Grave of Fanny Adams
in Alton Cemetery
Sweet Fanny Adams
From Hampshire, rising up through underlying beds
In verdant meadows west of Alton town,
The River Wey begins its double-headed path,
To Tilford first then, fortified, runs down
In tribute to the Thames's peaceful flow
At Weybridge, rolling onwards, stately, slow.
Around the fields and hillsides near its rural source
Grow hops, in gardens crossed with poles and wire;
Those hops which give full flavour to the Alton beer;
The hops which every year bring forth for hire
Whole families, who claim to find delights
In plucking gold dry fruit from twining heights.
The stranger to these parts might view a simple scene
Of peace between bucolic squires and madams,
But in tranquil settings evil passions lurk,
As seen by what befell poor Fanny Adams -
Playing with her sister and a friend
One August afternoon she met her end.
Young Fanny, only eight in eighteen sixty-seven,
And with full life to live one might expect,
Was taken, so the court was told, by Frederick Baker,
Local clerk, whose gruesome actions wrecked
The peace of Alton causing all to grieve,
And for his sins was hanged on Christmas eve.
No need to detail how the dismal deed was done,
Enough to say her body was dismembered,
Spread about the fields, or some say in the river,
Either way, an incident remembered
Not just locally, for through the press
The nation heard of Fanny's grim distress.
At just that time, as chance would seemingly dictate,
The Navy changed its issue to the tars
From salted tack to low-grade tins of chopped up mutton,
Giving rise to rumours in the bars
That Fanny's end and their unwelcome ration
Were juxtaposed in some unpleasant fashion.
And so the English language found a new expression
From this sorry tale of local pain,
And far beyond the confines of the Royal Navy
Folk would use poor Fanny's name in vain;
And even here in Alton I would say
Not many now would give a sweet FA!
© 1991 JOS
Return to index