Nursery rhymes and songs/The Grand Old Duke of York


Oh, the grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men;
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.

When they were up, they were up,
And when they were down, they were down,
And when they were only halfway up,
They were neither up nor down.


The core movements are often based upon the performers standing whenever a clear "up" is sung, reseating themselves whenever "down" is mentioned and briefly taking an abbreviated half-standing/crouching position for the "only half way up" phrase. A group of performers who, especially in an 'audience participation'-like situation, are originally seated (for example school children in an assembly, or the audience in a theatre - especially for a typical participative segment of a pantomime) will/should end the song back in their original positions.

The first verse is a rather gentle one to react to, with one clear standing and one clear seating action, and so other actions may be given. For example: a stiff salute for the "Duke of York", indicating "ten" by clearly displaying ten fingers (optionally emphasising this on the further syllables of "thou-sand men") and/or forming the hands/arms into a some form depicting a 'hill' summit.

The second verse becomes far more rapid, especially between the two pairs of "downs". The performer may make a bob, between the two, to emphasise the separate positions, rather than just stay up/down). Synchronisation is easily lost by those who are not as quick or able to change positions, or who are new to the 'game' and not as practiced. This activity does help group-bonding in young children and encourages the following the teacher/leader of the activity, but its use is often more as an easily controlled game that promotes physical activity.


The above text was adapted from Wikipedia: The Grand Old Duke of York.