Lucy Vickery

Spectator competition winners: Theresa May’s life in three limericks

Spectator competition winners: Theresa May’s life in three limericks
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Your latest challenge was to encapsulate the life story of a well-known person, living or dead, in three limericks.

The limerick form was neatly summed up by the late Paul Griffin, long-time competitor and a regular winner on these pages:

A limerick’s short and it’s slick;

Like a racehorse it has to be quick:

      The front may seem calm

      And cause no alarm

But the end is the bit that can kick.

The saints and sinners whose lives you squished into 15 lines ranged from Donald Trump, Jim Davidson and Mad King Ludwig to Jesus and Helen Keller. Honourable mentions go to C. Paul Evans, Martin Elster, David Silverman and W.J. Webster; the winners, below, are rewarded with £25 apiece.

Basil Ransome-Davies

The much-vilified Marquis de Sade

Was a sport, an eccentric, a card.

      From his earliest days

      His were profligate ways

And his future intentions ill-starred.

When the scandals occurred by the score

Till his name was a word to abhor,

      He was jailed without trial

      As incurably vile

On the word of his mother-in-law.

Though the fall of the monarchy freed him,

The Bonaparte upstart decreed him

      To be shut in the bin

      For authorial sin,

But thank goodness he’s here when you need him.

Brian Murdoch

There once was a lady called May,

Who thought, on the Brexit-poll day:

      ‘Should Cameron lose

      I’ll step into his shoes

And get to be PM! Hooray!’

When she got the top job, our Theresa

Thought she would become a crowd-pleaser,

      But her much-proffered deal

      Lacked all MP-appeal,

And it soon got consigned to the freezer.

Out of Downing Street they had to tug her,

But her husband came over to hug her.

      He said: ‘forget Brexit!

      What saves it or wrecks it

Is now down to some other poor bugger.’

Bill Greenwell

In Middlesbrough’s schools, he was bored,

Though his tongue-lash was never ignored;

      Before injury felled him,

      No player excelled him,

For, nine out of ten games, he scored.

His management gave men a fright,

Though they found themselves scaling new


      When they questioned his scheme,

      He would chat to the team —

We sit down and decide I was right.

Forest! The Rams! (Though not Leeds.).

He was just what the England team needs.

      But the FA was stuffy,

      And so they stuffed Cloughie.

He went bung. Now the memory recedes.

Sylvia Fairley

When Claudius hid by the curtain

His future was surely uncertain

      If it weren’t for the army

      Not thinking him barmy

His life might have gone for a burton.

As a ruler, his empire increased,

He conquered the Brits, never ceased

      His advance, to the cost

      Of Boudicca, who lost,

Then he snapped up more lands in the East.

Agrippina’s the one he should fear, oh

She poisoned him — death of a hero,

      Or probably not,

      But look what they got:

His stepson, the emperor Nero.

Chris O’Carroll

The teen son of a Warwickshire glover

Ties the knot with a mid-twenties lover.

      He then drops out of view

      For a few years to do

Stuff that scholars have yet to discover.

In London, a stage golden age

Is in full swing. He writes for the stage,

      Where his kings, clowns and queens,

      His sword fights and love scenes,

Earn him more than an everyday wage.

1613, his playhouse burns down.

He retires to his Avonside town

      To enjoy waning years

      Less unsettled than Lear’s,

Then embarks for new realms of renown.

Brian Allgar

Out of bondage the Israelites fled,

Trusting Moses wherever he led.

      On Mount Sinai, he heard

      God’s imperative word:

‘I’ve a task for you, Moses,’ He said.

‘Ten commandments in stone?’ Moses cried.

‘They’re so heavy, my back’s crucified.

      This job is no heaven —’

      ‘Let’s make it eleven:


After that came a terrible plight —

They were lost, and regretting their flight.

      Forty years of their life!

      ‘It’s your fault,’ said his wife.

‘You turned left when you should have turned


Your next challenge is to provide an extract (up to 150 words/16 lines) that is a mash-up of two well-known existing works of literature (please specify). Please email (wherever possible) entries to by midday on 10 July.