Roman Antiquities 4

EEK! Ghoulies and ghosties!

Mark was renowned for closing his Radio London show by saying:
"From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggety beasties,
 And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord deliver us."

He still does this when he announces the Fab Forties on Oldies Project.

In 1966 and 67, holidaying listeners spotted postcards printed with the saying and Mark kept a few of the many he received.

Online, the quote is much in evidence, and naturally gets considerable use around Hallowe'en'. It's described variously as a 'Quaint old litany', a 'Cornish Litany' an 'old Cornish Prayer' a 'Scottish proverb', a 'Scottish saying', a 'traditional Scottish Prayer' a 'Medieval Prayer' and simply 'a saying'. Some don't even go as far as 'a saying' and avoid citing any supposed origin of the words.

The card on the left was the most popular of the Cornish designs, by the artist Stil and published by J Salmon of Sevenoaks. In this instance the sender is anonymous, but we suspect Keith Skues was the culprit.

As to where the proverb/litany/saying (take your pick) originates, there appears to be no definitive answer.

Cornwall seems to be top candidate for the origin of 'ghoulies and ghosties', followed by Scotland. The Oxford Dictionary of Quotes cites the author as 'anonymous Cornish' and the Duchy certainly seems to have claimed the saying as its own. However, very few people would have been able to hear Mark's programme in Scotland, so if postcards claiming the saying as Scottish were available North of the Border in the mid-Sixties, they were unlikely to have been associated with Mark.

Sometimes, Wales gets in on the act too, as one web source says, "Centuries ago, the Scots or the Welsh, depending on which historian you believe, came up with a prayer". I have so far failed to find any examples of Welsh 'ghoulies and ghosties' and nobody attributing the saying to the Irish.

Sources cited on the net include: "A Peasant's Litany Cornwall, circa 1500' and 'The Cornish and West Country Litany 1926'.


'Proverb' i.e. "a short, pithy saying in general use, stating a general truth or piece of advice" really doesn't describe the Mark Roman sign-off.

One feature goes to great lengths to explain why Mark's catchphrase can't be regarded as a litany and does favour some of the words as more likely to be Scottish than Cornish.

We shall probably never know.

(left) Chris from Walthamstow bought the popular design in Cornwall and posted it when she got home
Graham from Nazeing also picked the J Salmon design and wanted a photo in exchange for his postcard

A slightly different artistic take on the theme by Victor Jones of Studio Casa Mia, a local publisher in St Ives. The card bears the heading:

Cornish Riviera
Land of Legend and Romance

Judy from North Harrow was missing Big L while in Cornwall and also her schoolfriends in the Fifth Form at Pinner Grammar, preparing to take their 'O' Levels.

Were you the sender of one of those postcards, or perhaps the designer? Do get in touch!

All memorabilia courtesy of Mark Roman