: Popular Rhymes And Nursery Tales

The little priest of Felton,

The little priest of Felton,

He kill'd a mouse within his house,

And ne'er a one to help him.


Sweet Jesu, for thy mercy's sake,

And for thy bitter passion,

Save us from the axe of the Tower,

And from Sir Ralph of Ashton.

This rhyme is
traditionally known in the North of England, and refers,

it is said, to Sir Ralph Ashton, who, in the latter part of the

fifteenth century, exercised great severity as vice-constable. The

ancient custom of riding the black lad at Ashton-under-Lyne on Easter

Monday, which consists of carrying an effigy on horseback through the

town, shooting at it, and finally burning it, is alleged to have taken

its origin from this individual, who, according to tradition, was shot

as he was riding down the principal street. According to another story,

the custom commemorates the valiant actions of Thomas Ashton at the

battle of Neville's Cross.