If It Wasn’t For The ‘Ouses in Between

If It Wasn't For The 'Ouses In Between - Gus Elen

If It Wasn’t For The ‘Ouses In Between – Gus Elen

Have you ever heard this classic Cockney song, made famous by music hall comedian Gus Elen (pictured)? If not, have a listen cos it namechecks loads of places in and around London. The song comes from the early part of the twentieth century and it’s a real slice of life.

Now, we need your help unravelling the meaning of one phrase: “the ‘morf”, in the seventh verse in the printed version, though Gus doesn’t sing that version in this recording. Have a look at the lyrics, have a listen to the song, and think of the old days with fondness. And tell us what ‘the ‘morf’ means before we go crazy-ape-bonkers.

Here are the full lyrics:

If you saw my little backyard
“Wot a pretty spot”, you’d cry
It’s a picture on a sunny summer day
Wiv the turnip tops and cabbages
Wot people doesn’t buy
I makes it on a Sunday look all gay

The neighbours finks I grow ’em,
And you’d fancy you’re in Kent
Or at Epsom if you gaze into the mews
It’s a wonder as the landlord
Doesn’t want to raise the rent
Because we have such nobby distant views

Oh! it really is a wery pretty garden
And Chingford to the Eastward could be seen
Wiv a ladder and some glasses
You could see to ‘Ackney Marshes
If it wasn’t for the ‘ouses in between

We’re as countrified as can be
Wiv a clothes prop for a tree
The tub-stool makes a rustic little stile
Ev’ry time the blooming clock strikes
There’s a cuckoo sings to me
And I’ve painted up “To Leather Lane A Mile”

Wiv tomatoes and wiv radishes
Wot ‘adn’t any sale
The backyard looks a purfick mass o’ bloom
And I’ve made a little beehive
Wiv some beetles in a pail
And a pitchfork wiv the ‘andle of a broom

Oh! it really is a wery pretty garden
And Rye ‘Ouse from the cock-loft could be seen
Where the chickweed man undresses
To bathe ‘mong the water cresses
If it wasn’t for the ‘ouses in between

There’s the bunny shares his egg box
Wiv the cross-eyed cock and hen
Though they ‘as got the pip and him the ‘morf
In a dog’s ‘ouse on the line-post
There was pigeons, nine or ten
Till someone took a brick and knocked it off

The dust cart though it seldom comes
Is just like ‘Arvest ‘Ome
And we made to rig a dairy up some’ow
Put the donkey in the wash’ouse
Wiv some imitation ‘orns,
For we’re teaching im to moo just like a kah

Oh! it really is a wery pretty garden
And ‘Endon to the westward could be seen
And by clinging to the chimbley
You could see across to Wembley
If it wasn’t for the ‘ouses in between

Though the gasworks is at Woolwich
They improve the rural scene
For mountains they would very nicely pass
There’s the mushrooms in the dust-hole
With the cowumbers so green
It only wants a bit ‘o ‘ot ‘ouse glass

I wears this milkman’s nightshirt
And I sits outside all day
Like the ploughboy cove what’s mizzled o’er the Lea
And when I goes indoors at night
They dunno what I say
‘Cause my language gets as yokel as can be

Oh! it really is a wery pretty garden
And soapworks from the ‘ousetops could be seen
If I got a rope and pulley
I’d enjoy the breeze more fully
If it wasn’t for the ‘ouses in between

Comments

comments


7 responses to “If It Wasn’t For The ‘Ouses in Between”

  1. Mike says:

    There is a chicken disease called ‘pip’ – I wonder if ‘morf’ might be ‘moth’, as in ‘moth-eaten’ for the rabbit fur?

  2. SC Keita says:

    Yeah, "pip" is mentioned in the 39 Steps, in the "Memory Man" scene.

  3. SC Keita says:

    Yeah, "pip" is mentioned in the 39 Steps, in the "Memory Man" scene.

  4. Matt says:

    I know very little of cockney, but but ended up here after some curiosity. Anyway it seems to me that the Cock, or Rooster, has the "Morf"… as in metamorphasis? perhaps the author suggests some kind of roll reversal where the male species carries the baby? or creates the egg? just a though.

  5. Matt says:

    meh, maybe not…

  6. beru says:

    ‘Morf has an apostrophe at the beginning, which, comparing with the rest of the song, represents one or more missing letters. So, given the context, the word is probably a skin condition or other illness ending in -morph or -morf.

    HTH (or perhaps ‘Ope This ‘Elps?),

    beru in the Other Washington, USA

  7. Kensussex says:

    I asked Dave and Al Sealey ("Cosmotheka", who did this (and many other music-hall) songs) about ‘pip’ and ‘morf’, but their research hadn’t brought a solution. My hunch is that Pip and Morf refer to diseases associated with poultry and rabbits respectively.

    Also: "Though the gasworks is at Woolwich" – published version has "Though the gasworks isn’t [i]wilets[/i]" – could this be Cockney/Jewish pronunciation for ‘violets’? (they apparently substituted ‘v’ by ‘w’ hence ‘a [i]wery[/i] pretty garden’).