Tuppence a Bag


Early each day on the steps of Saint Paul’s, the little ole bird woman cries, “Feed the birds, tuppence a bag. Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag.” While, all around the cathedral the saints and apostles look down as she sells her wares. Although you can’t see it, you know they are smiling, each time someone shows that they care.

I’ve only paraphrased it here, but the theme of this Sherman brothers’ song, Feed the Birds, from the movie, Mary Poppins, is about charity. In the movie, young Michael Banks is conflicted. Should he save and invest his tuppence or use it to buy a bag of crumbs for the birds? In the movie, Michael’s father Mr. Banks and his colleagues try to convince him to save, by sing the praises of the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank (also by the Sherman brothers), of investing and that holy grail, compound interest. But how much money would have Michael made if he had chosen to invest his tuppence? Authoress P. L. Travers set her Marry Poppins books in 1910 London. Assuming 6% interest, no bank collapses and that fees don’t gobble up Michael’s crumbs faster than the pigeons would have, then today no longer young Michael would have the grand total of ~16£ to show for his thrift. Just a pittance to show for more than a century of saving. It hardly seems worth the bother, but that sentiment is well telegraphed through the mismatched conflict between these two songs. Feed the Birds is purported to have been Walt Disney’s all-time favorite song and that’s saying a lot.

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