We're werkin lads frae Lankisheer,
Un gradely daysent fooak;
We'n hunted weyvin far un near,
Un could'nd ged a strooak;
We'n sowd booath table, clock un cheer,
Un popt booath shoon un hat,
Un borne wod mortal mon could bear,
Affoor we'd wevye Surat!
Ids neeah aboon a twelmon gone
Sin t' Yankee war brooake eeat;
Un t' poor's traade herd to potter on
Tell t' rich ud potter eeat,
We'n left no stooan unturn'd nod one
Sin t' trade becoom so flatt,
Bud neeah they'n browt us to id, mon,
They'n med us wevye Surat!
Aw've yerd fooak toke o' t' treydin mill,
Un pickin' oakum too;
Bud stransportashun's nod as ill
As weyvin rotton Su!
Ids bin too monny for yar Bill,
Un aw'm as thin as a latt,
Bud uv wey wi t' Yankees hed ur will,
We'd hang em i' t' Surat
Ids just laake rowlin stooans up t' broo,
Or twistin rooaps o' sand; -
Yo piece yore twist, id comes i' two,
Laake copwebs i' yor hand;
Aw've werk'd un woven laake a foo!
Tell aw'm as weak as a cat,
Yet after o as aw could do
Aw'm konkurd bi t' Surat!
Yar Mally's i' t' twist fever, un
Meh feyther's getten begg'd;
Strenge tecklers win nod teck him on,
Becose his cooat's so ragg'd!
Me moother ses ids welly done –
Hoo'l petch id wi her brat,
Un meck id fit for ony mon
Whod roots among t' Surat!
Aw wonst imagund Deeoth's a very
Dark un dismal face;
Bud neeah aw fancy t' cemetery
Is quaate a pleasant place!
Bud sin wey took yar Bill to bury,
Aw've often wish'd Owd Scrat
Ud fotch o t' bag-o-tricks un lorry,
To hell wi o' t' Surat!
By William Billington
Sent to us all the way from Florida, this poem was written by Blackburnian Francis Riding. Many thanks to his cousin Rita Houldsworth for giving us this gem.
Thur was owd black coats and dirndl skirts,
'Andbags, clogs an' frayed owd shirts,
Ties bi t' duzen an' cracked owd dishes,
An' a big glass bowl as were meant fer fishes,
Mouse e'ten candles and socks bi t' score,
Books fer gardnin' and books ont' War,
Books wi' bare women as were meant fer Art,
An' a dirty owd gas stove as were droppin' apart.
Thur was corsets and stays, all strong and pink,
An' a fox's tail as were startin' to stink,
A few broken clocks wi'out finger or tick, Oh, an' a paintin' o'
Flanders as fer made me sick!
Thur was rolls of owd lino as tight as a drum,
An' a cracked white chamber pot as 'd nip yer bum,
Thur was brown shoes an' black, and sum as were white,
No tellin' int' gasleet fer a left or a right.
Thur were a 'oly picture 'angin' on t' wall Just over t' top of a brown lino roll.
It said in big printing that GOD IS NOW HERE.
I couldn't see 'im and it filled me wi' fear.
I mean, if you'd gone uup theer to get sum noo gloves,
Yu'd 'ave met up yonder wi' angels 'n' duvs.
Thur was pans an' basins an' loaf tins an' such,
An' pieces o' velvet as were greasy tu tuch,
Walking sticks, umberellas and a baby's big duummy,
Oh, an' a box of false teeth all grinnin' an' guummy.
Thur was medals and badges and a tiger's stuffed 'ed,
An' a box o' tin sodjers as were made outa lead.
In t' corner o't' window were a gray stuuffed owl,
An' underneath it were a washin' up bowl,
Not to cotch droppin's or owt like that
But to stop th'attentions o't' nextdoor cat.
Braces and galoshes was piled uup bi t' duzen,
An' an owd Convent gymslip as belonged ta mi cuzen.
A pile of owd records as was all black an' scratched,
Wi' an owd melton topcoat as were luvin'ly patched.
If mi mem'ry's aw rieght, thur were a three foot stuffed snake
An' a big silver solver fer a three-tiered cake.
Plates wi' Queen Mury smilin' though t' dust,
An' sum Northrop-med pokers all cuvered in dust.
Thur were a fish wi' skennin' eyes in a fusty glass case.
'Ee were reight short a water an' 'ee looked outa place.
A photo o' t' Rovers' Week Cup from 1928.
They looked full o' muscle and ready to feight.
Thur were raggy owd carpet and tatty owd rugs,
An' a moth-etten paliasse as were paradise fer bugs.
Jubilee cuups and a bag of 'oss brasses,
An', if tha didn't mind squintin', some bent Woolworth's glasses
Oh, aye, thur were strange things and curios, but strangest o't' lot
Were t' woman oo owned this dirty owd shop.
Oo lurked thur int' back like a reight fat black spider,
An' as t' munths went past, oo kept gettin' wider.
I were frightened of 'er living thur in yon web,
Then one day Owd Crew towd me that she were dead.
And very relieved I was!
by Francis Riding
Owd Rooadmender’s Tale Ov A Brokken Romance.
By James Riley
Taken from the Blackburn Times of February 14th 1931
I will try and tell the story just as old Kemple, the roadside stone–breaker related it to me, without any frillings; rugged like his honest old face that seemed in keeping with the moor land scene of his home.
“You see it’s like this way. Th’ owd farmer as lived in t’ bottom yon, hed two sons an’ noather wur married. But this lad as aw’m tellin’ yo’ abeawt wur t’ younger o’ th’ two; Larry they called him. He wur different otogether fro’ his owder brother, an’ seemed to be one o’ th’ moody sooart, mind yo’, when he wur t’ breet side eawt t’ lad cud ged through his wark like a good un. But them breet moods ov his dudn’t last verra long; a few day an’ then he’d ged day-dreeamin’ ageon, an’ careless ov his wark.
“Owd John, his dad, used to carry on to Larry at times o’er wod he cawd his laziness, an’ one day Larry threw t’ pitch-fork deawn on t’ floor an’ sed, ‘Ged on wi’ id yersel’, aw’se nod.’ Then Owd John let t’ lad hev it full length of his tongue an’ towd him he’d breeak his back for him if he dudn’t pick t’ fork up an’ finish muckin’ yon bottom meadow; he even lifted his hand, dud his dad, but Larry stood theer defiant an’ stoopid like. Well, in th’ end Owd John towd him he’d oather hev to do t’ meadow or clear eawt.
“Larry took his dad at his word an’ left t’ farm, geddin’ lodgin’s on th’ edge o’ teawn yon. T’ next as aw hear o’ Larry wor as he hed bowt a hoss an’ cart an started for hissel’ as a carrier; tha knows, tekkin’ things to different teawns for fooak, an thad sooart ov business seemed to suit him a lot better nor tendin’ cattle, as id give him a chance ov seen’ heaw t’ world wagged instead o’ bein’ stuck in a shippon an’ such like o’ th’ days of his life.
“He wur a while afooare he geet on his feet like, but he managed id at last an’ at th’ of a twelve month he’d a nice reawnd ov his own. He hed different days for different teawns, an on Wednesda’s he used to tak t’ cloth as th’ hand-loom weyvers had wovven to Manchester markets an fotch yarn back for ‘em fro’ theer. He soon fun eawt as carryin’ for t’ weyvers paid him better nor callin’ on shopkeepers, so naturally he give mooare attention to t’ weyvers nor’t shoppers, as he called ‘em.
“Neaw ther’ wur a couple o’ lassies name o’ ‘Liz'beth an’ Martha Howden, as warked somewheer near t’ centre o’ Blegburn, thad Larry used to ‘liver cloth for. They wur sister, an’ bonny wenches too; allus ready for crackin, a joke wi onnybody. Mind tha, They wur reight good lassies an’ would stan’ no nonsense fro nobry. No matter whoa id wur they would verra soon be put in ther’ place if they overstepped good manners. They wur plain spokken’ too, an’ lapped nowt up as they wanted to tell foawk. Aw should say ther’ wur abeawt twelve months, as near as meks no matter, betwix ther’ ages, ‘Liz'beth bein’ th’ owdest. They wur boath’ fost class weyvers—hevvin’ been larnt by ther’ feyther, Owd Rozzin, as wur reckoned t’ best shuttle-kisser for miles reawned—an’ could allus ged a good price for ther’ cloth.
Larry used to leave Howdens while t’ last when id wur his day for goin’ to Manchester, sooa as he could as he could chat neither wi ‘t’ lassies theer a bit longer nor onnybody else. ‘Liz'beth an’ Martha seemed to enjoy his company as weel as he dud theirs, as he generally hed summat new to tell ‘em wi’ knockin’ abeawt different places so much. After a while neighbours reawnd abeawt theer used to nooatice thad he med rayther a campin’ shop o’ Howdens’ loom heawse. He would drop in verra often an’ hev a chat wi’ t’ lassies, an’ although they hadn’t had a lot o’ school-larnin’ they could tell tha at t’ second guess wod he wur after, an’ guess wrong t’ fost time on porpus, as lassies con onnywheer if they’re fit to be at large. Aw know thad Howdens lassies used to hev monny a good laugh when he had gone at ‘t flimsy excuses wod he used to mek for callin’ in on ‘em. Then he getton agate o’ bringin’ ‘em bits o’ things fro Manchester; tha knows, ribbons an’ bead things; they wur nowt much, but id suited t’ lassies an’ it seemed to please him. He’d getton after a while o’ feelin’ quite at hooam in t’ loom heawse, an’ one day when Martha wur eawt he ups and axes ‘Liz'beth if ther wur onny chance o’ hangin’ his hat up?
“ ‘ Ov cooarse,’ hoo said. ‘Ther’s a nail theer at t’ back o’ th' door.’
“ ‘ But—but—aw meeon for allus, Liz’beth.’
“At thad hoo changed colour a bit an stood theer, nod hevvin’ an answer ready for him to such a question; then Martha’s clogs wur heard comin’ deawn t’ lobby, soa ‘Liz’beth sed hoo wud let him know later on. Martha could see ther wur summat up between ‘em when hoo coom back, but hoo never sed nowt till Larry hed gone, an’ then Liz’beth explained o abeawt id. Aw towd tha at fost as they wur good lassies, an’ Martha proved id, cose hoo embraced ‘Liz’beth reight away an’ towd her to accept him, as he seemed a dacent sooart; hoo warn’t a bit jealous o’ ‘Liz’beth’s good fortune.
“T’ next time as Larry called he seemed a bit flustered like an’ ill at ease, till Martha fun’ an excuse to goa into t’ back place. Then he axed ‘Liz’beth ageeon abeawt thad nail at back o’ th’ door, an’ hoo mumbled summat as seemed to satisfy him, cose they wur booath agate o’ kissin’ when Martha coom back.
“After thad, ov cooarse, ther coourtin’ wur carried on openly enough, an’ everybody sed id’ would be a rare match as they booath seemed suited for each other. It hedn’d to be heawever, ‘cose after they hed bin lov-mekken’ for abeawt twelve months they geet at loggerheads wi’ each other. It seemed some busybody hed towd ‘Liz’beth as Larry wur spendin’ rayther a lot o’ time tawkin’ to Owd Joe’s lass as lived towards t’ Moor End Farm yon. This lass of Joe’s—Elsie, hoo wur cawed—hedn’t t’ best o’ reppitations, an’ ‘Liz’beth wur mooare nor a bit upset at t’ thowt as Larry wur getting’ friendly wi’ hor. When ‘Liz’beth tackled Larry o’er id he flared up reight away an’ sed id wur a lie, but towd ‘Liz’beth as he would talk to whoever he wanted an’ if hoo dudn’t like id hoo could lump id. At thad ‘Liz’beth felt reight hort an’ in hor temper hoo answered him back in t’ same tone as he’d started, an th’ upshot on id wor thad he left hor in a bit ov a huff.
“’Liz’beth wur ryther cool wi’ him t’ next time he called, an Larry wur owt but gushin wi hor. T’ job geet wos instead of better, an t’ next thing as happened wor t’ startlin’ news as Larry had sowd his hoss an’ cart an’ cleared eawt nobry knew wheer to. Then ther wur an owdish chap started doin’ Larry’s carryin’ business”
“Well, and how did the young lady take it?” I asked.
“Howd on, aw’m comin’ to thad. T’ fooak as lived reawnd abeawt often question Th’ Howden lassies o’er Larry’s disappearance, but noather ‘Liz’beth nor Martha would discuss it; what they thought they kept to thersels, but heaw deeply they felt id they couldn’ otogether hide. ‘Liz’beth naturally suffered t’ mooast, t’ poor lass; hor red rooasy cheeks soon began to loyse ther bonny bloom, an’ hor meawth id’s pleasant smile. Owd Rozzin, hor feyther , couldn’t understan’ his daughter tekkin’ it so badly; he hed seen other lassies start a-coourtin’ lads an’ after a time chuck ‘em up an’ then start ageeon wi’ sumbry else an’ no pots brokken’, as t’ sayin’ is, but to grieve like ‘Liz’beth wur doin’ o’er loysin’ a chap, well, it capped him past. Nod as he dudn’d do his best in his own clumsy way to help hor to forget Larry, but he hed to own up as he didn’d mek much progress.
“Well things went on like thad till id geet to t’ back end, an’ thad winter wur one o’ th’ wost as foak reawned abeawt remembered; reight nasty fogs an’ drizzlin’, cowd rains as seemed to ged through peoples clooathes an’ into ther verra booanes, if tha con understan’ me. Ther wur a lot o’ sickness one way an’ another, an poor ‘Liz’beth wur t’ fost to tek to hor bed. They fotched Owd Kebble, t’ doctor an’ he towed Owd Rozzin as his lass hed getton’ pneumonia, an’ then left instructions abeawt nossin’ hor. Id wur durin’ thad anxious time as t’ nayburs reawnd abeawt showed the’r real sympathy, fost one an’ then another would goa an’ offer the’r services, an’ begged him to let ‘em do summat if id wur nobbut to sit wi’ ‘Liz’beth an heawr or sooa.
“And did the young lady recover?” I asked.
“Neaw dorn’d be soa impatient, mister, aw’ll give t’ full accoawnt ov id if tha’ll nod keep stoppin’ me. Well to ged a bit further, Owd Rozzin an’ Martha ne’er left ‘Liz’beth bi horsel’ oather neet nor day till t’ crisis wur passed, an th' owd doctor sed he hedn’t known onnybody ged looked after better in o’ his life. After hoo wur on’t turn hoo picked up strength daily and getton as far as walking reawnd t’ bedroom wi’ th’ help or hor feyther or Martha. To buck her up Owd Rozzin used to promise as he’d tek booath o’ th’ lassies for a sea-voyage when ‘Liz’beth wur strong enough to stan’ id, an’ when they axed him wod sooart ov a trip it wul be he allus replied, ‘well, aw’ll tek yo’ reight fro’ Liverpool to New Brighton.’
“Heawever, ther wur no chance ov a sea-voyage or owt else ‘cose hoo hedn’y bin eawt a bed a week when hoo geet a chill an’ t’ doctor sed summat abeawt a relapse; aw dorne’d understa’ id, but this aw know, that in less nor twenty four heawrs after tekkin to hor bed a second time hoo passed away.” Ay id war a sad heawse wur Howden’s when ther blinds wur drawn, aw con tell yo’ ther wur no consolin’ hor feyther, it seemed to knock him eawt otogether.
“Id would be abeawt seven years after t’ funeral an’ people seemed to hev forgetton’ o abeawt Larry when one day he comes back to Blegburn ageeon, an’ a reight swell he wur. He seemed to hev plenty o’ money, an’ aw dorn’d think he knew as 'Liz’beth hed deed ‘cose when they towed him he couldon’t speeak for a bit. T’ day after he geet to know he called on Martha in t’ loom-heawse to offer his sympathy. Wod passed between ‘em nobry knows, but abeawt a week later ha called ageeon an’ Liza Ann—that’s lass as lives next to Howden’s—wur passin’ loom-heawse when hoo heared Martha tellin Larry off, an’ at th’ end ov her talk hoo sed , ‘Look here Larry , if tha went deawn on thi bended knees an’ swore on t’ Book as tha’d dress me in silks an’ satins an’ give me o th’ money as ever tha’s med, aw woddan’d walk two strides wi’ tha; so neaw tha knows! An’ another thing, this loom-heawse’l be all t’ sweeter when tha’s left id. Slam t’ door’s theer!’
“Thad wur t’ end o’ Larry I’ these parts. He cleared eawt ageeon, an’ nobry’s heard top nor tail on him ever sin.”
“And what became of Martha, may I ask?”
“Oh hoo lived wi’ hor feyther till he deed—he dudn’d last long after poor ‘Liz’beth—an’ then hoo went to live wi some relations in Rachdale. T’ last as wur heared ov hor wur abeawt getting’ wed to a young farmer theer.”
“Let me see.” I said, “did you say there was short cut across this field?”
“Aye, Id’ll fotch tha reight o’er Mellor Heights. Good day.”
A sad story, but I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. If you’d like me to try and find more stories or poems done in dialect by local writers or if you have a dialect story or poem set in the “Good Old Days” get in touch with Cotton Town at: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Stephen Smith
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