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I first came across the mnemonic below in the late 1980s, when I saw it recited in an episode of the sitcom After Henry. For some reason, I decided to commit it to memory, as thousands before me had; I have been glad that I did ever since. But now I’d love to know a bit more about its origins. There’s very little definitive about these on the web – just the general sense that it was a rhyme used by public schoolboys. But when did they first use it? In the 19th or 20th century? And where? And does anyone know who wrote it or did it just “emerge”?

Please post any answers or suggestions you have in the comments box at the bottom.

Willie, Willie, Harry, Stee,
Harry, Dick, John, Harry 3,
1, 2, 3 Neds, Richard 2,
Henry 4, 5, 6,
Then who?
Edwards 4, 5,
Dick the Bad,
Harries Twain
And Ed the Lad.
Mary, Betsy, James the Pain,
Charlie, Charlie, James again.
William and Mary,
Anna Gloria,
4 Georges,
William and Victoria.