Yorkshire Tyke's Dialect

John & Hettie's wedding  - 1911

I recently met someone who commented on my Yorkshire accent, and as I  have never thought that I have a strong accent said to them “ If you think my accent is strong, you should have heard my Grandparents talking!”

This got me thinking about the old Yorkshire dialect, and how it has largely disappeared from modern day life.

 It is often referred to as broad Yorkshire or Tyke, not to be confused with modern day slang.

 Here are some memories of my Grandparents, John and Hettie Bancroft, who were farmers in Thornton near Bradford, and who  all their life spoke using quite a strong dialect, with words and phrases that you never hear nowadays. As a young child in the 1950’s I remember them using some of the following words and phrases to describe things in everyday life:

“Tha’s cack-handed!” when they saw me trying to use a hammer with my left hand, instead of trying to be right-handed.

“ Is te’ starved?” when they were trying to find out if I was cold….I thought they were asking if I was hungry!

“Fetch coyl in from’t coyl hoyl”….bring some coal in from the coalhouse.

"Its siling darn artside"....Its raining heavily outside

Some of the other words and phrases I remember them saying were:

                                            Allus - always
                                            Appen  -  maybe                                                         
                                            Aye – maybe
                                            Aye up - hello
                                            Backend’ish – autumn time 
                                            Bahn - going
                                            Bah't - without                                          
                                            Be reight – it’ll be alright
                                            Brass – money                                                            
                                            Braying – beating                     
                                            Clout – slap                                                                
                                            Coit – coat                                          
                                            Fair ‘t middlin – somewhere in the middle                      
                                            Fettle – mend              
                                            Fowk – folk/people                                                     
                                            Ginnel – alleyway
                                            Flittin’ – moving house     
                                            Lakin' - playing                                        
                                            Tha'mun - you must
                                            No'but - nothing but
                                            Ow do – how are you                                               
                                            Seethe – do you see
                                            Summat – something                                                   
                                            Watter – water
                                            Wick - lively
                                            Yonder – over there
When Hettie announced to her parents in her broad Yorkshire dialect “ am bahn wed John from’t Nettle Oil” [I am going to marry John from the Nettle Hole], all her parents, who did not approve of the marriage, had to say on the matter was “ Tha’s med thi’ bed, nah thi’ can lig on it!” [you have made your bed, now you can lay on it!]. However Hettie, having reached the age of 21 years, did not need their approval, so the wedding went ahead.

And a few of their phrases I remember were:

                                     Put wood in’t hoyl – shut the door
                                     Side t’ pots – clear the table
                                     Appy as a pig in muck – very happy
                                     Nother use nor orniment – useless
                                     Were ya born in a barn? – close the door
                                     Stop lakin' a'bart - stop messing about

My grandmother was very fond of a Yorkshire poet called John Hartley [1839-1915], who was from Halifax, and was famous for writing verse in Yorkshire dialect. She left me a book of his most famous poems. Here is one of my favorites…you might have to read it a few times before fully understanding it, as I did….[my computer’s spellchecker just gave up trying to understand it!]

‘I thi’ Gronfayther’s Days 
A’a Johnny! A’a Johnny! Aw’m sooary for thee!
But come thi ways to me, an sit o’ mi knee,
For it’s shockin’ to hearken to th’ words ‘at tha says,
Ther wor nooan sich like things i’ thi gronfayther’s days.

When aw wor a lad, lads wor lads, tha knows then,
But nahdays they owt to be ‘shamed o’ thersen,
For they smook, an’ they drink, an’ get other bad ways,
Things wor different once i’ thi gronfayther’s days.

Aw remember th’ furst day aw went a coortin’ a bit,
An’ walked aght thi gronny, awst niver forget,
For we blushed wol us faces wor all in a blaze,
It wor nooa sin to blush i’ thi’ gronfayther’s days

Ther’s nooa lasses nah, John, ‘at’s fit to be wed,
They’ve false teech i’ ther math, an false hair o’ ther heead,
They’re a make up o’ buckram, an’ waddin’ an’ stays,
But a lass wor a lass i’ thi gronfyther’s days.

At that time a tradesman dealt fairly wi’ th’ poor,
But nah a fair dealer can’t keep open th’ duer,
He’s a fooil if he fails, he’s a scamp if he pays,
Ther wor honest men lived I’ thi gronfayther’s days.

Ther’s chimleys an’ factrys i’ ivery nook nah,
But ther’s varry few ledt ‘at con fodder a caah,
An’ ther’s telegraff poles all o’th edge o’th highways, 
Whear grew bonny green trees i’ thi gronfyther’s days.

 We’re teld to be thankful for blessin’s at’s sent,
An’ aw hooap ‘at th’ll allus be blessed wi’ content, 
Tha mun make th’ best tha con o’ this world wol tha stays,
But aw wish tha’d been born i’ thi gronfyther’s days.

And to finish off on a lighter note, here is the verse most Yorkshire folk are familiar with.
             The Yorkshireman's Motto [with translation!]

'Ear all, see all, say nowt,                          Hear all, see all, say nothing 
Eyt all, sup all, pay nowt,                          Eat all, drink all, pay nothing
Un’ if ivver tha does owt fer nowt,             And if ever you do anything for nothing
Allus do it fer thissen.                               Always do it for yourself

John & Hellie - enjoying a holiday in Blackpool in the 1950's


Do you have memories of family members using the Yorkshire dialect?.... if so please share them in the comments section below.

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