Saturday, August 4, 2012

Two Examples Of The Caribbean Game Song "In A Fine Castle"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents two text examples of the Caribbean game song "In A Fine Castle".

For another pancocojams post about this Caribbean game song which includes a link to a sound file of that song, click Example Of "In A Fine Castle" - Brown Girl In The Ring Album & Book.

The content of this post is presented for recreational, folkloric, educational, and aesthetic purposes.

All rights to this material remain with their owners.

(These examples are presented in no particular order.)

Example #1
From posted by Nalo 3/7/03
...And there's a Caribbean nursery rhyme that's haunted me for years, but I haven't yet figured out the story I want to write around it yet:

In a fine castle,
Do you hear, my sissie-o?

Ours is the prettiest,
Do you hear, my sissie-o?

We want one of them,
Do you hear, my sissie-o?

Which one do you want?
Do you hear, my sissie-o?

The rhyme is sung by two groups of children holding hands in two rings, with each group alternating verses. They get into haggling, all in rhyme, over which person they want from the other group, and what gift they will give her if s/he comes. That's where the children get to invent. There's much giggling over disgusting gifts that the group comes up with, with the other group responding in song, "That don't suit her, do you hear, my sissie-o?". When the supplicant group tires of it, they start offering appealing gifts until the other group agrees to send one of their number over, sings him or her a farewell, and the song starts again.

Example #2

Ring Game
In my young days, first half of the sixties, I recall that we were the fortunate one in the neighborhood to have a radio. The Beatles, Peter, Paul and Mary and the like are what I recall hearing. As school days began in the latter half of the sixties, cultural (local) music began to be a part of my life. The ring games, both those approved by the teachers and those scorned were of great interest. They were mainly mating games. I think they played an integral part in moulding the minds of the future adults.

Official class ring game: On person is picked as "It" and stands in the middle of the ring. The ring is formed by all classmates holding hands. Alternate bous and girls.

It: In a fine castle (Well Carriacou still have none)
Ring: Do you hear my CeeCee Oh? (What on earth is a CCO)
It: I love one of them.
Ring: Which is the one do you love?
It: I love Mary. (If brave you name the one you dote)
Ring: What will you give to her?
It: I will give her a diamond ring. (Well that was a real fantasy for me thinking that diamond was a metal like gold. Other more realistic
offerings included, "Plate of Coocoo, Rice and peas etc. Food was the most popular.
Ring: Go away Mary. Go and take your Diamond ring.
Go and join your Cee Cee band.

Mary will now be "It"

Example #2 is from the Caribbean island of Carriacou.
"bous" is undoubtedly a typo for the word "boys".

The word "Ring" in these examples means those children forming the circle.

As to the question "What on earth is a CCO", "CeeCee o" is a folk etymology form of the word "Sissy" with the "o" added for lyrical enhancement. The children's song "Bingo" which includes the line "and Bingo was his name-o" is a familiar example in the United States of a children's song that uses the lyrical enhancement of ending words with the letter "o". Ending a line in a song or rhyme with the letter "o" is found in the widely known [in the USA] children's song "Bingo" and the also widely known USA folk song "The Fox Went Out On A Chilly Night".

"Sissy" is a shortened form of the word "sister". That nickname is used as a referent for a girl by her family and by others regardless of that girl's given first name. The Anglo-American actress Sissy Spacek may be an example of the name "Sissy" that is familiar to persons in the USA. The African American singing game "Sissy In The Barn" is another example of a game song that includes the nickname "Sissy".

In contemporary American English, the line "Do you hear me Sissy o?" could be given as "Do you understand what I'm saying, Sissy?". Those forms are easier to understand than the lines "Do you hear me CeeCee O?" or "Do you hear my sisi-o?".

Paraphrasing what I read from the British folklorists Iona and Peter Opie [as found in the aforementioned Brown Girl In A Ring post about this song], "In A Fine Castle" is a dramatic play that has its source in a song or songs about females in one castle - represented by one circle -being courted by males from another castle - repesented by a second circle. Given that description, I wonder if Caribbean boys used to play this game with girls, with each gender forming their own circle. From the examples of this game that I've read online, it seems that, like most playground singing games nowadays, "In A Fine Castle" is only or mostly played by girls.

For what it's worth, my maternal grandfather was from Trinidad and my maternal grandmother was from Barbabos. However, I don't ever remember my grandparents sharing any information about Caribbean game songs or other aspects of Caribbean culture with me, my siblings, my cousins, or my mother (who was born in the USA) and her siblings (most of whom were born in Barbados but came to the USA as children or teens. Furthermore, I had never heard of the song or game "In A Fine Castle" until I read about it in the Brown Girl In The Ring book.

The slow tempo & lack of percussive rhythm of the "In A Fine Castle" song and therefore that game's lack of accompanying percussive, dance movements such as hip shaking or foot stomping, and the length of time it would take to play this game cause me to very much doubt whether "In A Fine Castle" would appeal to African American children nowadays - or even when I was a child in the 1950s.

That said, judging from its mention on various blogs about Caribbean childhoods, there's no question that "In A Fine Castle" seems to have been quite popular among people in Trinidad and other West Indian nations up to at least the 1970s. Furthermore, "In A Fine Castle" appears to be used quite often as the title of various Caribbean literary works. One example is the 1970 play by Derek Alton Walcott, a Saint Lucian poet and playwright who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992. Another example is Eutille E. Duncan's children's book by that title whose link is given below. I wonder if children in Trinidad and in other Caribbean islands still play this game.

A partial example of "In A Fine Castle" from the book by that title by Eutille E. Duncan is available online at (page 81-83).
That book is a story about a girl coming of age in Trinidad and Tobago. In that account, the game is played by two circles of 11 year old girls.

Page 80 isn't available online. The song begins on
page 81 begins with the line “We want one of them Do you hear my Sisi O?”

Thanks to all those who have shared examples of this song in records, books, blogs, and otherwise.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome.


  1. Thanks. This song brings back memories from my childhood.--sad memories.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Anonymous.

      I'm sorry that your childhood memories are sad.

  2. Hey, I am a recently-assigned Peace Corp volunteer and I am placed in a rural school here in Dominica. Two days ago we played "In a Fine Castle" with primary school kids of both sexes. The kids did not offer a bad gift first and then a good; gifts had to be accepted and that sped up the game. The most popular gifts were the funny ones; a boy was offered boxer shorts. Other gifts: a golden chain, a dirt bike and a computer game. I really appreciate your post; I learned a lot about this great game!

    1. Thanks, Mitch Stricker, for sharing information about "In A Fine Castle being played in Dominica.

      I appreciate you adding the demographical information that boys played this game along with girls. It's interesting to see that modern items such as a dirt bike and a computer game mentioned in this game.

      Thanks also for your Peace Corp service, Mitch!