Bless us and save us…"Mrs O'Davis"???

Graham from the UK wrote to me to ask me a question.

I would like to pose a question to Past Elder, and I suspect it is far too peripheral [???] to be of interest to those who follow your blog… Past Elder’s most common “catchphrase”, perhaps, is “Bless us and save us Mrs O’Davis”, and he refers to this, once or twice, as deriving from “from pre-conciliar Catholic culture”. I’m intrigued by this. Is “Mrs O’Davis” some sort of oblique reference to the Virgin Mary? A puzzle, and puzzles irritate me.

Seems that Graham has been discussing this on an online forum at

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0 Responses to Bless us and save us…"Mrs O'Davis"???

  1. Anonymous says:

    No, I think it’s a reference (real or apocryphal) to the great Chicago Fire of 1871. I have a recollection of my own grandmother reciting a doggeral verse that began “Fire, fire said Mrs. O’Dwyer/where, where, said Mrs. O’Hare/God bless us and save us, said Mrs. O’ Davis …” and no doubt further, although this is all that I can recall after nearly 45 years.

    William Tighe

  2. Past Elder says:

    “Fire, Fire!” said Mrs O’Dwyer.
    “Where, where?” said Mrs O’Hare.
    “Down in the town.” said Mrs Brown.
    “Lord bless us and save us”
    said old Mrs Davis.
    “I never knew a herring was a fish.”

    There, everybody happy now?

    Where do you suppose the O’Dwyers, the O’Hares, etc went to church, the Apostolic Holiness Church?

    Can’t say about the Chicago Fire thing though, even though I was born in Chicago, and baptised in Holy Name Cathedral, which was destroyed in the fire.

    I first heard the phrase from Miss O’Shaughnessy, my 7th grade teacher, who used to utter it when struck as some of you are by one of my utterances departing from my lifelong reputation for calm and measured discourse. As at the time she appeared to me to be about 4000 years old and may have walked with Moses out of Egypt — quite possible as, as any Irish will tell you, the Irish are one of the Lost tribes of Israel — so I did not connect it to the much later Great Fire of 1871.

    God bless me sideways. If only Dr Tighe and I had been on the same faculty at the same time. Oh, the faculty meetings!

  3. Past Elder says:

    Judas in a fireman’s carry, you DO know the legend was that Mrs O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern, starting the fire, thereby accounting for the obvious Irish urban environment of the poem.

    The reported later admitted he made that up as it seemed like good copy to sell papers. His great grandson now works for Fox “We’ve Decided, We Report” News. (Joke, joke, Judas a joke.)

  4. matthias says:

    Pity the cow is not here to kick the great grandson or his boss-Rupert “was an aussie’ Murdoch

  5. Grahamgomeldon says:

    Many thanks to all. A trivial question, but as David said in his email, maybe good to have some light topics to go with the heavy ones.

    I shall continue to kibbitz at the bridge table (so to speak) from time to time.

  6. Past Elder says:

    It was my pleasure to have had a part in contributing something of value to Mother England, the land of my ancestors!

    Kibbitz on! Maybe David would entertain a quadrivial question too.

  7. Grahamgomeldon says:

    Ah, to be sure, I had you down as being of Irish extraction – as I am partly myself. I think it may be that little bit of Irish blood which keeps me ever from fully settling – as Yeats had it: “Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.”

    A quadrivial question would be a natural progression. And then a “real” question after that. But, in the old days, it was six years studying the trivium and the quadrivium, and only then were you considered well enough grounded to study theology. So you must be patient!

    Thanks again for your good-natured help.


  8. Past Elder says:

    What’s in a name indeed!

    Yes, I have a last name of Irish derivation and was raised in an Irish-American family — one parent shanty, one lace, to be exact.

    However, that is by adoption. My last name at birth was Clutterham, which if what I have found on the Internet is right, is from the Suffolk area. While I always knew I was adopted, I did not know the details until I found my adoption papers while putting my folks’ affairs in order as their earthly ends neared.

    No wonder I felt so at ease and comfortable when I was in England in 1969!

    My original first name was,


  9. Grahamgomeldon says:

    Well, Douglas Clutterham, I think there’s a danger we might be abusing David’s hospitality if we carry on like this. This is not even about Mrs O’Davis any more. But, if you want to dig into your family history – and it might be interesting to see if one Stanley Clutterham of Chicago (born 1947) is a relation – contact me on – I may be able to help.

    Best Regards


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