Appalachia Rhymes

There Was A Crooked Man

There was a crooked man

There was a Crooked Man

There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse.
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.


I always loved this rhyme because of it’s nonsense quality. I loved thinking about a crooked man who lived in a crooked house. I used to lay upside down on Granny and Pap’s couch and look at the clean expanse of ceiling and wish I could walk through the house on the ceiling, stepping over the entry ways as I came to them. As I thought about the crooked man in his crooked house I wondered if his ceilings connected to his floors by stairs so that he had to walk up and down to make his way in or out of his rickety house.

Turns out the crooked man and his crooked house were all about symbolism-not the reality I had pictured in my head.

According to the website Nursery Rhymes Lyrics and Origins, the poem originated from the history surrounding King Charles I and the Stuarts. A short quote from the website gives the details:

“The crooked man is reputed to be the Scottish General Sir Alexander Leslie. The General signed a Covenant securing religious and political freedom for Scotland. The ‘crooked stile’ referred to in “There was a crooked man” being the border between England and Scotland. ‘They all lived together in a little crooked house’ refers to the fact that the English and Scots had at last come to an agreement. The words reflect the times when there was great animosity between the English and the Scots. The word crooked is pronounced as ‘crookED’ the emphasis being placed upon the ‘ED’ in the word. This was common in olde England and many references can be found in this type of pronunciation in the works of William Shakespeare (1564-1616).”

Do you remember the poem There Was a Crooked Man?



*Source:  Nursery Rhymes Lyrics and Origins

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  • Reply
    Brenda Moore
    September 12, 2020 at 2:02 pm

    I remember it but had never heard that “history” of it. A lot, if not all, of the old nursery rhymes have backgrounds that make sense of the nonsensical lyrics. That’s an interesting dig into their histories.

  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    May 4, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    I remember the song, but never saw it as a rhyme. Thank you for the history and the reminder of what was once a song I often sang.

  • Reply
    May 3, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    I remember the rhyme well, but here’s something kind of surprising: I remember very vividly, when I was little, hanging my head over the edge of the bed and imagining walking on the ceiling and stepping over the doorways and watching out for light fixtures…and the really funny thing is, I thought of this for the first time in years just yesterday!

  • Reply
    Cheryl Anderson
    May 3, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    I loved this rhyme as a child for some reason and I thought I was the only kid who looked upside down at the ceilings and imagined walking over them. A light in our kitchen looked like a cake upside down. Thanks for the childhood memory that came to me because of this post.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    May 3, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    I remember that song and loved the way
    the Cristy Minstrels did it. Thanks for
    the history of the English and Scots
    fueding over various things. The whole
    world never has been able to get along

  • Reply
    May 3, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    Yes, I remember the rhyme and as soon as I read the title of today’s post, I tried to remember the words. You clarified that, but I never knew the history. Very interesting! That’s a great drawing, too!

  • Reply
    May 3, 2014 at 11:08 am

    I never said the words as a rhyme but do know the words from the Serendipity Singers song, “Don’t Let the Rain Come Down”. Fun little ditty.
    You story about your daydreams reminded me of the first house we lived in after my husband was discharged from the Navy. The room which became the boys room was done in patriotic red white and blue and had a set of footprints (small adult size) which went up one wall, across the ceiling, and down another wall. Most curious!! It would have been entertaining to watch it being done since they appeared to be real footprints – not stamps.

  • Reply
    Allison B
    May 3, 2014 at 11:08 am

    Funny how nursery rhymes happen to be written. I remember that rhyme well…but not the explanation you gave. Interesting. Guess it makes sense that even rhymes have to have a ‘story behind them’. I remember looking upside down at the ceiling and doorways, too!

  • Reply
    jane bolden
    May 3, 2014 at 10:55 am

    I remember it. Thanks for the true meaning, Tipper.

  • Reply
    May 3, 2014 at 10:04 am

    I remember it and it’s an inside joke at our house because our house is old and crooked you can see that door frames and moldings are not square. I still remember the nursery rhymes I learned.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    May 3, 2014 at 10:00 am

    Hey There Tipper,
    I always loved this rhyme myownself!…I think the website nursery rhymes and lyrics, meant to refer to the stile as the border between Scotland and England, don’t you?
    I wonder if all children, when forced to take an afternoon nap or just before going to bed, would stare at the ceiling and wish they could walk on the celing. Maybe trying to figure out how to do it…LOL
    I remembered the rhyme when I went to one of those gravity crooked houses at a theme park one time…I then figured I didn’t need a crooked house, ’cause my equilibirum was messed up for hours! Ha
    Loved this post!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike
    May 3, 2014 at 9:55 am

    Well Tipper, I don’t know much about the crooked man! But the times I have roam through England and Scotland AND THE ISLE OF MULL those borders were plenty crooked. And the mountains almost barren! I think they have chopped down all their trees for firewood. I get chilly just thinking about those windy slopes!
    Eva Nell Mull

  • Reply
    ED Ammons
    May 3, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Your crooked man couldn’t survive long. The first time he stepped out the door he would fall into the sky and drown.
    I want you to know I pushed Ctrl+F and found my name is in your post 69 times so far today? I am everywhere I tell you, everywhere!

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    May 3, 2014 at 9:32 am

    I loved this rhyme as a child. It was fun to recite. I did not know the history behind it so thanks for sharing. I wish I could come up for the event this evening but time does not allow it so I’ll just have to wait for your video. Enjoy this beautiful day The Lord has blessed us with!

  • Reply
    May 3, 2014 at 7:32 am

    O yea, I remember it,, funny the silly things you can remember, I was never one in my younger days to read a whole lot,or be read too.. I was one of those kids that was more the explorer type, couldn’t be still…. I’ve read more in the these last 10yrs than I ever did the first 41yrs or be read too..

  • Reply
    May 3, 2014 at 7:16 am

    I remember it and always loved it also.

  • Reply
    Garry Ballard
    May 3, 2014 at 4:10 am

    I remember it well but thanks for the explanation. The King James Bible still uses that form for words like believETH and blessED too.

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