“Broo o’ brinkie, eye o life, bubbly jock, pen knife”

This rhyme is laden with memories of granny, my paternal grandmother, reciting it to me, touching my forehead (broo), eyes, nose (bubbly jock) and mouth (pen knife).

Passing on more than names and dates

Now, over fifty years later, I recite the same rhyme with my three and a half year old grand-nephew for this is part of our shared family history. Did granny learn it from her own mother? Or perhaps even from her grandmother, Helen Ross, born on the island of Stroma in 1827? I don’t know and perhaps it doesn’t matter.

Photo of Janealogy's grand-nephew

Eye o’ life

My young grand-nephew may struggle now to understand who great-great granny (my granny) was, but I hope her little action  rhyme will stick with him to pass on to his own children. With some memory of his grand-aunt Jane too, I hope.

This is a reminder to me that I am a gate-keeper to a good deal of family information that is at risk. It’s very easy to sigh over relatives who won’t tell but what are we doing for the next generation?

Names and dates are the skeleton of family history, the framework or foundation. The ‘flesh’ comes from wider information: places, photos, events, family stories, traditions, recipes and more. With the caveat always that some family stories do need to be checked for accuracy.

What are the things you could pass on to your descendants and the next generation?

The rhymes

Broo o’ brinkie, in various forms, is known quite widely in Scotland. You can find some examples on the Scottish Book Trust website. Or here is my sister reciting it with her grandson, my grand-nephew: Broo o’ brinkie

Another of granny’s face rhymes was: Knock at the door (forehead), peep in (eye), lift the latch (nose), wipe your feet (chin) and pop in (mouth).


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3 comments so far

  1. Anna Rogalski says:

    So lovely to have your Blog back, Jane. Have missed them.
    Our family version of your rhyme is:
    Eye eye winkie, nosie nosie nebbie, cheekie cheekie cherry and moothie moothie meal pock. (oatmeal bag – though it may be an Orkney phrase too)

    Do you do the one making shapes with fingers? Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the door and here are the people.

  2. Janealogy says:

    Thanks. I think your version is maybe in Kitto Berdo's Book o Orkney Nursery Rhymes https://www.orcadian.co.uk/shop/home/1029-kitty-berdo-s-book-of-orkney-nursery-rhymes.html Yes we did Here's the kirk too. And a few riddles too, like "As I cam ower the hill o Hoy I met a peedie yellow boy. I ate his flesh and drank his blood and threw his skin away".

  3. Anna Rogalski says:

    Thanks for the book reference. As for the riddle – if it was not that I expected it to be a very old one I'd have guessed it was a banana!

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