The alarm (selected verses)

Wellington’s first Parliament Buildings were made of wood … which soon rotted. A member of Parliament once called attention to this by waving some rotten wood in the debating chamber.

Silver Pen (pen name of Mrs Corlett), Parliamentary Skits and Sketches, 1872. Read by Rob Greenfield.


They say, and it is quite believed by everyone in town,

The Lords are shaking in their shoes,

The House is tumbling down!


A Farmer, with a frighten’d face, amid the council stood,

And from his pocket forth he drew a piece of rotten wood,

‘My Lords and gentlemen’, he said, ‘I’ll bet you half-a-crown,

Before the session’s well begun,

The House will tumble down!’


‘Behold I have within my hand a small piece of the roof,

‘Tis like a bit of honeycomb, and far from waterproof;

Soft are our heads, as well you know, soft as the Speaker’s gown

And what think ye will be our fates,

An the House tumble down!’