSAK Vahtnfftoni nirthdur...

Clipped from

  1. The Sun,
  2. 05 Mar 1893, Sun,
  3. Page 16

    Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun andScreamin’ Mamas (USA)

    Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place.


  4. 1,200 Died of Plague Which Hit City in 1847

  5. ROCKIN’ Cholera On the Trek to the New World — Part 4

    The Story of Jane Russell Gibson of Lanark County

    The Caterpillar Plague of 1898

    The Great White Plague

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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