A Story About Rainbows

A Story About Rainbows

I started kindergarten in Sydney when I was four years old: Just imagine!  A little girl with light brown hair, big blue eyes, and cheeks big enough to store enough acorns to survive the winter, all dressed up in her uniform, excited to be going to Big School! Keen to be learning anything and everything yet scared of meeting other people because social anxiety has been with my whole life, it seems.

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Yet, I digress: I don’t really remember much at all about the beginnings of my education, having firmly declared most of it useless and erasing it for more important things like how to pay my taxes and keep myself gainfully employed. However, some highlights include naptime, having specific underwear for each day of the week (I would only wear the undies that were literally labelled with the days, such as “Manic Monday”” or “Terrific Tuesday!”. My OCD goes way back), being babysat regularly by my Scottish Nanna, and wondering when and why they changed the Rainbow.

Who cares about naps, Nanna’s and nether-wear, right? What’s the deal about the whole Rainbow thing?

I call it The Rainbow Song Dilemma, and it has haunted me for years.

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See, when I was growing up, my mother taught me the song as such:

Red, and yellow and pink and green, orange and purple and blue!

However, when I started school I was suddenly being taught:

Red, and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and blue!

Needless to say, it was a very confusing time for my developing mind as every rainbow I saw in my imagination, and everyone I created went “orange and purple”. The, to suddenly find out I had my colours back-to-front: I was laughed at, I was teased, etc etc.

Teasing aside (as I was used to this from my older siblings), I couldn’t help but wonder why had The Rainbow Song changed? Who changed it? Who has the authority to change the rainbow? More importantly, why wasn’t I informed? Was I behind the times? Was my knowledge outdated?

It’s one of the most surreal, standout memories of my childhood, this confusion over the rainbow, but slowly I conformed to singing the Rainbow Song the “correct” way, and pushed all thoughts of those two colours battling for dominance from my mind.


Over the past 30 years, the memory of The Rainbow Song Dilemma has faded somewhat, and I have essentially dismissed the whole Rainbow Song dilemma as me being a daft wee girl prone to fits of fancy. Of course I learned it the correct way! I was just young, and silly, and easily confused! Of course my mother taught me the correct song.

Everyone knows purple comes before orange.


It’s a pointless story, a silly story.


On Sunday, Ben’s flatmates girlfriend and myself were sitting down colouring in obscenities, because what else do grown people do in their spare time other than colour in? Anyway, as we were colouring in our swears, and Ben’s flatmates girlfriend was colouring her word “Motherfucker” in the colour of the rainbow – each letter, a different colour, in order.

And so of course she starts singing the Rainbow Song-

Red, and yellow and pink and green, orange and purple and blue!

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I dropped my pencil and looked up, my jaw landing upon the table with a thud:

“Did you just sing orange before purple?”

Smiling brightly, she confirmed: “Aye, that’s the way the rainbow goes!”

She sang the song again brightly as Ben entered the room.

I turned to Ben immediately and asked calmly (think of Dumbledore’s version of calm):

“Do you sing Orange before Purple in the Rainbow Song?”

I narrowed my eyes as a theory and explanation started to unfold within the corners of my mind… maybe… just maybe…

“No, it’s purple first…” Ben responded slowly, slightly confused by my narrowed gaze, before realising this answer was not good enough and further responses were needed. “However, I did learn it in England… Let me check with my brother, who learned it here.”

Within minutes it was confirmed that not only his brother, but also his brothers’ girlfriend, knew that of course orange goes before purple. In what kind of world does purple go before orange!

I smiled, and set myself back to the task of colouring gleefully as the emotional relief of my four year old self slowly began to unwind. Finally, after thirty years, I realised that I was never wrong, and the Rainbow Song had never been changed.

See, my mother didn’t teach me the Rainbow Song. I learned the Rainbow Song from my Scottish Nanna, and it seems that in Scotland orange precedes purple – the rest of the world simply has it back to front.

I spent the rest of the afternoon happily chatting away, and colouring in as rainbows twisted and contorted within my mind as this newly found knowledge, this understanding coalesced into a vision of the beautiful rainbows of my toddlerhood.

See, my rainbows were never Australian.

They were Scottish.

Please note we did also Google the scientific, proper rainbow colour order, light spectrum thing and yes, orange precedes purple there also. Suck it, rest of the world!

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