As an ex-patriot Tyke, now of advanced years, I value my Yorkshire upbringing and family history dearly. Although I have, apart perhaps from some extreme moments of stress, lost virtually all my North Yorkshire accent, I have retained pleasurable memories of the vernacular speech of my parents and many of my Northern relatives and friends.
The dialect has its roots in Old English and Old Norse, There is a Yorkshire Dialect Society (click on the link for access) whose purpose is to promote the use of the dialect in both humour and in serious linguistic studies. On the site you will find sound files giving examples of many of the dialects spoken in different parts of this, the largest of all English counties.
Caedmon, writing in the 7th Century whilst a monk working under the Abbess Hild at Whitby Abbey, was the first Yorkshireman (perhaps even the first Englishman) to write verse. [ See my blog of 29th of July on ‘Whitby’ ]. Caedmon was said to have been an illiterate herdsman who had a vision one night and heard a voice commanding him to sing of “the beginning of created things”.
Since that time countless other poets have sung about the life and events of North Yorkshire (see the The Lyke Wake Dirge ). In more recent times, verses have been published attempting to represent the Yorkshire dialect in written form. This certainly involves liberal use of the apostrophe!
One such dalesman published several collections of entertaining and expressive dialect verse under the pen-name of ‘Erimus’ (Latin: ‘We Shall Be’). The poem of his which I reproduce below has a particular connection with my own family history, as the ‘Auld Ap‘ referred to in the opening verse, was the father of my Uncle (by marriage) Edwin. A.P. Richardson was, in the early part of the 20th Century, a renowned auctioneer at agricultural auctions throughout the North Riding of Yorkshire, and, according to Erimus, “his dry pungent wit would loosen the purse-strings of the most inveterate miser”.
The story of ‘Auld Ap’s’ visit to auction off the goods and livestock at ‘Midnight Farm’ is told in Erimus’s poem reproduced below. It is from Erimus’s collection of verse entitled ‘ Wi’ t’ accent on Yorkshire’. The farm does actually exist in a fold of the Cleveland Hills, above the typical North Yorkshire village of Ingleby Greenhow. It gets its name from its position in the landscape which denies it sunshine for most of the year.
FARM SALE AT 'MIDNIGHT' Ah went tiv a seeal yance at 'Midnight'. Auld 'Ap' started preeachin' at ten; He ranted on t' breedin' an' t' birthright 0' t' Maister an' t' poor daytal men: He'd got bargains bi t' score for us buyers, All t' stock was weel wintered, he said, All t' hosses was soond an' good triers An' t' beeasts had been varry weel fed. He was sellin' some yows an' some wethers, Sike a brokken moothed lot nivver stirred! Some pooaks all stuffed full wi' feathers - There was beastlins an' bowls o' white curd: A wall-eyed auld gallower called 'Rastus' Was tied up in t' stall next ti t' bull; A razor-backed sow galloped past us Leeatin summat ti git t' belly full. A Westerdale youth wi' a tub-trap Bowt a coo wi' its bag trailin' t' ground, She 'ad a hingrowin' hoorn an' a blinnd pap- But hotherwise - perfectly sound: He bowt t' Missis some mair bits an' pieces - A 'lye' an' tweea garden speeads, Some bales o' Teeswatter fleeces, All clinkered an' liftin' wi' caids. Some farm lads was there playing marbles, Near a mangy auld dog an' some cats, There was stirks wi' their backs blebbed wi' waarbles An' t' granary was swaarmin' wi' rats: T' farmer's wife was a raucous auld creeatur, Sike a skinflint, she'd skin ivvery louse: She'd tak' drinks frea all 'at would treeat her, Then skip smartly back inti t' hoose! T' wasn't long afoor t' lads got their glimmers On t' greeat sarvant lass 'at was there, They forgot aboot biddin' for t' gimmers, As she eyed 'em frea t' auld rockin' chair: A reet useful soort ti' git wedded - An' a bargain at seventeen steean two, It would just need anuther yan like her An' ye could yoke 'em beeath inti t' plew! She said she'd feed all 'at was buyin', We gat fat rascals an' green mowldy cheese, An' mair than that - withoot tryin', We foond we were covered in fleas; They crowled oot of a greasy flock mattress We’d sat on ti’ watch two auld stegs That were chasin’ a loppy-lugged fuzzock Ti’ stop ‘im frae eatin’ t’ pot eggs! Noo ye nivver saw fleas that could beat ‘em! We all ceeam oot i’ great lumps, We hardlins knew which way ti’ treeat ‘em, As we scratted oor bellies an’rumps! Auld Jim said. 'By Gum, but Ah’ll cap ‘em!’ They’d driven ‘im just aboot fond; He’d gi'en ower trying ti’slap ‘em, Sae he dived heead fost inti’ t’pond! Ah had ti git t’Missus ti shift mine, She threw all mi cleeas on ti t’ wall; Ah stood in a barril o’ quick lime, Then ah dived inti t’ nearest coo stall; She finished ‘em off wi’ a blow lamp - Ye could hear ‘em sizzlin’ all t’ tahm Ah was pleased as Punch when they flooated, But she varry nigh did me some ‘arm! They say t’sun nivver shines there at’Midnight’. Except for an odd tahm in t’year, Maist o’ t’ work’s deean there bi moonlight, Wi neea tahm ti’ drink onny beer: Ah was nivver seea glad ti git scamperin’ Wi t’ hoss’s head pointed for heeam, Ah Ah’d tak’ a fair bit o’ pamperin’ Ti got ‘ticed back ti Midnight ageean!!