Wee Willie Winkie is a children’s poem that was created by Scottish author, William Miller in the 19th century. It was first displayed in an anthology in 1841, Whistle-Binkie: Stories for the Fireside, and then reprinted again in 1873, after William Miller’s death.
Known as the Laureate of the Nursery, William Miller wrote the original in the Scots language, which was translated in 1844 to the English version that most people know today. Historically, Jacobites often referred to King William III as “Willy Winkie”, but this is believed to be a coincidence, with Miller’s “Wee Willie Winkie” being a fictional character that purely uses the same name.
The rhyme became so popular that it earned a top spot for bedtime characters that are shared with children, helping them to get to sleep with ease. Today it remains a commonly told rhyme and reminds children about the importance of getting to sleep on time.
Wee Willie Winkie Lyrics
Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town,
Up stairs and down stairs in his night-gown,
Tapping at the window, crying at the lock,
Are the children in their bed, for it’s past ten o’clock?
Hey, Willie Winkie, are you coming in?
The cat is singing purring sounds to the sleeping hen,
The dog’s spread out on the floor, and doesn’t give a cheep,
But here’s a wakeful little boy who will not fall asleep!
Anything but sleep, you rogue! glowering like the moon,’
Rattling in an iron jug with an iron spoon,
Rumbling, tumbling round about, crowing like a cock,
Shrieking like I don’t know what, waking sleeping folk.
Hey, Willie Winkie – the child’s in a creel!
Wriggling from everyone’s knee like an eel,
Tugging at the cat’s ear, and confusing all her thrums
Hey, Willie Winkie – see, there he comes!”
Weary is the mother who has a dusty child,
A small short little child, who can’t run on his own,
Who always has a battle with sleep before he’ll close an eye
But a kiss from his rosy lips gives strength anew to me.