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Title: Wit, Character, Folklore and Customs of the North Riding of Yorkshire
       With a Glossary of over 4,000 Words and Idioms Now in Use

Author: Richard Blakeborough

Release Date: August 21, 2020 [EBook #62999]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


Produced by Brian Coe, Les Galloway and the Online
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Transcriber’s Notes

Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected. Variations in hyphenation and accents have been standardised but all other spelling and punctuation remains unchanged.

On page 262
‘To leeak a bad leeak’ = to leeak ill. has been changed to
‘To leeak a bad leeak’ = to look ill.

Many words in the Glossary are cross-referenced to other words. In several cases these other words are not present.

The book begins with an extensive list of subscribers immediately after the table of contents. This has been moved to the end.



Character, Folklore & Customs









At one time it was thought possible for the present work to be undertaken conjointly by the Rev. M. C. F. Morris, author of Yorkshire Folk-Talk, and myself. Such collaboration, though pleasing to both, was found to be quite impracticable. Many of my patrons and friends having urged me to undertake the work single-handed, I have ventured to do so. I have aimed at no higher standard than the chatty style which I have adopted in drawing-rooms and on the platform. If friends and critics prove but half as kind and considerate in this new venture as they have hitherto done, I have little to fear. My main object has been simply to place on record, in, I hope, a readable form, some of the wit, character, customs, and folklore of the North Riding which I have thought to be sufficiently interestingviii and worthy of being saved from that long list of things forgotten.

The chapter on some characteristic sayings of both the North and East Ridings, kindly contributed by the Rev. M. C. F. Morris, will add greatly to the value and interest of the work. I may here mention that he is in no way answerable for any other single sentence throughout the work. I feel it to be my duty to make this quite clear, for, as a humorist, I have ventured to include certain items which the reverend gentleman most probably would have run his pen through, had either the MS. or proof-sheets passed through his hands.

The Glossary, though far from containing all the words of our North Riding folk-speech, is as complete as it has been possible for me to make it.

My thanks are due to Mr. Atkinson and to Mr. Morris, whose glossaries I have frequently consulted, and in no less a degree to my friend Dr. Johnson of Lancaster for his MS. notes, so generously lent me.

I have done my best, and if my literary repast is not set before my readers with the usual glitter of silver and cut glass, I would humbly remind them that the fare has been fairly stalked and prepared with all due care as to accuracy, and cooked and servedix with the best of everything my literary kitchen possesses.

Many stories illustrative of Yorkshire character and humour are given, mostly gathered from original sources covering a period of many years, and in the main are true. None of them, I believe, have hitherto been published, and very few contained in these pages have I given publicly.

The stories afford numerous examples of the idiom and dialect as spoken in the North Riding, but mainly (as to dialect) in that of Cleveland. The reason for specializing that district is given elsewhere.

To the scores of happy hours spent with both old and young by their own firesides, I owe the contents of this book. Nearly all it contains they have given me: to them I return my warmest thanks.

One other word—should a copy of this work find its way into other lands, and be read by any of my Yorkshire colonial cousins, to them I sincerely offer the grip of friendship. And should any of our Yorkshire words have gained a footing on other soil, I shall be grateful for a list of the same.

To many of my subscribers I owe a lasting debt of gratitude for that kindness and cordiality which at once made me one of their house party when staying with them as Society Humorist, and alsox for the kind letters of encouragement they were so good as to send me in the early stage of my work, and to one and all I now offer my most sincere thanks for their cordial replies in answer to my circular.

In conclusion, should this work bring conviction that the Riding ought to have a Folklore and Dialectical Society identified with itself, I shall not have written in vain, and it would have my hearty if humble support. No time should be lost. Bear in mind, each aged person who passes from amongst us is another valuable volume removed from the shelves of an ever-decreasing library. I shall be glad to receive the names of any of my readers willing to help me in forming a North Riding Folklore and Dialectical Society.

The Author.

24 Trent Street,

September 27, 1898.



I. Yorkshire Stories of Wit and Character 1
II. Wit and Character 17
III. Wit and Charactercontinued 28
IV. Wit and Charactercontinued 43
V. Wit and Charactercontinued 54
VI. Customs of the Year and Folklore 66
VII. Customs of Courtship, Marriage, Birth, and Death 94
VIII. Omens, Charms, Recipes 126
IX. Witchcraft 153
X. Witchcraftcontinued 173
XI. Some Characteristic Yorkshire Sayings
By the Rev. M. C. F. Morris. B.C.L., M.A., Rector
of Nunburnholme. Author of Yorkshire Folk-Talk.
XII. Idioms and the Peculiar Use of Certain Words 222
XIII. Similes, Proverbs, and Sayings 238xii
XIV. Children’s Lore 257
XV. Odd Scraps of Old Yorkshire, etc. 279
XVI. A Few Simple Hints on the Grammar of the Folk-speech 316
... Glossary 342
... Concluding Remarks 475



To those unacquainted with our folk-speech, the following list will be helpful when reading. A glossary of words now in use in the North Riding will be found at the end of the volume.

Ah = I.
Ah’s = (I is) I am.
Ah s’ = I shall.
’an = than.
’at = that, which, who.
i’ = in, ’iv’ before a vowel.
i’ ’t = in it.
i’ t’ = in the.
’ll = will.
ma = me.
mah = my.
na = nor, no, than.
o’ = on, also of.
ov = of.
’s = is, has, or as.
s’ = shall.
‘t = it.
t’ = the.
ta = thou or you.
ti = to.
ti t’ = to the.
ti ‘t = to it.
till = to.
tiv, used before a vowel = to.
wa = we.
wi’ = with, as a rule ‘wiv’ before a vowel.
ya = you.
yer = your.
yah, adj., personal numeral = one.
yan, adj. = one.
ya’d = you had or you would.



‘Eddication an’ self-binnders is gahin ti to’n t’ wo’lld upsahd doon,’ said an honest Yorkshireman to me the other day. ‘Are things in general really much different now from what they were, say, fifty years ago?’ I asked. To which I received this laconic reply, ‘Nowt’s t’ saam1.’ Nothing could have been more forcible: the words meant much, and the tone in which they were uttered meant even more.

Unfortunately this ‘tone,’ which is the very soul of the dialect, can never be rendered in print. How poor and meaningless in the mouth of a stranger sound the words, ‘Cu’ thi waays, honey,’ but from the lips of a Yorkshire mother to her bairn they carry with them the sound of tenderest love and solicitude. They ring with music, but it is music which is only tuneful to the Yorkshire ear.

But to return to our friend. Now, though he said ‘Nowt’s t’ saam’ in somewhat a depreciatory manner, he was fully aware of the value of education and the utility of the various mechanical appliances which2 have of late years revolutionized agricultural labour. There is a species, shall I say of conservatism? deeply ingrafted in the Yorkshireman’s character. It is a natural cautiousness which ever keeps this conservatism to the forefront in everything connected with his daily life. He does not, nor ever has, taken kindly to novelties. He views with suspicion all things which he considers innovations, i.e. which have a tendency to alter the general rut in which his father travelled before him. To him the old way is good, and he is loth to leave it. No matter whether it be temporal or spiritual, he hangs on long and hard to the old and beaten track. Errare est humanum fully applies to the Yorkshireman; he makes mistakes, but never owing to his having been too precipitate. He is naturally cautious and eminently practical. ‘Ah leyke ti ken hoo tweea an’ tweea’s gahin ti mak fowr, an’ ’at fowr penn’oth o’ stuff’s wo’th fow’pence, afoor Ah ware mah brass on owt,’ said an old Tyke one day. This caution and practical turn in our character, and which is carried into all things, naturally leads those who are strangers to form the opinion that we are dull and slow of comprehension, but to those who can read between the lines this verdict is very speedily reversed; for should it be necessary to spend only words, ‘which costs nowt, bud deean’t want wasting foor all that,’ then it will be readily conceded that the Yorkshireman’s brain can grasp a question and turn on steam so as to give an answer as quickly and as much to the point as the best of them.

It may not be couched in the politest of language;3 nay, most likely it will be very plain-spoken, even to bluntness; but it will be just what the speaker thinks, devoid of all the silken trimmings of conventionalism.

Many of the answers given to inquisitive questioners often seem irrelevant; they need as it were some sidelight to point the application, and generally it is necessary one should have a considerable knowledge of the dialect and idiom before its terseness can be fully appreciated.

Nevertheless, when properly approached our people are communicative, and express their opinion freely and always ad rem.

But once having weighed any matter over, the opinion so formed is, as it were, engraved on a rock of adamant. Perhaps one or two illustrations will show the different phases of character referred to in a clearer light than pages of written explanation.

The new vicar (not a Yorkshireman) of a country parish decided that his congregation should stand up when he and the choir processed from the vestry. ‘Tha’ll nut deea ’t,’ said the churchwarden when the question was mooted; ‘t’ au’d fau’k nivver did seea, an’ t’ young uns weean’t.’ The tone in which this was uttered would have been conclusive to any Yorkshireman.

‘I think I can make them,’ said the vicar. ‘Mak ’em!’ with great unction; ‘did ya saay mak ’em? Noo ya mebbe mud ’tice ’em—yan nivver knaws what’ll happen—bud Ah’s mairna sartin sewer ’at ya’ll nivver mak ’em; an’ tha’ll tak a gay bit o’ ‘ticing, if Ah knaw owt.’

‘Oh, leave it to me, I’ll manage it,’ said the vicar4 confidently. ‘Whya noo, gan on wi’ ya; bud deean’t forgit ’at a hoss sumtahms tumm’ls ower t’ raal ’at it’s loup’d afoor,’ was the parting advice of the worthy churchwarden.

The following Sunday evening the vicar told his congregation that he wished them to stand as the choir came from the vestry, but next Sunday morning found his congregation stolidly seated as heretofore.

‘Ah tell’d ya tha wadn’t deea ’t,’ chuckled the churchwarden.

‘But they will,’ replied the vicar. ‘Bud tha weean’t,’ put in the churchwarden; and then he added as a clincher, ‘Acoz tha’ve made up tha mahnds aboot it, an’ ya weean’t shift ’em when yance tha’ve deean that.’

‘You wait until evening,’ said the vicar, ‘and I shall make them stand.’ And he did. Coming to the doorway of the vestry, he gave out the hymn, the organ commenced to play, up rose the congregation, and out marched the choir and vicar.

‘Ah’ll watch him fra deeaing that onny mair,’ muttered one old dame loud enough for half the church to hear.

‘Did I not say they would rise? And I’ll do that every Sunday,’ said the vicar, as he and the warden walked home.

‘Whya, Ah deean’t knaw saa mich aboot that. It’s nut awlus seeaf ti ride wiv a curb an’ spurs. Ya’ll ’a’e ti tak care noo; wa deean’t tak kindly ti being tricked, Ah can tell ya; bud wa s’ see at eftther.’


Next Sunday morning out stepped the vicar, gave out the hymn, and then waited in the vestry until the organ and congregation were in full swing; then, and not until then, did he and the choir march out, and to his no little surprise he found the whole congregation lustily singing, but seated to a man.

As an example of their plain-speaking, as well as their objection to fall in with a new order of things, perhaps the following is fairly to the point.

The wife of the Vicar of ——, having engaged a new maid, concluded various instructions by saying, ‘Should any ladies call during the afternoon, and I ring, you must bring in the small tea-tray and a kettle of boiling water.’ The first two days passed over without a hitch, but when the bell rang on the third afternoon, instead of tea-tray and kettle a head was thrust through the half-open door, and Mary said, ‘Here Ah saay, cum ootsahd; Ah want ya a minit.’ On the hostess retiring, Mary was heard to say, ‘Noo then! is this new-fengled gahin-on gahin ti happen ivvery daay? Baith them an’ yow owt ti knaw ’at it’s maist inconvenient leeaving yan’s reg’lar wark ti mak tea at this tahm o’ t’ daay. Ya’ll ’a’e ti gan back an’ saay ’at wa s’aan’t be yabble ti mannish owt for ’em this efttherneean; Ah’s up ti t’ elbows i’ muck.’

The Archdeacon of —— gave me the following story, which is too good to hide its head. The bishop had been preaching a restoration sermon in one of our villages. After the sermon his lordship and the archdeacon overtook the village blacksmith, a well-known character. ‘Well, John, and how have6 you enjoyed the sermon?’ inquired the archdeacon. ‘Whya, nowt bud weel. Ah s’u’d think, sir’ (turning to the bishop), ‘wiv a bit mair practis ya’ll mannish cannily. I’ t’ main what ya sed war varra good; a larl bit ti low i’ t’ voice for me, bud ya’ll mend o’ that. Noo, Ah yance did hear a young chap, an’ he war nobbut a young un an’ all. Ah think ’at he war iv a grosser’s shop, bud Ah’s nut sartin; bud that’s nowt. He yance preeached i’ t’ Methody chapel, an’ theer’s nut a wo’d of a lee aboot it, what Ah saay is trew; ya c’u’d hear him slap t’ Bahble an’ shoot hauf t’ waay doon t’ village. Aye, ya c’u’d stan’ ootsahd an’ smeeak ya’re pipe an’ get all t’ good fra what he war saaying; bud, then, he war a preeacher.’ I can well imagine the tone that last ‘bud, then, he war a preeacher’ would be uttered in.

The younger fry are just as open as the older folk. I remember a lady telling me she had called at a farm-house. Evidently she had been seen approaching. It would seem the doll and other litter of the wee daughter had been quickly bundled out of sight, and all things, as far as possible, put in order. For the moment the amusement of the little one was put an end to, and this did not escape the notice of the child. She, Yorkshire-like, formed her own opinion upon the proceeding, and only waited for a suitable moment to very plainly express the same. Resting her elbows on the lady’s knees, with her chubby little face in her hands, she said, when a lull in the conversation gave her a chance to speak, ‘Ah saay, missus, hoo pleasant it wad ’a’e been if you’d nivver ’a’e cum’d.’


The cautiousness of the Yorkshireman is so evident in all matters, it is so pronounced, that to give examples is almost to lay oneself open to the charge ‘ov telling a chap summat he knaws.’ Nevertheless I give you one, not so much because it is exactly Q.E.D., but because it is one of the best expositions of Socialism I have ever heard. It seems that some Socialist won one man over to his views, and this man met a friend of his. ‘Whya, noo then,’ began the friend; ‘what tha tell ma ’at thoo’s to’n’d ti be a Socialist, is ’t reet?’ ‘Aye, it’s reet; an’ it’s a gran’ thing an’ all. Thoo owt ti join uz.’ ‘Owt Ah? What is ’t ’at ya’re efter?’ ‘Whya, thoo knaws it’s lyke this; ther’s a lot o’ fau’k living i’ gert hooses, an’ tha’re eating an’ drinking all t’ daay lang an’ guzzling t’ neet thruff, sum on ’em, an’ it’s gahin ti be stopped. Ivverything’s gahin ti be shared up, an’ all on uz get what’s wer awn; neeabody nowt na mair ’an onnybody else, dizn’t ta see,’ ‘Whya, nut fur sartin.’ said his friend. ‘Diz ta meean ’at thoo’ll share up an’ all?’ ‘Aye, ivverybody will.’ ‘What, is’t gahin ti be a soart o’ brotherly luv’? Ivverybody wi’ nowt neea mair na onnybody else.’ ‘Aye, that’s it; brotherly luv’. Ivverybody all t’ seeam, neeabody nowt neea different neeawaays ti neeabody i’ neea road.’ ‘It soonds grand; bud diz ta meean ti saay if thoo ’ed tweea hosses an’ Ah ’edn’t a hoss ’at thoo’d gi’e ma yan?’ ‘Iv a minit Ah wad. If Ah’d tweea an’ thoo ’edn’t yan Ah s’u’d gi’e tha yan leyke all that,’ said he, slapping his friend on the back. ‘Aye, an’ if ta ’ed tweea coos, an’ Ah wanted a coo, wad ta gi’e uz a coo?’ ‘Just t’ seeam. If thoo ’edn’t a coo, an’ Ah ’ed8 tweea, Ah s’u’d tell tha ti tak yan awaay wi tha. Noo thoo understands what wa’re efter.’ ‘An’ if thoo’d tweea pigs, an’ Ah ’edn’t a pig, an’ Ah ass’d tha fur a pig, wad ta gi’e ma yan?’ ‘Naay noo,’ said the Socialist; ‘thoo’s cumin’ teea clooase hand noo; thoo knaws ’at Ah ’ev tweea pigs.’

Possibly not a little surprised was the angler who, when fishing in one of the small streams of the upper reaches of the Ure, said jokingly to an old chap who had been watching his vain attempts to land several fish, ‘I think I need a hanger on; what do you say?’ The old chap had been thoroughly disgusted with the way in which the fish had been played. It was no case for joking; it was a downright sin for such a man to be allowed to fish. So the answer, as may be expected, was more to the point than polite. ‘What thoo wants,’ said the old chap with a grunt of disgust, ‘is nut a hinger on, bud a flinger oot. If it’s fish ’at thoo’s efter, thoo’ll ’a’e ti lig t’ rod doon an’ set ti wark wi t’ net; thoo mebbins mud ’a’e t’ luck ti catch yan o’ them ’at thoo’s hauf killed. Thoo’s naa fisher; thoo’s nowt bud a spoil watter, that’s what thoo is.’ Thus relieving himself, Old Willie walked away.

One of my sketches, given at a Primrose League meeting, gave great offence to the coachman of a noble lord. Entertainers, by the way, do not hold any social position in the eyes of such. Some time afterwards I was asked to go as entertaining guest on his lordship’s son’s attaining his majority. A day or two before my arrival my host asked his coachman if he had not been to the entertainment which I had given.


‘Aye,’ said the old chap, ‘bud I wadn’t gan agaan. He’s up ti nowt, isn’t yon youth; he’ll nivver git on. He’s gitten impedence foor owt, he spares nowt na neeabody, he taks sarvants an’ t’ quality off all alike; Ah reckon nowt on him at all.’

‘I am sorry to hear that,’ said his master.

‘Whya, Ah’s seear ya’ve gitten neea call ti be, he’s nut wo’th it. Ya mun excuse me, my lord, bud what mud ya be sorry foor?’ ‘Well, because he is coming here.’ ‘Cumin’ here!’ said the coachman, amazed; ‘what ivver foor?’ ‘To entertain my guests.’ ‘What! deea ya meean when t’ young lord cums at age?’ he asked, his amazement increasing. ‘Yes,’ said his lordship, greatly amused. ‘Oha! an’ wheer will ya put him up? ’coz Ah can tell ya ’at t’ sarvants weean’t want ti ’ev him amangst them, tha neeawaays setten up wiv him.’ ‘But he won’t be with the servants.’ ‘Then wheer will he be?’ ‘With us, of course.’ ‘Deea ya meean ti saay ’at he’ll dine wi’ yow an’ t’ quality?’ asked the old chap, fairly amazed now. ‘Certainly.’ For a moment the old fellow hesitated; he was bewildered by such a piece of folly. And then he spoke his mind. ‘Well!’ he gasped, ‘ya mun excuse me, my lord, bud Ah think ’at yer gahin ti mak a varra common do on ’t.’ Nice for me, wasn’t it?

However boorish and brusque strangers may dub us, it is admitted on all hands that the Yorkshireman is fairly ’cute: he always has an eye to the main chance. And although others who are glibber of tongue may to a certain extent fairly ’mazzle’ him with their verbosity, yet any such may certainly claim to having done the ’hat trick’ if in the end they manage to out10wit the Tyke. ‘He ommaist ’wildered ma wiv his slather, bud Ah pairted wi’ nowt,’ said an old man who had been tackled by a book agent.

‘Did ta bet owt at t’ races?’ asked one Tyke of another. ‘Neea, Ah didn’t. It war leyke this, thoo knaws. T’ chaps ’at Ah seed stanning o’ t’ top o’ steeals an’ sitting unner gert um’erellas all seeam’d ti ’ev gawd rings an’ cheeans on, an’ tha war varra weel dhriss’d an’ all, whahl monny ov ’em ’at war ’livering ther brass up war oot at t’ teeas an’ doon at t’ heels. Seea Ah sed tiv mysen, “T’ steeal an’ t’ um’erella chaps leeak ez if tha war ’evving t’ best o’ t’ bargain all t’ waay thruff,’ an’ seea neean on ’em gat onny o’ mah brass. Dizn’t ta think ’at Ah war i’ t’ reet on ’t?”

Cautiousness and ’cuteness is fairly well set forth in the following story. Old Jobson wished to gain some legal information, ‘bud he didn’t want ti pay owt for ’t.’ Meeting the legal light one day, he began, ‘Ah saay, if Ah wor ti ax ya summat aboot summat, s’u’d Ah ’a’e ti pay summat? It’s aboot yon pathwaay o’ mahn ’at Ah want ti knaw summat.’ ‘Certainly; I don’t give advice free,’ replied the lawyer. ‘Whya then, Ah weean’t ax ya nowt; things may bahd ez they are, whahl yow want a larl piece o’ knowledge fra me, an’ then wa’ll see if wa caan’t mak a swap on’t. Nowther t’ field na t’ path’ll shift,’ said Jobson as he walked away. And so matters rested for some months, in fact until the lawyer’s horse (a very valuable one) was suddenly taken ill. Jobson was at once sent for, he being an expert in all horse ailments. The old farmer, after a careful examination of his patient, declared he knew what was amiss and what was needed to effect11 a cure. ‘Then I will send my man for what you need at once,’ said the owner.

‘Aye, bud wait a bit; deean’t ya aim ’at tahm’s cum’d when wa s’all ’a’e ti swap wer knowledge?’ said the farmer, with a twinkle in his eye. The solicitor burst out laughing; he saw the joke and admitted the validity of the claim. The old chap saved the horse, and the pathway was satisfactorily arranged.

The Yorkshireman always sees that he gets value for his money, at least he always tries to do so.

The village orchestral society were rehearsing for a public performance which was to be given the following week. The squire and a musical friend had just dropped in towards its conclusion. The friend, speaking at the conclusion with the conductor, said, ‘You have a remarkably good band; you only lack one slight addition to make it one of the best for the size of your village I have ever listened to. Will you allow me to suggest that you get a horn? you lack only that.’ ‘Oha, an’ what’s a horn?’ inquired the conductor. Having had the matter fully explained, he asked what a horn could be bought for. But the gentleman pointed out there was hardly time to procure a horn and teach a man how to play it before the entertainment came off. ‘Whya then,’ asked the conductor, ‘deea yer knaw a chap ’at c’u’d cum an’ play t’ horn foor uz, an’ what wad he cum foor?’ ‘I know a first-class player, and I think he would come for five pounds.’ ‘Fahve pund!’ gasped the conductor. ‘Whya, Ah c’u’d git a whoale band foor that!’ ‘Never mind the money, John,’ said the squire; ‘I’ll see about that.’ ‘Oha,12 whya, if it’s gahin ti be leyke that, let’s ’a’e t’ chap wi’ t’ horn.’ And so the matter was settled. On the night of the performance the man with the horn put in an appearance, and all went well for about ten minutes, when the conductor stopped the band, and turning to the horn-player, he said, ‘Noo then, thee wi’ t’ horn, thoo isn’t playing.’ ‘No,’ said he; ‘I have forty-five bars rest here.’ Whereupon the conductor electrified every one by saying, ‘Mebbe thoo thinks seea, bud leeaks ta here, wa’ve paid thee fahve pund foor t’ neet an’ thoo’ll ’a’e ti puff all t’ waay thruff.’

Scores of stories could be given illustrating the aptitude our country-people exhibit in extricating themselves when placed in an awkward corner.

The dear old lady who was my study for Mrs. Waddleton asked me to paint her a picture—‘seea ez Ah s’all ’a’e summat ti leeak at ’at ya’ve deean yersel when ya’ve geean,’ said she. I readily promised to do so, and in due course sent her a little snow scene.

A few days afterwards she saw me passing. ‘Noo then,’ she shouted, ‘cum in wi’ ya. Ah’ve gitten ’t heng’d up, an’, mah wo’d, bud it leeaks grand, dizn’t it?’ ‘I am glad you like it,’ said I, as I gazed at my work of art nestling amongst coloured grasses and peacock feathers; ‘and very nicely you have arranged everything. But perhaps it would be better if you hung it the right way up.’ Her face was a picture. The dear old soul felt that she had blundered; she was fearful lest I should feel hurt.

But her native wit saved her. ‘Wrang sahd up,13 is ’t? Aa, bud, Ah saay, ya mun be a clivver penter seea ez ti pent a picter ’at leeaks reet onny road up.’ Then, after a moment’s consideration, she added, ‘But mebbies Ah’d best to’n ’t t’other road roond; sum fau’k mud think ’at yan didn’t knaw t’ reet end ov a picter if yan let it bahd ez ’tis.’

Sir C—— and Mr. W——, a solicitor, once overtook Abe Braithwaite, a well-known character in Bedale, on the way to the meet. ‘Good morning,’ said Sir C——; ‘shall we have a find, Abe?’ ‘Nut i’ yon cover; bud Ah cud gi’e ya a wrinkle.’ ‘Well, let’s have it,’ said Sir C——. ‘Whya, deean’t weeast mich tahm yonder, bud gan ti t’ far cover, an’ ya’ll finnd yan theer, hard eneeaf.’ ‘All right, Abe, I’ll bear in mind what you say,’ said Sir C—— as the two rode off. ‘Ah saay,’ shouted Abe after the retreating horsemen, ‘if ya’d ass’d advice frev him ’at’s wi’ ya he’d wanted six an’ eightpence, bud Ah nivver charge nowt na mair ’an a bob mysen.’ And he got it.

A story just strikes me which illustrates several points already mentioned. A young fellow who was supposed to be learning land agency bought a horse at an adjacent fair, and was most systematically swindled. The said horse was being looked over by one of the village Tykes. Now for many reasons the fellow did not wish to offend the purchaser, but it was really impossible to say one thing in its favour. ‘Well, Tom, what is the verdict?’ asked the embryo agent. And then came the answer, which was worthy of a Grecian lawyer: ‘Whya noo, that gertly depends. Ya weean’t ’a’e bowt it owther ti14 show or hunt, noo ’a’e ya?’ ‘Oh no, just to knock about on.’ ‘Oha, whya then, ’t’ll deea grandly ti knock aboot on,’ said Tom. ‘All the same you think they’ve swindled me, now don’t you?’ ‘Whya it’s mebbins mair ’an Ah’d ’a’e gi’en for ’t mysen, but ’t’ll deea grandly ti knock aboot on.’ At this juncture they were joined by the village ostler, one who was never over-nice in his remarks. ‘Now, Jack, what do you think of my bargain?’ ‘What div Ah think on ’t? Whya, Ah wadn’t be seen takking it ti t’ kennels’ (i. e. taking it to feed the dogs); and then, thinking he had been a little too severe, he added, ‘Bud Ah’ll tell ya what, ’t’ll deea foor yer ti larn what a hoss s’u’d be, foor it’s getten neean o’ t’ points ’at a hoss owt ti ’ev, an’ ommaist ivvery yan ’at it s’u’dn’t; ’t’ll deea foor yer ti study ’t up.’

The Tyke has a habit of answering you in a kind of metaphor, which, as before remarked, is almost unintelligible unless something of dialect and idiom has been mastered. As a case in point, I remember after the last general election saying to an old fellow, ‘Now, John! what do you think of this complete change in the country?’ Now, John did not know which side I favoured, neither did he wish me to learn for which party he had voted, and, further, he was determined not to say anything which would either give offence to me or expose his own hand. The question for a moment was a difficult one to answer, but the answer came pat enough: ‘Whya, Parliment’s varra mich leyke t’ land—ya mun chaange t’ crops noos an’ agaan, or it’s ti neea good. Ah s’ ‘a’e ti be gahin noo; good daay ti ya.’ He had answered me,15 fully answered me. He had let nothing escape him. I was none the wiser as to what his own opinions were, and I might just as well have saved myself the trouble of asking.

The inspectors of our Board schools can recount many true and curious anecdotes of our country scholars; but it should be borne in mind by the department that, although the Yorkshire country-people and their bairns are bilingual, it is only their mother tongue and ordinary English which up to the present they have mastered. The southern twang, pronunciation, and slang is to them as a mystic rune. North-country men, if you please, to examine North-country boys and girls. Very often the questions, as put by South-country inspectors, might just as well be asked in Sanskrit, and very naturally they remain unanswered, whilst the class is voted as hopeless dunces, when the fault really lies at the door of the questioner. At one school in Wensleydale a South-country inspector, when examining a class on the Bible, put this question, ‘Neow tell me something abeout Mouses.’ ‘Cats kill ’em,’ was the prompt reply. Another one said to a promising standard in mental arithmetic, ‘Three packets of pins at a penny each, five hanks of tape penny each, nine reels of thread penny each, five boxes of hair-pins penny each, and six ounces of worsted at three halfpence per ounce. How much does the parcel come to? Quick!’ But the speed with which the question had been asked, the twang, and the unfamiliar sound of many of the words, left the standard almost in absolute ignorance of the question. One thing, and of only one thing, were they clear upon—that they were being16 asked something about thread, worsted, and hair-pins. But as the inspector uttered that ‘Quick!’ he fixed his eyes on one lad, and the effect of that glance was mesmeric. The lad immediately answered, ‘Pleease, sur, wa ar’n’t lasses.’

But it is not the South-country man alone who receives unlooked for answers from the practical bairns of our dales. After a somewhat lengthy and highflown picture-painting on faith, the teacher, wishing to see if the children had grasped her foolish poetical outburst, said to one of the boys, whose mother, by the way, was a widow and desperately poor, ‘Now, Tommy, if I were to say to you, “There will be a rich plum pudding for your dinner,” and you believed me, what would that be?’ ‘It ’ud be a gert tak in, for wa nivver ’a’e nowt na better ’an a suet dumpling at oor hoos,’ was the unexpected reply.

Again, an inspector asked one of the boys in Bilsdale, or rather commenced to ask, a question in mental arithmetic: said he, ‘If you had in your hand five apples, two oranges, and three pears, and I was to take—-— ’ But he got no further; the practical bairn stopped him by saying, ‘Pleease, sur, Ah c’u’dn’t ho’d ’em all i’ yah han’.’

To conclude this chapter, just one more example. Said an inspector to a little girl, ‘If I knitted twelve stitches in a minute, how many stitches should I have on my needle at the end of five minutes?’ ‘Ya wadn’t a’e neean, ’coz ya deean’t knit stitches; ya’re nut gahin ti catch me i’ that waay.’ He ought to have said ’loops.’



Our country-people possess in a very marked degree the faculty of explaining away anything which for special reasons they do not care to admit. Very often they do this in a marvellously subtle way. Sometimes so fine is the point upon which they turn an argument, that that which was to be demonstrated is entirely lost sight of, whilst new issues are introduced in such a seemingly natural way that in the end you find yourself contending for some point in which you have no earthly interest, and which has no connexion with the original argument, but which, owing to this strategical shifting, has put them on sure ground, leaving you at a hopeless disadvantage. Equally conspicuous is their pride and independency; no matter how poor they may be they strongly object to being patronized.

‘Ah weean’t let onnybody clap me on t’ back. Ah paay fer what Ah git, an’ that’s good eneeaf; he’s nowt na better ’an what Ah is,’ said a man one day, who had been spoken to, with the kindest intention, but in that unfortunate way which some of the best-intentioned people have of being familiar, but faintly colouring the same with just a slight whiff of patronizing superiority. And the Yorkshireman won’t stand it.18 Don’t misunderstand me: although no respecter of person he is quite willing to pay deference to those whom he considers his superiors and who are worthy of it; but he is the one who acts as judge in such a case. If you are a stranger, you will have to earn this deference by good behaviour on your part, or it is quite possible, if you act otherwise, you will be the recipient of some very plain Yorkshire, whether you understand it or not. And also bear in mind the Tyke is always equal to giving an answer, and in his own peculiar way very smart at repartee.

A good example of one of the peculiarities mentioned is made evident in the following story. Master and man were returning from a coursing match, at which the master’s dog had been badly beaten. The man knew it was a great disappointment, and as a faithful servant he felt keenly the adverse result of the day’s outing. ‘I felt sure our dog would win,’ said the master, and then waited for his man to reply. Now, Tom would not say how much inferior their dog really was to the winner; in fact, he would only admit that to himself. So he held his peace. A moment later the master tackled him again, and this time with a question direct. ‘You saw the course, Tom; how do you account for it?’ ‘Whya, sur,’ began Tom, ‘dogs is queer things, an’ hares is queer things; in fact, theer’s nowt na queerer ’an what hares offen is. Noo, they’re varra flighty things is hares, an’ Ah’ve offens thowt ’at sumtahms tha tak mair ti yah dog na what tha deea ti t’ tother. An’ ya knaw leyke, when tha finnd oot ’at theer’s nowt else for ’t bud what they ’a’e ti be killed, tha19 let t’ dog deea’t ’at they’ve ta’en t’ maist fancy tull. Ah caann’t mak ’t oot onny other road, an’ that mun be it.’

Years ago, when guides showed tourists and others round Fountains Abbey, giving at the same time their version of the history of the ruins—much of which it must be said was the outcome of their own imagination, and, though deeply interesting, was opposed to all the canons of archaeology—several members of the Royal Archaeological Society and a party of ladies and gentlemen were relegated to the care of ‘Scott,’ an old guide and a well-known Yorkshire character of those days. As they went through the ruins the old fellow gave his version, only a moment afterwards to hear quite a different explanation given by some member of the R.A.S. At last Scott could ‘bahd it na langer.’ ‘Ah saay,’ questioned he, ‘war you here when t’ Abbey war built?’ ‘No, neither were you, my friend,’ replied the gentleman. ‘Mebbe nut, bud Ah’ve been here a seet langer ’an what you ’ev, for all that; sum fau’k think tha knaw sa mich,’ he was heard to mutter. By-and-by the round was completed, and then it was that old Scott fired off his last shot. ‘Noo then,’ said he, ‘cum on all t’ lot on ya, an’ Ah’ll tak ya ti summat ’at neean on ya can owther gainsaay or alter; noo then, cum on,’ and he marched them under the echo. ‘Noo then, gentlemen, ya can’t dispute owt ’at’s sed here; gan on, sum on ya, shoot summat.’ One of the party, who had already had more than one wordy battle with the old fellow, shouted, ‘Any one seen an old fool knocking about this morning?’ At which20 there was a general laugh. But before the repeat had died away, the old fellow shouted in a voice which made the echo ring again, ‘Neea, bud theear’s onny amount o’ young uns under t’ echo.’ And I think he scored.

Another good story: in fact many hail from Great Ayton. When the Grange was being built, artists and other workmen from town and elsewhere were requisitioned to beautify the place. Many of these travelled gentlemen, on their first arrival, considered the Yattoners fair game for their sport and wit, but very often they found out, when too late to save themselves, that they had pressed the wrong button. During their stay a small wild-beast show opened on the green. In front of the monkeys’ cage stood a Yattoner, greatly amused with their antics. ‘Admiring your relations?’ inquired one of the foreign masons as he passed. ‘They’re neea relations o’ mahn; neean ov oor family’s owt akin ti yours,’ was the instant reply. ‘Why don’t you wash your brains? there’s plenty of water in the beck,’ said another of the foreign fraternity. ‘Ther mebbins is what ’ud wesh mahn, bud you’d ’a’e ti wait whahl a fresh cam doon.’ ‘Go home,’ said another of them, ‘and tell your father you are the biggest fool he has ever seen.’ ‘He’d leather ma for telling a lee if Ah did; ya’re forgitting ’at ya lodge wiv uz;’ and then he dodged a lump of wood which came that way.

Old Bessy kept the village store, and in her way was quite a character; so was her shop for the matter of that. I never was in such a shop in my life. Anything, everything, and all on the top of something21 else. In fact it was as one of the natives put it, ‘Owt ’at Bessy ’ezn’t ’s nut wo’th assing for.’ The one big house in the place for a short time was rented by a gentleman whose family made up for any deficiency in pedigree by all-round rudeness to every one with whom they came in contact. On one occasion a daughter of the said house flounced into Bessy’s shop and asked for something which it was most unlikely would be kept in a shop of that kind. ‘Naay,’ said Bessy, ‘Ah ’a’en’t gitten nowt o’ that soart; Ah deean’t knaw what t’ stuff is ya’re assing for.’ ‘It is just useless my trying to buy anything in a pottering little shop like this. You keep nothing but a lot of old rubbish. You never have anything I want,’ was the young lady’s rude reply. ‘Why noo, Ah’ll tell ya what, t’ next tahm ’at Ah gan ti Ripon, Ah’ll see if Ah can’t get a box o’ good behav’o’r; you mun cum in then, an’ Ah’ll gi’e ya good weight, for ya want it mair na onnybody else. Noo deean’t forgit ti cum in,’ were the last words the young lady heard as she hurried out.

His Honour Judge —- for some little time had a house in a Cleveland village, and whilst there he did a bit of ’hoss swapping’ with one of the farmers. Unfortunately his Honour’s horse did not turn out well. Meeting the farmer one day, he said, ‘Robert, you took me in with that horse, it has turned out very badly.’ ‘Hez ’t, noo? Whya, that’s a bad job; bud you maun’t gan blethering aboot ’at Ah’ve ta’en ya in, or else fau’k’ll get it i’ ther heeads ’at ya’re nobbut a varra poor judge.’

Quite likely enough, if you get into conversation22 with the old people, they will give you their opinion upon most things, and that too very often without your asking for it. There will be no beating about the bush, no attempt to smooth away rough corners; the Yorkshireman detests putty and varnish. What he has to say, like his hitting, comes straight from the shoulder.

The hounds were in full cry. A lady and gentleman on approaching a closed gate against which a farmer’s man was leaning, the gentleman called out, ‘Hi there! open the gate, look sharp!’ but the man stood stolidly looking at the hounds. ‘Why don’t you open the gate, you fool?’ shouted the horseman angrily. Turning slowly round, the yokel said very quietly, ‘Ah deean’t call ti mahnd ’at ivver Ah ’ed a God’s-penny fra you. If ya’ll nobbut stan’ back Ah’ve na doot t’ lady’ll show ya t’ road ower. Ah can see ’at ya’re a bit caff-hearted.’ Springing to the ground the horseman found the gate was locked. ‘Why, it’s locked,’ said he, turning to the lady. ‘Ah c’u’d ’a’e tell’d ya that lang sin,’ said the yokel. ‘Well, I think you might have done so,’ said the lady, kindly. ‘We have lost a lot of time.’ ‘If you’d cum’d byv yersen, miss, Ah’d ’a’e brokken t’ gate doon for ya. Bud yah feeal losses his wits when he’s called yan byv another,’ was the compliment and retort all in one.

On another occasion, the horseman forgetting to pay the usual toll, the gate-opener greatly amused every one by saying, as he touched his cap, ‘Noo, mebbe ya ’evn’t gitten neea small chaange on ya, bud Ah’ll tell ya hoo wa can mannish ’t: Ah’ve gitten nahnpence, if you’ve a bob?’


A good story is told by a Cleveland vicar. The day on which he arrived in his new parish he had to transact some little matter with the sexton. On inquiry he was informed this worthy was to be found in the far pasture. Thither he went, finding the old man busy mowing. ‘Well, my man!’ began the vicar. ‘Noo then,’ said Old Willie, going on with his mowing. ‘I wish to have a word or two with you,’ said the vicar, not very pleased with his off-hand reception. He was not Yorkshire, and didn’t understand their ways then.

‘All reet, gan on wi’ tha.’ This without stopping the swing of his scythe.

‘I think you don’t know who I am. I am your new vicar.’ Doubtless at the time the vicar imagined the effect of this startling announcement would be such that Old Willie’s scythe would fall from his hands, and most abject apologies be poured forth. But no, Willie just remarked, ‘Oh, are ya? Whya, ya maun’t stan theer; ya’ll ’a’e ti shift yersen, or Ah s’all mow yer legs off t’ next swathe Ah tak.’ And the vicar moved.

Our country-people have a way of summing up and giving a verdict quite on lines of their own. But it must be borne in mind that what is taken in a figurative sense by those of a wider experience, is often accepted literally by those whose lives for the most part have been bounded by their own homestead and dale. When the last historical pageant was held at Ripon, trips brought the dales-people from all parts. And although I do not think any of them went so far as to imagine the various characters24 impersonated had been dug up and set in motion for their amusement and edification, I am sure in the main they were greatly mystified as to how they had all been gathered together. On the last day, when possibly fifteen thousand people were present, a group of ladies and gentlemen were standing near the east window of the Abbey—near by were two or three monks conversing with several knights in chain armour, and on their right stood King Charles surrounded by the ladies of his court. A gentleman standing hard by said to his lady companion, ‘It is really a splendid spectacle, and gives one a perfect picture of what it must have been in days past.’ ‘You’ll excuse me, sir,’ said a dame who had overheard his remark, ‘bud is this leyke what it used ti be?’ ‘Yes, my good woman, exactly,’ the gentleman answered. ‘Whya then, Ah can weel understan’ hoo it war ’at tha pulled t’ pleeace doon’ (meaning the Abbey), ‘for it’s a giddy gahin-on is this. Bud Ah will saay,’ pointing to the ladies of King Charles’ Court, ‘’at Ah nivver seed a finer set o’ lasses i’ all mah leyfe. An’ Ah’ve na doot ’at that accoonts for ’t.’

The last clause, I imagine, referred to the ruinous state of the Abbey.

The same peculiar trait was fully exemplified during an Art exhibition at York. Several of the pictures were offered for sale, the price being given in the catalogue. Whilst a couple were gazing in wonderment at one picture, the woman was overheard to say, ‘Ah nivver thowt ’at fraams cost seea mich brass. Sitha, mun, that yan’s ower a hunderd pund; it mun be t’ fraam, thoo knaws, fer t’ picter’s nobbut hauf25 deean; t’ chap ’at’s pented it ’ezn’t ’ed tahm ti finish ’t, fer neean on ’em’s gitten ther cleeas on.’

Some few years ago there was an excursion started from Whitby viâ Battersby, its destination being Wensleydale. Many who availed themselves of the trip alighted at Aysgarth. One batch in charge of the curate wended their way to the force, which owing to recent rains was seen at its best. ‘By gum,’ said one, ‘bud ther’s a seet o’ watter cuming ower yonder.’ ‘Ah’ll tell ya what,’ said another, giving a huge wink, ‘they weean’t be yabble ti keep that gam up lang; tha’ll be letting ’t all off afoor t’ tothers cum up, if they deean’t mahnd.’ The curate was shocked; his poetical soul was pained at such, as he imagined, crass ignorance, so he endeavoured to lift them from out of themselves. After quite a rhetorical outburst bearing on the grandeur of the scene, he wound up with, ‘Is it not marvellous, magnificent, overwhelming, to behold it thundering, rumbling, tumbling over?’ Poetry of that kind makes the speaker breathless, and he paused. Then, turning to one of the party, he said, ‘What do you think, John, eh?’ ‘Aye, ya’re all reet about its thunnering, tumm’ling, an’ rumm’ling, bud for t’ leyfe o’ mah Ah deean’t see owt ’at ther is ti ho’d it back,’ was the laconic reply.

I remember on one occasion, when being driven to the station by a real old Yorkshire coachman—I had been one of a house party for three days as society humorist—the old fellow giving me a huge dig with his elbows, and saying, ‘Ah saay, is yon all you deea fer a living?’ ‘That is all,’ I replied. ‘Well, by goa! bud ya git yer living easy, you deea.’ ‘I don’t know;26 if you had all the knocking about that I have perhaps you would not think it quite so easy,’ said I. ‘Whya, Ah deean’t knaw; what ya’ll ’ev yer expenses paid, ’evn’t ya?’ ‘Certainly,’ I answered. ‘Aye; an’ ya git fed fer nowt, deean’t ya?’ ‘Of course,’ I replied, greatly amused. ‘Whya then,’ said he, ‘Ah’ll tell ya what: ya travel fer nowt, yer sheltered fer nowt, fed fer nowt, an’ ya deea nowt; Ah leeak upon ya ez nowt i’ t’ wo’lld else bud a aristocratic pauper.’ ‘Wait a moment,’ said I; ‘don’t you think brains count for something in a matter of this kind?’ And then, with that ineffable scorn which I think only the Yorkshireman of that type can assume, he said, ‘Braans! braans!! braans!!! Ugh, Ah’ve ez monny brains ez you ’ev if they war nobbut scraped oot.’

‘Which waay did ta vote?’ asked one. ‘Whya noo, it war leyke this waay: Ah went an’ heeard all ’at t’ blew chap ’ed ti saay, an’ he made it oot ez cleear ez t’ neease on yer feeace ’at t’ yallers war up ti neea good; an’ efter that Ah went ti lissen ti t’ yaller chap, an’ he sed ’at t’ blews war warse ’an nowt at all. Seea Ah thowt ti mysen, ’at if them ’at’s my betters dizn’t knaw what’s what, it’s nut for sike o’ me ti saay; seea when t’ voting daay cam Ah stopped at yam an’ sell’d t’ pig.’

A classical curate was seized with an inordinate yearning to improve and elevate the ’thought tone’ (I quote his words) of certain Cleveland farmers. Now, as a body of men, the Cleveland farmers, as I know them, are about as shrewd, practical, and thoroughly business-like as you will find anywhere in Yorkshire, and that is saying a deal; still I am bound to admit, though27 I know little of ’thought tone’ myself, they know less. There is no money in it. Make it clear that an income of two hundred a year can be squeezed out of ’thought tone,’ and Yorkshire will supply the world with any amount, in tins, condensed, and hermetically sealed. At present it is not quoted on ’Change. But to my story. The curate made a dead set at one farmer in particular, giving him, on one occasion, a graphic account of the siege of Troy. ‘One general, sir,’ said he, ‘though sorely wounded, commanded his armour-bearer to strap on his armour, and this having been done he placed himself in the forefront of the battle’ (here much dramatic action and tone was indulged in by the curate, and the hearth-rug greatly disarranged)—‘in the forefront, sir, and single-handed he engaged three of the Trojans’ (seizing the poker and swinging it round his head). ‘He slew two of them, but the third pierced him to the heart, and he sank lifeless upon his vanquished foes. ‘Twas a brave deed, and a noble death, the death of a hero. What do you think, sir?’ Breathless, and with dampened brow, he waited for an outburst of tone, which he fully expected would rush forth as waters from the burst bank of a reservoir. The farmer just removed his pipe and placidly remarked, ‘Too bou’d, sir, too bou’d.’ The curate sank into a chair aghast. Was the man human, or was he beyond hope! ‘Is that all?’ he gasped; ‘has no other thought struck you whilst I recounted my story?’ ‘Whya,’ said the farmer, ‘Ah did yance ower aim ’at ya’d be fetching t’ clock doon wi’ t’ poker, bud fort’natly ya didn’t.’ The curate fled.



Our country-people, as has been incidentally remarked, are very proud and independent, but I venture to say both their pride and independency are cast in a right groove, and may certainly be classed amongst the chief elements which have made the Yorkshireman the self-reliant mortal which he certainly is. I have already said that he is eminently practical, and I now add hard to convince. Often, I admit, his mode of arguing would puzzle a Philadelphian lawyer, but after all it is argument, if you are only Yorkshire scholar enough to understand his way of handling a subject. The country-people are hard to convince, and no respecters of person.

Mary W—-—- had for many years received a dole of ten shillings every Christmas for coals, but having obtained regular work at the Hall, the vicar rightly decided that five shillings in future would meet her circumstances, the more so as there were many other deserving cases. At the time appointed he left five shillings with Mary’s daughter, the mother being out at the time. On her return she was told of the vicar’s call, and of the five shillings which he had left. ‘And what did you do, Mary?’ asked29 a lady, some short time afterwards. ‘Deea! deea! Whya, Ah ’ed t’ fahve shillin’ seal’d an’ posted back agaan tiv him, afore he left t’ village. Ah’m nut that poor ’at Ah want for fahve shillin’; an’ if Ah can’t be treated like a lady wi’ ten shillin’, Ah weean’t be maad a pauper on; neea, nut if t’ archbishop war ti cum wiv it hissel.’

Chatting one day with a very old friend of mine, the Vicar of —-, he gave me the following:—‘In my younger days,’ said he, ‘I was brought up amongst the South-country peasantry, and for some time after I came into the North Riding I was greatly surprised at the small amount of deference paid to me as their pastor. So marked was this, that I determined if possible to discover the reason; so one day I entered into conversation with a blunt but honest old stone-breaker I found hard at work by the roadside. “Now, Willie,” said I, “you are hard at it.” “Aye,” said he, “Ah’ve gitten ti arn my bit; ya’ve nivver ’ed ti deea a stroak foor yours.” Not heeding his remark—which, by the way, a South-country man of like position would never dared have uttered—I asked: “How is it, Willie, that none of the villagers ever touch their caps or the women curtsy when they meet me?” I know it was a bit snobbish to ask such a question, but I had good reason for so doing: I wished to find out if I was in any way remiss. “Touch wer caps an’ co’tsey!” said he, still continuing to break his stones. “Wa’ve neea call ti deea owther t’ ane or tither; wa knaw varra larl aboot ya ez yit.” “But I am your pastor,” I urged, feeling at that time that was all-sufficient. “That coonts fer larl,” said the old fellow.30 “Ther’s good uns an’ bad uns ov all soarts. Ah tell ya ’at wa knaw varra larl aboot ya ez yit. Wa s’all finnd oot efter a bit what soart o’ stuff yer maad on, bud ya’ll ’a’e ti treead yer teeas cannily, or wa s’aan’t tak ti ya at all.” All this,’ said my old friend, ’at that time was a complete revelation to me. Up to then I had been used, anyway before my face, to something approaching servility, and here was a stone-breaker plainly telling me I should have to be very careful, and doing so without so much as ceasing his work.’ Let me add, the stone-breaker has been laid to rest now many a year, and the flock has fully recognized the vicar as their shepherd, and as one worthy both of their love and respect; and in their way they give the one and show the other in a marked degree. It takes a little time to get at the bottom of our people, but the trying to do so always brings a plenteous reward.

Mr. Pawson by nature was bumptious. He was distinctly of the genus novus homo. He came to the village as a stranger, and built himself a house, and from the day he came to reside therein, figuratively speaking, he began to push the villagers about. ‘He’ll stritch t’ lastic’ (elastic) ’whahl it flees back an’ smacks him i’ t’ feeace,’ said one. And he did. It happened this way. One day, turning to a small pig-jobber, he said, ‘Jackson, tell one of your lads to take my dog back to the house; and, Jackson, he had better call at the saddler’s and take some repairs along at the same time.’ Now, as has been already remarked, this addressing the country folk by their surname is deeply resented; and in the case of Mr. P. there was almost open rebellion. Jackson, however, was in no31 way dependent on the self-elected squire; so, winking to the bystanders, he said, ‘All reet; bud Ah saay, Mr. Pawson, Ah think ’at ya owt ti saay Mister when ya speeak ti ma. Ya knaw fau’k’s saying ’at maist leyklings wa s’all seean be related, ez mah au’dest lad’s gitten his e’e on that eldest lass o’ yours.’ The roar of laughter which followed was—well, I pity Mr. Pawson.

A lady of ample means, whose one desire was to do good to others, found the people very difficult to approach when she first came amongst them. As a fact, she knew nothing of the idiosyncrasy of the Yorkshire people. Said she one day to an old Yorkshire dame whom she had weeding her garden: ‘Bessy, how is it the people do not take kindly to me? I am most wishful to help them, and to make them my friends, but they won’t let me; how is it?’ ‘Whya, ya see wa’re a larl bit different mebbe ti t’ fau’k ’at you’ll ’a’e been amang, afoor ya cam inti these pairts; Ah’ve allus fun’ ya varra canny ti deea wi’ mysen, Ah will saay that.’ ‘Yes, but how is it the other cottagers do not seem pleased to see me when I call?’ ‘Whya, mebbins Ah c’u’d tell ya, bud Ah deean’t knaw ’at Ah s’u’d be deeaing mysen onny good if Ah did,’ said Bessy, cautiously. ‘But I should be greatly obliged to you if you would.’ ‘Aye, ya saay seea noo, bud ya’d leyklings git yer back up if Ah tell’d ya.’ ‘No, indeed I won’t; I am really wishful to know.’ ‘Oha, whya noo, when ya gi’e ma yer wo’d on ’t, Ah s’ ‘a’e ti gi’e ya a bit ov an inkling. Noo, it’s leyke this, mum: wa deean’t tak kindly ti fau’k ’at tak liberties wiv uz. Noo, Ah32 deean’t want ti saay owt ’at’ll vex ya, bud neea doot, bidoot meeaning it, ya tak a gert deal upon yersen.’ ‘In what way?’ asked the lady, being quite unaware of ever having done anything of the kind. ‘Whya noo, for yah thing, ya nivver knock at neeabody’s deear; ya just lift t’ sneck an’ cross t’ deearstan ez if t’ pleeace belang’d ti ya. An’ Ah’ll tell ya anuther thing whahl Ah’s aboot it: ya ass2 a seet ti monny quessions for yan ’at isn’t varra weel knawn ti yan. Ya s’u’dn’t deea seea. Ya wadn’t be sae setten up noo, if yan ov uz cam an’ walked wersens inti your parlour, bidoot knocking or owt, an’ started ti ass ya quessions aboot all manner o’ macks an’ mander o’ things, noo wad ya? Noo, wa ar’n’t aboon awning wer betters; bud, mahnd ya, wer betters ’ez ti wait whahl wa deea’t, an’ they ’ev ti let uz deea’t i’ wer awn waay an’ all, an’ ther’s nowt aboot that,’ concluded Bessy. Let me add, the lady took the hint, and in time learnt to love the plain-spoken people she had come to live amongst; and they gave their love in return tenfold, which, if rugged and rough at the edges, only enables you to get a firmer grip of it.

Just a few illustrations proving the practical side of our character.

In the village schoolroom a lecturer very learnedly and emphatically discoursed on the human eye. Amongst other things he declared the eye could quell the most savage beast. ‘Ah saay,’ said a sturdy farmer at the close of the lecture, ‘deea ya ho’d ti be trew all ’at ya’ve been telling uz aboot wer e’es?’ On assuring him every word was quite33 true, the lecturer was somewhat staggered by the farmer’s desire for a practical proof. ‘Whya then,’ said he, ‘Ah’ll tell ya what, Ah deean’t believe owt ’at ya’ve tell’d uz; an’ mair ’an that, if you’ll cum up ti mah hoos ti morn at morn, Ah’ll gi’e ya a chance ti tell mah ’at Ah’s wrang. Noo, leeak here, if you’ll gan inti mah paddock, Ah’ll gie ya leave ti e’e mah bull ez mich ez ivver ya leyke, an’ if he dizn’t shift ya afoor ya can count fo’tty, Ah’ll gi’e ya leave ti tak him yam wi’ ya. Bud you’ll be shifted.’ A friend calling to see one who was seriously ill, said just before parting, ‘Whya noo, thoo maun’t gi’e waay; thoo mun keep thi pluck up, or else it’ll be owered wi’ tha.’ ‘Aye, mun!’ said the invalid, ‘bud it’s hard ti keep yan’s pluck up, when yan feels all ov a shutther. Ah’ll tell tha what, if summat dizn’t sthraangely alter, Ah’s foor off, an’ ther’s nowt can ho’d ma back.’ ‘Oha well,’ said the visitor, ‘thoo owt ti knaw t’ best; bud whativver thoo diz, thoo maun’t dee iv a horry’ (hurry). ‘It’s fowr mile ti t’ chetch, an’ thoo’s na leet weight, an Ah s’u’d be bidden, an’ ‘a’e ti len’ a han’ ti hug tha. Liggin i’ bed a bit taks yan doon a lot; thoo mun try ti hing on a week or tweea, hooivver.’

Old I—— of Masham, a well-known jobber in days past, was once asked for a loan. But I will give the story as given to me years ago by William Scorrer, than whom a finer specimen of the old school of Yorkshiremen never lived, and to whom I am indebted for many of the best stories and other information in this book. Could you but have heard the old man tell them—old! why, he never looked old, and he was nearly34 eighty when I knew him—but you never will hear him; he has stepped over the line. His style, raciness, and everything which goes to make a Yorkshire story worth listening to, were lost when the grave closed over his last remains. At least, that is to my way of thinking. I know scores of people who can tell a Yorkshire story, and tell it admirably, perfect as to dialect, and humorously, too; but still, there always lacks that something—I mean crispness; no, sparkle is the word—which the old chap always managed to give just at the right moment. ‘Requiescat in pace.’

Pardon me, I will to the story. Old I—— was at Northallerton Market, when another jobber rushed up to him. ‘Ah saay,’ said he, ‘c’u’d ta mannish ti len’ uz fahve pund. Ah finnd mysel that sho’t, an’ Ah s’all loss a grand bargain if Ah caan’t leet on sumbody ’at ’ll len’ uz ’t.’ ‘Whya, thoo knaws, Bill,’ said I——, ‘Ah deean’t ho’d wi’ lennin’; ta knaws it offens maks frien’s leeak shy at yan anuther; bud if so be ’at thoo’s gahin ti miss a bargain, whya, Ah mun stritch a point foor yance, bud, mahnd tha, thoo ’ezn’t ti mak a common practis on ’t. Noo, when diz ta think ’at thoo’ll be yabble ti pay ’t back? An’ what ’ez ta gitten, ’at thoo’s gahin ti ’liver up ez security?’ ‘Whya, Ah’ll let tha ’a’e my watch, an’ Ah’ll gi’e tha mah wo’d——.’

‘Nivver mahnd thi wo’d, let’s leeak at t’ watch. Ah tell tha what,’ said I——, when he had the watch in his hand, ‘thoo mebbins sets gert store byv it thisen, bud tha’d bunch tha oot ov a pawn shop if thoo war brazzen’d eneeaf ti ass a pund for ’t. When can ti let mah ’ev it back?’ ‘Ah’ll gi’e tha ’t at Bedale next Tuesday.’ ‘Whya noo, Ah’ll trust tha for yance,35 bud it’s mair ’an what thi awn feyther ’ud deea. Noo thoo maun’t tak ma in; Ah s’all leeak for tha ti’ pay ’t back when Ah see tha at Bedale.’ To Bill’s credit, the money was paid the week following. But a fortnight afterwards he again begged for a loan, this time for fifteen pounds. ‘Neea!’ said I——, ‘thoo teeak mah in yance; Ah’ll nut trust tha na mair.’ ‘Teeak tha in! Didn’t Ah pay tha back hard eneeaf at Bedale, when Ah tell’d tha Ah wad?’ ‘Aye, thoo paid ma back all reet, bud Ah nivver thowt ’at thoo wad; naay, thoo’s ta’en ma in yance, Ah weean’t be on agaan.’

That by nature the Tyke is tenacious of his opinion, and hard to convince, may be taken as an axiom. I have referred to this before, but this is a convenient opportunity to produce proofs of the same.

For years, old Sykes and Hobson, though neighbours, had been on unfriendly terms. Years back, Sykes had found on several occasions a certain gate thrown off its hinges. Whether he held any proof, history does not recount, but he blamed Hobson for doing it. Hobson, however, stoutly denied all knowledge of the affair. Anyway, for long they remained about as unfriendly as they well could; until one day, Hobson, at the risk of his life, rescued Sykes’ lad from drowning. On hearing of the rescue, Sykes hurried away to thank Hobson. They met in one of the latter’s fields. ‘Whya, noo then,’ began Sykes, ‘Ah’ve cum’d ti shak tha byv t’ han’; thoo’s saved my bairn, an’ Ah’s behodden ti tha foor awlus. Noo wa s’all ’a’e ti let bygones be bygones, an’ start afresh. Thoo knaws wa used ti hit it off all reet yance ower;36 noo, what diz ta saay?’ ‘Wha, mun, ther’s my hand on ’t, an’ Ah’s mair ’an glad ’at wa’ve hap’t t’ au’d sore up at last; an’ ez thoo sez, wa mun start afresh, just ez if nivver nowt ’ed cum’d atween uz’ So they shook hands, and talked farming for an hour or so, until it was time for Sykes to return. Shaking Hobson by the hand, he said, ‘Noo thoo knaws Ah s’all nivver be yabble ti mak it up ti tha for saving t’ lad, an’ Ah’s reet glad ’at Ah can gan yam an’ tell t’ missus ’at thee an’ me’s kind agaan, an’ Ah whoap ’at wa s’all awlus keep seea. Bud mahnd tha, Ah still ho’d ti ’t ’at it war thoo ’at flang t’ yat offen t’ creeaks,’ i.e. ‘But bear in mind, I still think it was you who flung the gate off the hinges.’

Old Hall, a well-known character in one of our dales, was the doctor for miles round, and proud was the village wherein he actually resided. He was more than doctor, he was the vet. as well; he read the lessons in church; in fact, he was the father of the village. He was consulted, and his advice acted upon in all things which are incident to a village community. And then he died, and a new doctor took his place—top hat, frock-coat, and everything. Some little time after his arrival, Wilson’s cow died, and the death of the said cow was fully discussed the day following, in the blacksmith’s shop. ‘What did ta gi’e it?’ asked one. ‘Nowt. Hoo mud Ah knaw what ti git for ’t?’ ‘Did ta gan for t’ doctor?’ asked another. ‘Aye, an’ he war neean sae setten up, at being fetched oot o’ bed i’ t’ middle o’ t’ neet.’ ‘Warn’t he! What did he saay?’ ‘He tell’d ma ’at he warn’t a coo doctor, an’ knew nowt aboot ’em.37’ ‘Did he saay that?’ asked the smith slowly, resting on his hammer, as he waited for an answer. ‘Aye, an’ he tell’d ma ti gan yam an’ nivver wakken him up na mair on sike an earand,’ ‘Wha, then,’ said the smith very deliberately, ‘he’s nut a Hall! an’ he mud just ez weel teeam his stuff oot, an’ quit his bottles foor au’d glass. Foor Ah meean ti saay ’at a chap ’at dizn’t knaw nowt aboot t’ innards’ (the inside) ‘of a coo, an’ hosses, an’ pigs, an’ sike leyke, isn’t gahin ti practis on onny ov uz, ’coz if he ’ezn’t gitten them off, he caan’t knaw nowt aboot oor innards, foor wa’re a seet mair intrickiter’ (intricate) ’na onny o’ t’ dumb critters. He’s nut a Hall, an’ he’s na ewse tiv uz.’ The oracle having spoken, it was agreed on all hands that it was so. And from that moment the influence of that man as a doctor ceased.

Here is another, which brings out a trait I purpose touching upon afterwards. Incidentally, I may mention, a bargain is a bargain, and must be maintained and carried out as originally agreed upon. The story, however, I give as an illustration of how hard it is to convince our people that their preconceived notion on any subject is wrong.

It was quite four miles from a certain house to the village, and as the gardener was often required to go thither for one thing or another, his master bought him a bicycle, thinking to make the journey easier for him. A few days after the machine had been presented, John said, ‘Noo, sir, Ah wanted ti ’ev a wo’d wi’ ya. Noo, when Ah cam, Ah cam for ti be t’ gardener, an’ ti deea onny odd jobs ’at wanted deeaing.38 Bud, ya knaw, Ah s’all want a bit mair a week if Ah’ve ti larn ti mannish yon thing’—jerking his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the tool-house, where the byke was kept. ‘Ya knaw, sir, ther warn’t nivver nowt at no tahm owt sed aboot a bisittle, an’ Ah s’ want a bit mair afoor Ah tattle yon thing. Noo, hoo mich is ’t ti be?’ The master pointed out that it was for his (the gardener’s) own comfort, and to lighten the journey to and from the village, he had been induced to buy the bicycle. ‘Whya, noo, Ah deean’t knaw sae mich aboot that,’ said John; ‘it soonds weel eneeaf t’ waay ’at you put it; ther’s nowt aboot that, bud Ah’ve leeaked fother inti ’t ’an what yow ’ev. Noo, leeak here, it taks me nigh on ti tweea hoors an’ a hauf ti gan an’ cum walking; noo, hoo lang is ’t gahin ti tak ma ti deea ’t o’ yon thing?’ ‘When you get used to it, you will run there and back easily in an hour.’ ‘Oha, s’all Ah! Then that’ll be leyke an hoor an’ a hauf ti t’ good.’ ‘Yes, you will save quite that.’ ‘Then when Ah git back, s’all Ah ’a’e ti sit ma doon an’ deea nowt for t’ hoor an’ t’ hauf?’ ‘Sit down and do nothing! Certainly not; you will go on with your work.’ ‘Aye, Ah thowt seea; an’ that’s what maks ma saay ’at ya’ll ’a’e ti gi’e ma a larl bit mair, ez Ah’s gahin ti put sa monny mair hoors’ wark in i’ t’ week. Ya see, you reckon yah waay, an’ Ah reckon another, an’ Ah think Ah’s i’ t’ reet on ’t.’

Those who have given the slightest attention to the various traits which are so interesting in the character of our people, will not have failed to notice one which is very pronounced. I mean the objection they have to showing, and the cleverness they39 display in hiding, their ignorance on any matter. If in speaking to our country people you use a word which they do not understand, they never let you know that they do not catch your meaning: they wait until you say ’summat else,’ in the hope that they may gather therefrom what you mean; and if you do not happen to say anything which throws light upon the unknown word, well, there the matter ends, and as a rule it does not trouble them for one moment. A farm labourer fell off a bicycle, and sprained his arm very severely; the doctor, a young locum, and a trifle pedantic, gave him a bottle of lotion, saying, as he did so, ‘Your arm will be all right in a few days: you have strained your biceps, you must rub it well with this lotion.’ ‘What diz ta think on him?’ asked one, who had been waiting outside. ‘Whya, he’s nowt bud a fondheead, is yon. What diz ta think? He sez ’at Ah’ve spraaned my airm, an’ he’s gi’en ma a bottle o’ stuff ti rub t’ bisittle wiv; let’s gan ti t’ bone-setter.’ A lady visiting a poor young fellow who was seriously ill, and very feverish, said to the mother, ‘Your son is very ill, I fear.’ ‘He is that, mum; he’s nut foor lang doon here. Hooivver, wa’ve deean t’ best ’at lay i’ wer power, an’ yan isn’t yabble ti deea na mair ’an that. Bud Ah’s pleeased ti saay ’at wa’ve gitten eneeaf saved up ti put him deeacently by, an’ that’s a blessing. It’ll be a beautiful funeral, mum, an’ wa’ve let him saay whau’s ti be bidden; an’ Ah deean’t think he’s forgitten yan ov his au’d frien’s—bud he awlus was thowtful.’ ‘That is very nice,’ said the lady, for she understood something of the people and their ways. ‘I will send you40 a couple of ice wafers,’ said she, thinking they would be nice for him to cool his lips with. ‘I think your son will like them, he seems so feverish.’ Next day, when she inquired how the patient was, the poor mother said, with tears in her eyes, ‘Thank ya, mum, Ah think he’s warse.’ ‘Did he like the wafers?’ she inquired, adding, ‘you can have more.’ ‘Well, mum,’ said the mother, ‘Ah c’u’dn’t saay foor sartin whether he liked ’em or nut. Ya see, ez seean ez ya sent ’em, Ah put him t’ white yan on his chist; bud he ’pleeaned ’at it felt varra cau’d, an’ seea Ah teeak it off, an’ put t’ pink un on a plate i’ front o’ t’ fire ti warm. Bud Ah think t’ cat must ’a’e gitten ’t, foor it war gone when Ah went for’t. So ya see, iv a waay, he ’adn’t a fair go wiv ’em. Bud you needn’t send na mair, he’s gahin fast noo.’

A gentleman said to a Yorkshire dame, ‘Your little chap looks very robust.’ ‘Aye, an’ your larl chap leeaks t’ saame,’ said she; not in the least knowing what ’robust’ meant. ‘Nay, nay,’ said the gentleman; ‘I only wish he was’—glancing at the very weakly child he held by the hand. The dame perceived she had made a mistake, so added, ‘Whya he seean wad be’; and then, not quite certain of her ground, or where ‘robust’ was going to land her, continued, ‘bud then yan nivver knaws.’ When the gentleman had left the group, one of the bystanders said, ‘Dolly, what diz ro-bust meean?’ ‘Deean’t ass me, Ah’ve na mair idea na t’ man i’ t’ meean,’ said she. ‘Then what maad ta saay ’at his bairn leeaked t’ saame ez what he sed thahn did?’ ‘Whya, Ah thowt ’at if he war calling mah bairn naames, Ah’d let him ’ev41 ez good ez he sent; whahl, if he war sayin’ summat i’ praise on ’t, Ah sud be deeaing t’ saame byv his.’

On another occasion, a village dame entered the doctor’s visiting-room. ‘Noo, then,’ she commenced, ‘gie ma summat, an’ leeak sharp aboot it, fer Ah is badly; Ah can nowther bahd ti sit doon, stan’ up, ner nowt.’ ‘What is the matter with you?’ inquired the doctor. ‘Naay, what; it’s neea ewse assing me, Ah’ve cumd to see you aboot that.’ ‘Well, but what ails you?’ ‘Aals ma! Ah’ve gitten galloping paans all reet roond aboot ivverywheear; Ah is badly.’ ‘But what have you been doing to get them?’ ‘Whya, Ah can think o’ nowt bud, t’ daay afoor yesterdaay, Ah war weshin’, an’ Ah mun ’a’e kept a damp ap’on on, an’ Ah aim ’at it’s gi’en ma cau’d all reet roond aboot ivverywheer.’ ‘Now I know what’s the matter with you. Here’s a bottle for you; take it home, and you had better drink a teaspoonful every ten minutes, and it will be best if you take it in a recumbent position,’ said he, handing Martha the bottle. Now, ‘recumbent position’ was quite outside Martha’s vocabulary; she had not the least idea what he meant, but she was not going to expose her ignorance by asking. So off home she set, saying to herself as she went along, ‘“Re-cum-bunt po-zition;” noo what diz that mean?’ However, Yorkshire like, she hit upon a plan of getting to know, without exposing her own ignorance. Calling on a neighbour as she passed by, she shouted, ‘‘Liza Jane, Ah’ve been ti t’ doctor, an’ he’s gi’en ma a bottle o’ stuff, an’ Ah ’ev ti tak a speeanful on ’t ivvery ten minits; bud he sez ’at Ah ’ev ti tak it in a recumbunt po-zition. Bud thoo knaws Ah ’evn’t gitten42 yan, an’ Ah thowt mebbe ’at thoo’d be seea good ez ti let ma ’a’e t’ len’ o’ thahn; will ta?’ Liza Jane knew no more what ’recumbunt po-zition’ meant than Martha, but she was not going to give herself away, so she replied, ‘Ah wad ’a’e deean sa wi’ t’ gertest o’ pleasure i’ t’ wo’lld, nobbut Ah lent mahn yisterday. Bud ez thoo gans up t’ village, call in at t’ shop an’ buy yan for thisen, an’ then thoo’ll ’ev it at heeam when thoo wants it; an’ if tha ’evn’t gitten yan, buy a mug—it’ll deea just t’ seeam.’

One more. Bessy having explained to the doctor that her husband was suffering from a fearful pain in the head, was ordered to apply the half-dozen leeches which he gave her. Now, had the doctor said, ‘stick ’em on,’ or ’clap ’em on,’ Bessy would have known what she had to do with them. However, she had half a dozen leeches to do something with, so she went home and did her level best. A couple of days after, the doctor, seeing Bessy, asked her how John was. ‘Oh, he’s all reet noo. Them things capped him; tha did, hooivver.’ ‘You managed all right, did you, Bessy?’ asked he. ‘Whya, Ah caan’t saay ’at wa mannished sa weel wi’ t’ fo’st un ’at Ah gav’ him; he chow’d on wi’ ‘t, bud he c’u’d catch ho’d on ’t neea road, soa Ah boil’d him t’ rest, an’ he sluthered ’em doon neycely.’



There are many other side-lights to our character, only a few of which it will be possible to notice. But every story is pictured in such varying light and shade as to afford those who can fully appreciate them many varied traits of our character. And one word, if you please, with reference to these stories. Nearly all have the merit of being in essence true. They have been gathered from various sources, but in the main first hand. Many of the characters were known personally to the writer; and although in a few instances the origin and authenticity are doubtful, they are included because they so fully illustrate that which was to be demonstrated, and because they are so true to life, and just what would really have happened under like circumstances.

There is one special gift which the Yorkshireman possesses in a high degree, i.e. the humorous. It is a humorousness, too, which often (given that you understand and appreciate the dialect) sparkles with genuine wit. I plead guilty to the fact that much of the wit of our country-people is, as it were, given with the back of the hand. Still, it is none the less witty, for all that. And if the same sounds rough and unmusical to you,44 kindly bear in mind that the Chinese consider our best music little else than a tumult of discordant sound. It is generally the last few words uttered which contain the bud, blossom, and fruit all in one. I remember once being completely shut up by a Yorkshire lad, and he only uttered two words; but the tone and the look were the very cream of sarcastic jeering. This was how it came about. The lad was driving home some ducks from the pond. ‘You have a lot of fine ducks, my boy,’ said I. And then, thinking to buy a couple, I asked, ‘How often do you kill them?’ ‘Nobbut yance,’ was the laconic reply.

‘T’ law’s nowt bud a tak in all t’ waay thruff,’ said one. ‘When me an’ Tom went afoor wer betters aboot that hedge, Ah’d Jackson ti talk foor me, an’ he ’ed Smith ti talk foor him. An’ ti lissen ti them tweea blackguarding yan anuther when t’ case war on, yan mud ‘ thowt ’at tha war i’ arnist, an’ ‘at tha nivver wad ’a’e spokken civil t’ ane tither agaan; bud bless mah leyfe, when t’ case war adjourned ti t’ next court daay, an’ when me an’ Tom, scooling at yan anuther leyke all that, went inti t’ Black Lion ti ’ev a glass o’ yal, if wa didn’t finnd them tweea takking wine an’ ‘ranging ti gan fishing tigither t’ next daay. “Tom,” sez Ah, “if this is t’ waay tha mak t’ feeal o’ yan, seeaner thee an’ me haps t’ business up an’ t’ better it’ll be foor baith on uz.” An’ he sez ti me, “Gi’e uz thi han’ on’t,” an’ Ah did. An’ then Ah shoots oot, “Hi! Ah’ll tell ya what, you tweea ’ed best ’range to gan fishing foor awlus; bud mahnd ya, nowther me ner Tom’s gahin ti finnd t’ bait for owther on ya!”

Sally Ridge was a terror to all those she took a45 dislike to. She usually played some prank to the detriment of those who, for the time being, were out of favour. On one occasion, however, she went a trifle too far; she broke the back of a duck with a stone. This got poor Sally into fearfully hot water, and there was every likelihood of her being summoned; however, the writer interceded on her behalf, and on Sally faithfully promising never to stone a duck again, she was pardoned. Within an hour afterwards, I surprised her gaily pitching stones amongst the feathered swimmers. ‘Didn’t you promise me faithfully not to throw stones at the ducks again, Sally?’ I asked, taking hold of her, and adding, ‘it is wicked of you to break your word in this way.’ ‘Ah ’evn’t brokken my wo’d,’ replied Sally, trying to free herself. ‘But you have; you promised not to throw stones at the ducks again,’ I repeated. ‘An’ Ah isn’t; Ah’s thrawing at yon geese, an’ it’s nut mah fau’t if t’ silly au’d ducks git thersens i’ t’ road. Leave lowse, Ah nivver sed nowt ti naebody aboot geese.’

Three visitors hired a boat at Staithes for an hour’s fishing, having a man each to attend to their lines. On returning to land, the fishermen were paid half a crown for the sail. The visitors had not got far away, when one of the fishermen ran after them. ‘Ah saay, mister,’ said he, turning the half-crown over in his hand, ‘ya see ther’s three on uz, an’ nut being schollars, wa’re bet ti knaw hoo ti share ’t oot; bud Ah’ll tell ya what wa deea knaw,’ he added, with a merry twinkle in his eye, ‘if ya war ti gi’e uz anuther sixpence, wa s’u’d ’ev a bob apiece.’ And they got it.

An old keeper was told off to hand the gun for46 a very poor shot. After blazing away at several coveys, he turned to the old chap, saying, ‘I am afraid you will think me a very bad shot!’ ‘Nut Ah. Ah think ’at Ah nivver seed naebody shut better an’ hit warse i’ mah leyfe.’ ‘And yet I have made many a good bag before to-day,’ said the sportsman, just a wee bit nettled. ‘Aye, bud oor bo’ds flee, tha deean’t sit ti be shutten at,’ was the quiet rejoinder.

Lady —- said to one of her under-gardeners, ‘Thomas, the maids tell me that you often say very nasty things about women; do you ever do the same of the men?’ And then her ladyship looked him squarely in the face, but Thomas was equal to the occasion. ‘Neea, my lady, that Ah deean’t, acoz i’ that case it ’ud be trew, ya knaw.’

Tommy had been fishing on Sunday; he had been caught red-handed by the Chapel minister. The good man read Tommy a long lesson on the enormity of his sin, concluding by asking what Tommy had to say for himself. ‘It’s nut a real rod!’ ventured Tommy. ‘That does not matter,’ said his judge; ‘the sin is just the same, and the Lord never prospers those who break the sabbath.’ ‘Wha, then,’ promptly replied Tommy, ‘it mun ’a’e been Au’d Scrat’ (i.e. Satan) ‘’at’s egg’d ’em on ti bite ti-daay, foor Ah nivver catched sa monny afoor’—holding up a bottle fairly alive with sticklebacks and minnows.

Whether I am succeeding or not is for others to judge, but what I am striving to do is to paint the various points in our character faithfully. I am neither hiding nor glossing. Our brusquerie and47 doggedness, our tenacity of opinion and keenness to acquire the all-needful, our pride and independency, as also our want of that respect for those who may consider themselves our superiors, have been as fully and as truthfully set forth as space would admit of.

On the other hand, our people are warm-hearted, hospitable to a degree, and exhibit a deep sense of gratitude for favours received, such as would never be credited by those who judge us by our rugged exterior. But it is there, for all that. Let me give you two or three stories quite true, which prove to some extent what I have just asserted.

A woman possessed an old, carved corner cupboard, not really worth much, but it had been her mother’s, and she prized it greatly—in fact, far above its market value. The village doctor had often tried to buy it, but without success. Her husband falling seriously ill, the doctor was called in, and though there was no hope of a long bill being paid, he was most assiduous in his attendance day and night. When recovering, the patient, fully aware that he had been fairly snatched from the grave, said to his wife one night, when she was sitting by the bedside, ‘Fanny, thoo’ll ’a’e ti let t’ doctor ’ev t’ cupboard.’ He well knew what a wrench this would be, and was no little surprised when his wife replied, ‘Bless tha, mun, ez seean ez ivver thoo gat a to’n foor t’ better, Ah ’ed t’ cupboard rovven doon, an’ sent Bob wi’ ‘t. Doctor didn’t want ti ’a’e ’t, an’ sent it back, bud Ah sent Bob wiv it agaan, an’ tell’d him ti saay ’at if he sent it back onny mair Ah’d mak firewood on ’t.48 Thoo’s wo’th mair ’an all t’ cupboards i’ t’ wo’lld ti me, an’ it war t’ only road ther war o’ paying him.’

Again. An old dame having been ill for a long time, recovered, much to the surprise of every one. During her long illness a certain lady often visited her, and sent her many little comforts. Some months after the old dame’s recovery, she presented her benefactress with an elaborate clip-hearthrug. For this the lady wished to pay her, but that the old dame almost indignantly refused. ‘Neea, mum,’ said she, with tears in her eyes; ‘Ah’ve ’ed ommaist ivvery bit o’ t’ stuff gi’en ma ’at Ah’ve maad t’ clips on, an’ if ivvery prod ’at Ah’ve gi’en an’ ivvery clip ’at Ah’ve cutten war a gowden guinea, it wadn’t mak up foor hauf your kindness ti me.’ Oh no, they do not lack gratitude.

The vicar’s bride had a remark made to her by one of the oldest men in the village, which seemed to her to have a nasty application, but in its idiomatic sense it was quite innocent of any such construction; and the remark as addressed to the lady was certainly given in its idiomatic form. By-and-by she learnt she had been a little hasty in condemning the old fellow. However, to make up for any unkindness on her part, she engaged the old man as a sort of anything-you-like about the vicarage. It was not long ere the old chap won a very warm place in the lady’s heart. This was after the arrival of the baby. Every night, when his work was done, he would say, ‘Noo then what, Ah’ve deean; bud Ah mun ’ev a leeak at t’ baa’n afoor Ah gan.’ One evening, after this same formula had been gone through,49 he said, ‘Noo, Ah’ll tell ya what; t’ baa’n’s nut sa varra weel ti-neet, an’ Ah knaw a seet mair aboot babbies ’an what you deea. Noo you mun put ’t iv a hot bath, an’ then hap ’t up an’ keep ’t varra warm. Noo you mun deea ez Ah’ve tell’d ya.’ With this admonition he left the vicarage, and, though turned seventy-eight years of age, set off at once to trudge seven miles for a doctor, landing back again about midnight. The doctor assured the delighted mother that, having followed the old man’s advice, and with the remedies he had brought, a severe fit of croup had been staved off. Oh yes, these blunt country-people have feelings. And they are grateful.

Gratitude shows itself in different ways, sometimes in a form of self-sacrifice, as in the following, which occurred not so very long ago. Said a vicar to one of his parishioners—who, by-the-way, was a notorious poacher—‘I am very pleased to see you coming to church so regularly; very pleased, indeed, William; and I trust that it may lead you to see the error of your past life.’ ‘Well, Ah wadn’t gan sa far ez ti saay ’at owt o’ that soart’s leykley ti happen, bud Ah s’ cum ti t’ chetch, for all that.’ ‘And may I ask the reason for this sudden change in your life?’ inquired the parson. ‘Whya noo, it war i’ this waay. Me an’ Luke an’ tweea or three uthers war talking ya ower yah neet i’ t’ Swan, an’ Luke sed ’at he didn’t ho’d wi’ neea parsons ’at hunted, an’ Ah sed ’at a parson war nowt neea different ti neeabody else, when he’d ta’en t’ white goon off, an’ ‘at it maad neea odds whether ya hunted or whether ya didn’t. Bud t’ main on ’em50 seeamed ti ho’d ’at ya warn’t i’ t’ reet on ’t hunting. And seea Ah thowt ti mysen, t’ parson’s offens deean me a good to’n, an’ if ther’s gahin to be sike a lot o’ narrer-mahnded fau’k i’ t’ village—an’ being a bit of a sportsman mysen, ya knaw—wha, Ah sez, noo Ah’ll gan ti chetch if it’s foor nowt else bud ti back ya up a bit, an’ sa Ah cums.’

The hospitality of the Yorkshire people is so well known, and so generally admitted by all those who have been recipients of the same, that I purpose just leaving it as an established fact. Still, there is one curious offshoot from this generous branch, which needs en passant a moment’s consideration.

I once heard a South-country man say, ‘Yorkshire people give you more than you want at their table, and then beg from you on the doorstep.’ And to those who know nothing of our ways, usages, and customs, such would almost seem to be the case. Of course, as put by the South-country man, the statement, if complete, would stamp Yorkshire and its people as being rather more than contemptible. But such is not the case, and when the reason for the remark was perfectly sifted, the notion which had got such a firm hold of the speaker was found to have been based on a want of knowledge of the elementary rules which govern the unwritten law of bargaining. Why, pages could be written on bargaining, and stories told by the score.

But when a bargain has been concluded, the money paid, the receipt given, a substantial meal partaken of, with grog, &c., ad lib., it becomes quite easy to understand the South-country man’s surprise, on leaving51 the house, to be asked ’ti gi’e summat back foor luck.’ To him, not knowing our ways, the transaction was completed; with us it was not, and therein lies the difference. It does strike one as peculiar to find such marked generosity, when run on certain lines, only to be confronted the next step with some little action which at first sight looks very much like meanness. But all this misconception vanishes if we bear in mind that hospitality and business are never made to clash; they, as it were, occupy separate rooms.

I have a story in my mind which illustrates fully these peculiarities, as well as others already mentioned. As it was given to me by his lordship, so briefly let me give it to you.

One day two of a shooting party, his lordship and the Hon. G——, decided to give their guns a rest, and visit an ancient church some six miles distant. They were strongly advised to take a keeper with them, but feeling quite sure they could find their way, started by themselves. Possibly they might have succeeded, had not a sea fret and heavy fog wrapped the whole moor in a shroud. They were lost, and they knew it. Fortunately, when quite worn out, they discovered a farm-house; and on inquiry they were told that they had wandered much out of their way, being then quite ten miles from the shooting-box. Too tired to walk back, they asked the farmer if he could possibly drive them. ‘Whya, Ah c’u’d,’ said he, ‘bud it’s a langish waay, an’ mah meer’s a bit tired; Ah’d ommaist rayther set ya ti wheer you c’u’dn’t loss yersels.’ They, however,52 declared they were too tired to think of walking, and offered him half a sovereign as an inducement. Then the bargaining propensity came to the surface. ‘Haaf a sover’ign!’ said he. ‘Neea, what ya’ll ’a’e ti mak it fifteen bob.’ To which they assented. During this bargaining, the good wife was spreading the table with abundance of food. ‘Noo then,’ said the good man, ‘ya mun’ reeach teea an’ mak yersens at heeam. Ya’re welcome ti t’ best o’ what wa’ve gitten; deean’t be neyce aboot it, ther’s plenty mair wheer that’s cum’d fra; Ah’ll cum roond wi’ t’ meer efter a bit.’ When they were ready for departure, one of them inquired how much they were indebted for their splendid repast. To which the farmer, in characteristic fashion, made answer: ‘What wa’ve gi’en ya, wa’ve gi’en ya, an’ ya’re welcome ti ’t; drhaaving ya ti t’ shutting-box war a bargain, an’ anuther thing altigither, an’ ther’s nowt aboot that.’ And not a penny piece could either be prevailed upon to receive for their hospitality.

Just one other story, which illustrates the same propensity for bargaining. A hamper containing a dead ‘pricky-back otch’n,’ with one shilling carriage to pay, was delivered to one Pettigrew; by some means he found out that the hamper had been the property of a friend of his, named Tom Scott. But Scott declared on his word of honour that he was innocent of the whole transaction. Unfortunately, Pettigrew did not believe him, in consequence of which a coolness sprang up, which lasted for two years. At the expiration of that time, Pettigrew met Scott one market-day. ‘Whya, noo then,’ said he, ‘they tell ma ’at tho53o’s gahin ti wed mah cousin Martha; is ’t trew?’ ‘Aye, it’s trew hard eneeaf, Ah is, hooivver,’ acknowledged Scott. ‘Whya, then thoo knaws thee an’ me owtn’t ti be at loggerheeads when t’ ane’s gahin ti be related ti t’ ither; owt wa, noo?’ ‘Neea, bud thoo knaws ’at it’s neea fau’t o’ mahn; Ah’ve nowt agaan tha, thoo knaws,’ said Scott.

‘Wha, bud Ah’d gert call ti blaam tha; thoo’ll awn ti t’ hamper, weean’t ta?’ ‘Aye, Ah nivver, ’at Ah mahnd on, ivver tried ti disawn ’t. What mud Ah foor? Sumboddy stowl ’t; Ah c’u’dn’t help that, onny road, c’u’d Ah?’

‘Then thoo’d nowt i’ t’ wo’lld ti deea wi’ t’ pricky-back otch’n?’ ‘Ah’ve tell’d tha ower an’ up agaan i’ tahms back ’at Ah’d nivver nowt i’ noa waay whatsoivver owt ti deea wi’ t’ otch’n,’ said Scott, emphatically.

‘Whya, thoo knaws ’at Ah ’ed a shilling ti pay for ’t cuming; what’s gahin ti be deean aboot that, then?’ ‘Whya, thoo dizn’t leeak ti me for ’t, diz ta?’ ‘Whya, Ah war that oot o’ pocket, an’ it war thi hamper ’at it cam in hard eneeaf.’ ‘Aye, an’ Ah’ll tell tha what, thoo’s nivver let ma ’a’e ’t back agaan; bud nivver mahnd, thoo mun keep t’ hamper, an’ wa’ll lap t’ job up that waay,’ magnanimously offered Scott.

‘Ah see ’at Ah’s boun ti be oot o’ pocket wi’ t’ otch’n,’ persisted Pettigrew, ‘bud Ah’ll tell tha what, thoo mun stan’ uz a glass foor friendship’s sake.’ ‘Whya, noo then, ez Ah’s gahin ti wed thi cusin Martha, cu’ thi waay.’ And so the matter was settled.



I purpose devoting this chapter to stories which in themselves are good examples, embracing, as they do, many phases of Yorkshire character. With the exception of the first two or three, they will be given regardless of classification. But these two or three do need just a word. Our country-people, in their own way, hold in sincere veneration all spiritual teaching; but don’t look for too much. Bear in mind, superstition dies hard, and in judging them on this head, it is well to keep to the forefront the fact that in religion, as well as in everything else, they cling to much which their grandmothers believed before them, just as they speak of their parents as ‘t’ au’d fau’k,’ without in the least being disrespectful. So, without the least intention of being irreverent, the Deity is often addressed and spoken of in a manner which would shock the ears of many. ‘Ah wadn’t ’a’e deean that if Ah’d been Him,’ said an old dame, after hearing how the Israelites had been punished by God’s vengeance. ‘He owt ti ’a’e letten ’em off that tahm,’ was her concluding remark. It was her opinion, and she freely gave it. The Deity being spoken of as ‘Him’ and ‘He,’ was as natural55 to the old lady as it would have been for us to say ‘the Lord.’ Anyway, for real piety, I for one make my bow to the old dame.

Again, they have a way of materializing the most spiritual things. To them, heaven is nothing more than a big, beautiful city, which they have to try their best to get into, and having managed to do so, they are safe for ever. Doubtlessly they picture it sunnier, purer, and altogether more delightful than any place they have ever seen or heard of. But to them it is just a city. Certainly this applies more especially to the older people in our dales; the rising generation are learning different, but it will be long before they altogether leave the old and beaten track. And may it be so, for, after all, their religion is to them a very real and tangible thing. It is something which in these days of higher criticism many of us are letting slip from us. When reading the following stories, it should be borne in mind why they are given, and just what I wish to illustrate.

A clergyman having asked an old dying woman if she were quite happy, received this reply: ‘Neea, that Ah isn’t. Ah’s boun to dee, an’ Ah s’ gan ti heaven, an’ it’s that what’s boddering ma. Nut gahin ti heaven—Ah deean’t meean that—bud t’ music,’ said she, emphatically. ‘Ya see, Ah’ve nivver larnt nowt o’ music; Ah knaw nowt aboot it, an’ if tha start ma off wiv owther a harp or a dulcima, Ah s’all mak nowt bud a laughing-stock o’ mysel, for Ah can nowther tune ner scrat on ’em. Noo, if ’t c’u’d be ’ranged foor ma ti tak care o’ yan o’ t’ angel babbies, Ah s’u’d be ez reet ez ninepins, foor Ah allus did git56 on wi’ childer, an’ Ah’d fetch it up a pattern, an’ Ah’d promise nivver ti slap it; onny road, Ah s’all mak nowt ow ’t wiv a dulcima.’

The village artist was dying; he had painted three out of the four village signs, he had executed the scrollwork for every church decoration for years past, and there was in his house an imitation marble mantelpiece, which he had yearned to show every one. The clergyman was about to leave him, but before doing so, asked if he should pray. ‘Aye, aye,’ said the dying man, ‘and ez mebbe this’ll be t’ last tahm ’at ya will pray foor ma, Ah s’u’d be glad if ya’d mention ’at Ah’s a good hand at decorating; it’ll mebbe help yan a bit.’

Old Matthew was a well-known character. For years both he and his old dame lived in a little cottage near Newton-under-Rosebery. When on his death-bed, a lady, after reading to him, said, ‘And after all I have read and told you, Matthew, heaven is more beautiful than you can possibly imagine; you might lie and call to mind all the beautiful things you have either seen or dreamt of, and even then you would not have the least idea what heaven is like.’ To say the least, she was somewhat surprised when the old man, gently patting her hand, said in a whisper, ‘Ya mebbe deean’t knaw ’at Ah yance seed Leeds pantomine; that gave yan a inkling.’ N.B.—The Yorkshire people always pronounce ‘pantomime’ as spelt above.

Old Bessy, who lived in an old house near Kildale, was very near the borderland. The clergyman found her quite happy and reconciled, and on leaving her57 (he was going away for some time), said, ‘Well, goodbye, Bessy; I may never see you on earth again, but I shall hope to meet you in heaven.’ ‘Aye, an’ Ah s’ leeak oot for ya cuming; an’ deean’t forgit ’at neean on uz is nowt na different up yonder, so you maun’t git yer back up if Ah just shak ya byv t’ han’, an’ saay, famil’ar leyke, ’at Ah’s glad ti see ’at ya’ve mannished it.’

The rest of this chapter is merely a collection of Yorkshire stories, which I think should not be lost, and which I leave to the perspicuity of my readers, who doubtless, without any hints from me, will grasp the many different phases of character contained therein.

The tire had come off the cart wheel, and the Tyke was in a bit of a fix; shortly afterwards a cyclist drew up, and dismounting, remarked, ‘Punctchard. Can I lend you my pump?’ and then burst out laughing at the man’s dilemma and his own wit. ‘Punctchard? neea, Ah isn’t punctchard,’ retorted the Tyke, in fairly good imitation of the would-be wit. ‘An’ thoo can stick ti thi pump; bud Ah deean’t knaw what thoo wants it fer, fer thoo’d be all t’ better if thoo war punctchard thisen a larl bit; it ’ud let sum o’ thi gas oot, foor thoo’s ommaist brussen wi’ ‘t.’ And then he set to work to replace the tyre, as though no cyclist had appeared upon the scene.

Several rustics were admiring two brand-new machines, whilst the owners (a lady and gentleman) regaled themselves in the village pub. When about to start on their journey again, the young fellow, taking stock of the group, and, as he thought, seeing good material for a joke, said, ‘Admiring our58 machines?’ and then, nudging his fair companion, continued, ‘These are the very latest; they can either be used as cycles, musical boxes, or garden mowers. I only have to turn a screw, that’s all. Clever, aren’t they?’ ‘Aye!’ said one of the group, looking as if he had swallowed every word just uttered. ‘It’s wunnerful what they’ve gitten ’em ti deea noo; my weyfe’s gitten yan ’at gans wiv a can an’ milks t’ coos all byv itsen.’ Then those two proceeded on their journey.

There had been a terrific thunderstorm, lasting most of the night. Talking the matter over next day, one said, ‘Did ta ivver hear owt ti cum up tul ’t?’ ‘Naay, it gav mah a to’n yance or twice. What diz ta mak on’t?’ ‘It’s t’ aliments’ (elements), ’thoo knaws; it’s t’ aliments.’ ‘Aye, thoo’s reet, it’ll be t’ aliments; bud, Ah saay, it sets yan on ti think.’ ‘It diz, an’ all; just eftther that despert lood crack cam, Ah thowt ti mysen, it’s gahin ti be all owered wiv uz; an’ foor a larl bit Ah wished ’at Ah’d ta’en Tom’s bid foor t’ colt.’

A delightful gathering had taken place at the rectory, followed by a most sumptuous tea. The people had come to celebrate the home-coming of the rector and his bride (a very dear South-country lady). After tea, the bride, speaking to an old fellow, said, ‘I hope you have enjoyed yourself?’ To which kind inquiry he promptly replied, ‘Whya noo, Ah’ve been at monny a warse do ner this—Ah ’ev that.’ This really was the very highest praise he could possibly have given. The bride, somewhat annoyed at what she considered the ingratitude of the man,59 turned to an old dame she saw walking down the drive. ‘Have you tired yourself?’ she kindly inquired. ‘Tired mysen? Neea, Ah’ve nut tired mysen. Ah ’edn’t need git mysen tew’d at a do leyke this. Ah’s nut tired, bud Ah’s gahin yam. Ah wad ’a’e stopped on ti t’ end, bud ther’s that monny flees aboot t’ pleeace, whahl yan dizn’t knaw what ti deea wi’ yan’s sen, an’ sae Ah’s foor off.’ The only thing which had been made at all clear to the bride was that the old lady complained of being troubled with fleas, which she found too many for her. ‘Fleas!’ said she; ‘I feel sure you are mistaken.’ To which the old lady made this reply: ‘Noa, Ah’s nut; but Ah deean’t meean fleas ’at’s fleas, bud flees ’at flee’ (flies that fly), leaving the rector’s wife more bewildered than ever.

A new-comer related to those assembled in the village bar a most marvellous story of an accident from which his son had just recovered. If anything, it erred on the side of being just a trifle too marvellous. Several said, ‘How wonderful!’ but there was one man sitting in the far corner, and spake he never a word. ‘Perhaps you doubt my story?’ ventured the narrator. ‘Nut Ah. Ah’ve neea call ti doot owt ’at ya’ve tell’d uz, foor yance yan o’ mah lads swaller’d a pin, an’ ya can tak mah wo’d for ’t, bud i’ less ’an a month eftther it cam oot o’ t’ back ov his brother’s neck. That’ll match your taal onny daay.’

The following conversation between two old mothers was overheard by a clergyman who happened to be travelling in the same compartment of the train. Said one to the other, ‘Whya, noo then, wa’ve gitten him60 sahded by.’ ‘Aye, wa ’ev,’ sighed the other; ‘Ah’ve knawn him ivver sin he war a lad.’ ‘Thoo ’ez, an’ what thoo knaws ’at Ah went ti skeeal wiv him?’ ‘Aye, thoo did,’ said her friend; ‘Ah’d forgitten that. Ah saay, Mary, what a beautiful corpse he maad—sae still an’ sae quiet, bud they maistly are.’ ‘Aye, aye,’ said Mary, slowly adding, ‘bud what a tea it war; Ah’ve nivver been at sike an a-sitting doon i’ mah leyfe; ther war nowt bud tea-cakes, an’ badly buttered at that. Noo Ah’ve sahded fahve o’ my awn, bud thank the Lord Ah buried ’em all wi’ ham,’ which was a sign not only of great respectability, but as having shown proper respect to the dead.

Taking my seat in a third-class carriage at Malton, two men and a woman joined me, and much edified by their conversation I was. They commenced discussing the merits of an entertainment which had been given the night previous in one of the villages in the neighbourhood. I gathered from their remarks that Lady M—— and the Hon. Mrs. B—— had taken an active part in organizing the same. However, for the moment, Lady M—— was very freely discussed. The woman had possession of the carriage, and almost without drawing breath said, ‘Noo, sha’s a grand un, is t’ au’d leddy; sha’s gam foor owt. Mah songs, Ah nivver cam across t’ leykes on her onnywheear else; bud ther isn’t sike anuther onnywheear aboot here, an’ Ah knaw summat aboot t’ maist on ’em. Sha’s nut yan o’ theease twopenny-haupenny upstarts ’at dizn’t knaw what’s matter wiv ’em hauf ther tahm. Aye, sha’s a grand un, is t’ au’d leddy.’ ‘Aye, sha is,’ joined in one of the men, as the woman61 ceased for want of breath. ‘An’ Ah’ll tell ya what, that au’dist lad ov hers isn’t a bad un, an’ Ah meean ti saay ’at his lordship can rear poultry ’at neean on ’em can touch aboot here; noo, he can. He’s a rare han’ wi’ bo’ds, is his lordship.’ ‘Him rear poultry!’ burst in the woman. ‘Him rear poultry!’ she repeated, with ineffable scorn; and then, slowly and emphatically (you, who are Yorkshire people, know exactly what I mean), she added, ‘Ah meean ti saay ’at t’ au’d leddy can mak a hen lay mair eggs ’an onny man, woman, or bairn i’ this countrysahd; an’ Ah’ll tell ya what, if tha deean’t gi’e her yan o’ t’ best harps ti plaay on when sha dees an’ gans ti heaven, Ah’ll ’a’e nowt ti deea wi’ ‘t.’

A vicar once asked his sexton what he thought of the previous Sunday’s preacher. The pulpit had been occupied on that occasion by a clergyman whose oratorical powers are pretty widely known, but whose sermon had been quite over the heads of his congregation on that particular day. The reply the vicar got was certainly to the point. ‘Whya, Ah wadn’t saay bud what mebbe you mud larn summat fra what he tell’d uz, acoz ther’s neea doot ’at he war varra far larnt; bud ez foor me, an’ t’ likes o’ me, wa’d reyther sit an’ lissen ti t’ saam au’d ditties fra you ’at wa’ve heeard ower an’ up agaan. Aye, that wa wad; ya see, wa knaw what’s cuming.’

A neighbour’s third wife lay dead. Said a dame to the husband, ‘Mary’s gone! Dear me, hoo sum fau’k diz ’ev bad luck; thoo’ll ’a’e ti gan ti t’ burying, hooivver.’ ‘Naay,’ said the husband, ‘Ah deean’t think62 ’at Ah s’all gan this tahm; Ah went ti t’ tother tweea—they’ll ‘ ti mannish bidoot ma this tahm.’ ‘Naay, what, thoo’ll ’a’e ti gan, hooivver; it’ll nivver deea eftther seeing t’ other tweea sahded by, nut ti gan ti t’ tho’d un. Whativver maks tha think ’at thoo weean’t gan?’ ‘Whya, thoo sees, it’s ez thoo sez, Ah’ve seen tweea on ’em sahded by, an’ Ah think ’at it leeaks a bit greedy ti gan ti t’ tho’d un. Thoo sees, up ti noo Ah’ve nivver been yabble ti return t’ compliment, an’ Ah deean’t leyke ti put on a chap, an’ Ah s’aan’t gan.’

A good dame found her husband lying on the chamber floor. ‘Whativver is ta deeaing, ligging on t’ cham’er fleear foor?’ ‘Aa, lass,’ the old chap groaned, ‘Ah thowt Ah war boun ti dee; Ah did, hooivver. If ivver Ah’s ta’en leyke that agaan, Ah s’aan’t cum round na mair; thoo’ll finnd ma deead wheear Ah tumm’ls.’ ‘Whya, let’s get tha inti bed, an’ Ah’ll fetch tha a basin o’ gruel up; an’ Ah’ll put t’ au’d stick byv t’ sahd o’ t’ bed, an’ thoo mun think on ’at thoo mun thump on t’ fleear if thoo’s ta’en queer agaan; whativver thoo diz, noo, thoo maun’t dee unbeknawn. It’s varra inconsiderate o’ fau’k ti tak thersens off i’ that waay,’ said the wife, bustling about. ‘Bud thoo knaws yan caan’t help ’t,’ said the old chap. ‘Whya, thoo mun deea thi best, an’ bear i’ mahnd what a tideea ther wad ’a’e been if Ah’d happened ti finnd tha deead on t’ fleear. Crowner wad ’ev ’ed ti cum’d, an’ all t’ jury chaps gahin in an’ oot ez if t’ pleeace warn’t yan’s awn, an’ leykly eneeaf afoor yan ’ed gitten tidied up, an’ then Ah s’u’d ’a’e ’ed t’ bobby fussing aboot an’ assing all manner o’ quessions, an’ Ah deean’t knaw63 what else. Noo, thoo mauh’t let ma in foor a gahin-on leyke that. Ah’ve putten tha t’ stick handy, seea mahnd thoo dizn’t drop off bidoot gi’ing yan warning. It weean’t tew tha mich ti thump on t’ fleear, an’ then Ah’ll be up iv a crack. Noo, deean’t forgit thoo ’ezn’t ti dee bidoot thumping.’

Old Sally was dying. On being asked by the vicar if she felt quite happy, the old lady said, with great unction, ‘Oh yes, Ah s’all seean be iv Jacob’s bosom.’ ‘Abraham’s bosom, Sally,’ corrected the vicar. ‘Aye, well, mebbe it is, bud if you’d been unmarried for sixty-fahve year, leyke what Ah ’ev, ya wudn’t be particular wheeas bosom it war, seea lang ez ya gat inti sumbody’s.’

A good story is told in Gloucestershire, which is a fair example that Yorkshiremen are credited with being able to take care of themselves by those of other counties. An ostler at one of the inns in that county in a general way managed to draw a tip from all who put up, even from one or two chaps who were well known as being very greedy. Said a gentleman one day to the ostler, who had just led out of the yard the horse and trap of one of these penurious old chaps, ‘Did you manage to drag a tip out of him?’ ‘Aye,’ said the ostler, ‘he awlus gi’es ma summat, bud it ommaist brecks his heart ivvery tahm he gans away.’ ‘Yorkshire, are you not?’ questioned the gentleman. ‘Aye, Ah’s Yorkshire hard eneeaf,’ was the characteristic reply. ‘Why,’ said the questioner, with a smile, ‘I am a bit surprised, seeing that you have been here so long, that the whole place doesn’t belong to you.64’ To which, with a twinkle in his eye, the ostler replied, ‘It mebbe wad ’a’e deean afoor noo, if my maister ’edn’t been Yorkshire an’ all.’

A story is told of two Yorkshire Tykes bargaining—of course this was a case of ’when Greek meets Greek.’ Said one, ‘Whya, noo then, John, what diz ta think if wa mak a unseen swap on ’t? Thoo ’ezn’t seen mah meer, an’ Ah ’evn’t seen tha cob; bud Ah knaw ’at thoo awlus leyked t’ meer, an’ Ah’ve awlus ’ed a bit ov a leaning ti t’ cob, an’ wa’ve knawn t’ ane t’ ither foor a lang whahl—noo, what diz ta saay?’ ‘Whya noo, ez thoo sez wa’ve knawn t’ ane t’ ither ivver sen wa war lads, an’ ez thoo ’ezn’t seen t’ cob an’ Ah ’evn’t seen t’ meer, whya, thoo mun ho’d the han’ oot.’ And so the bargain was struck. Then said one to the other, ‘Whya, it’s owered noo. Ther’s neea backing oot fra t’ bargain noo, bud Ah aim ’at thoo war a larl bit ti keen. Thoo sees it’s leyke this: t’ meer’s geean that deead laam, ’at Ah deean’t think ’at sha’ll ivver gan agaan,’ ‘Oha, why, nivver mahnd,’ said the other; ‘t’ cob’s deead altigither, an’ flayed.’

In the preceding five chapters, I have striven to give you some insight into the character of our people. This, however, has not been my only aim. I have endeavoured—and shall continue to do so—to put the dialect in such a way as to be easily mastered by my readers, even should they be strangers to our county.

Please bear in mind that the North and East Ridings dialectically are the same. Certainly some few words have been retained or dropped, as the case may be, in each Riding, but the pronunciation is identical, or at least almost so. These remarks,65 however, do not hold good when applied to the West Riding. Ripon (my native place) and Leeds are not very far distant, only twenty-six miles. Ripon, although in the West Riding, is to all intents dialectically in the North, but by the time you have travelled the twenty-six miles all is changed—you have as it were crossed the line.



Custom and folklore are so interwoven that it is quite impossible to write of them separately. The North Riding to-day is par excellence the home of both. This is easily accounted for. Many of the dales are far removed from the varied influences of the outer world; they are little communities; they belong to themselves. Many of the older people have never seen a locomotive. It is in and about such places the student may gather a rich harvest of folklore, always remembering that any given area is not the whole of the riding, much less of Yorkshire. I mention this because a custom, superstition, or peculiarity of dialect, which may still flourish in one dale, may be quite unknown in some other part of the riding. Bear in mind the riding, within a very few miles, stretches from the North Sea to St. George’s Channel; so it will be readily conceived that over such an extensive area, much of which is sparsely populated and not easy of access, custom and superstition still go hand in hand.

Our greatest observance of custom is, as it should be, in connexion with Christmastide; indeed preparation for the same really commences some weeks in67 advance. There is the pudding to make and partly boil; all the ingredients for the plum-cake to order; the mincemeat to prepare for the mince-pies; the goose to choose from some neighbouring farmer’s stock; the cheese to buy and the wheat to have the hullins beaten off, and to cree, for the all-important frumenty; the yule-cakes or pepper-cake to make; the hollin to gather; the mistletoe and Santa Claus presents to buy for the little folk’s stockings; the old yule log and a new one to see after, as well as the yule candles. Even long before these various duties have been taken in hand, children nightly sing their Christmas carols on our doorstep, reminding us the great event of the year is fast approaching, when peace and good will should be extended to all men. The ’vessel-cups’ (i.e. wassail-cup) still come round, with their doll in a box, decked out as the Virgin Mary, lying in pink cotton-wool and evergreens. Some of these vessel-cups are in their way quite little works of art. I remember (up to the time I left Guisborough five years ago) Lavinia Leather travelled every year all the way from the other side of Leeds, to sing the vessel-cup throughout that part of Cleveland. As my wife had known the old body for many years, we always had a call. There was no mistaking the advent of Christmas, when, after unceremoniously opening the door, the old lady commenced saying,—

God bless t’ maaster of this hoos,
An’ t’ mis-ter-ess also,
An’ all yer lahtle bonny bairns
‘At round yer table go!
Fer it is at this tahm
Straangers travel far an’ near.
Seea Ah wish ya a merry Kessamas
An’ a happy New ‘Ear.

But the days speed on, until there comes a night when the charred remains of last year’s yule log glow with heat intense beneath the one of that year’s cutting; for the new log must always rest upon and be lighted by the old one, which has been carefully stored away for this, the night of nights—Christmas Eve. The lads have kissed the lasses under the mistletoe, fashioned out of two hoops bedecked with holly, oranges, and apples, and with a bunch of the mystic white berries glistening beneath. Every picture-frame, ornament, and everywhere, where a sprig of holly would remain, has had the dark green leaves and red berries thrust into or behind it. The old folk clasp each other’s hands, knowingly nodding their heads the while, ‘for they remember,’ and, remembering, note the flashing eyes and whispered nothings, sweet and low, of those whose horizon for the present is illumined with love, with never a cloud in sight. Shrieks of laughter loud and hilarious from the younger branches ring from basement to roof, almost deafening the ’au’d fau’k,’ but a smile lights up their wrinkled faces as they remember. By-and-by, the magic words uttered by the maid, ‘T’ frummety’s riddy,’ results in a rush for the dining-room or kitchen, as the case may be. But first the yule candle must be lighted by the master of the house. This must be done from a piece of the candle saved from the year previous;69 it too must be lighted from the blaze of the yule log, and on no account must anything be lighted from it. That would be as unlucky as giving or receiving a light on Christmas Day. Next, a cross must be scraped on the top of the uncut cheese, and then, after having wished the guests assembled ‘A merry Christmas,’ the frumenty may be attacked. And very palatable is the creed-wheat when boiled in milk, thickened with ’lithing,’ seasoned with nutmeg and cloves, and sweetened with treacle. After this there are the yule-cakes, one for each person, with a dice of cheese and a glass of mulled ale or hot elder-berry wine.

By-and-by the younger ones are packed off to bed, and with us, as the world over, their stockings are hung at the bed-foot to await the mysterious visit of Santa Claus. It may be the sword-dancers are announced; if so, their quaint performance is gone through, they are served with ’summat to keep ’em warm’ and a few coppers, and they depart for pastures new3. Some maiden mayhap has retired to her chamber with a leaf and a berry plucked from the mistletoe under which she has been saluted. Having locked her door, the berry must be swallowed, whilst on the leaf she will prick the initials of him her heart loves best; this she will stitch in the inside of her corset, so that it rest near her heart, and thus bind his love to her so long as there it remains.

In the early hours of the morning the waits will arrive, and tunefully or otherwise sing ‘Christians,70 awake,’ and, unless precautions are taken to stuff the bell with paper and fasten down the knocker, there will be no sleep after five o’clock; for the children, in their eagerness to catch the early worm, follow one another without a moment’s rest, singing loudly through your key-hole one or other of their Christmas greetings, as—

I wish ya a merry Kessamas
An’ a happy New ‘Ear,
A poss (purse) full o’ money
An’ a barrel full o’ beer,
A good fat pig
‘At’ll sarve ya thruff t’ year,
An’ pleease will ya gi’e ma
My Kessamas box.

Gentle and simple herald Christmas morn4 with kindly greetings, ‘A merry Christmas to you,’ as they pass. And oh the parties, night after night, the games, postman’s knock, hunting the slipper, spinning the trencher, cushion dance, forfeits, &c.! Aye, but we knew how to enjoy ourselves when I was a lad, and in many of our dales to-day Christmas is Christmas still, with all the old observances treasured; aye, and the old old games too. Amidst such scenes one is apt to forget that the hair is turning grey at the sides, and easy to brush on the crown.

The Christmas dinner with its sirloin, turkey, or goose, followed by the rich plum-pudding and mince-pies, in a greater or less degree, is indulged in by all. Go where you may on and after Christmas Day, either71 plum or pepper cake (a rich kind of gingerbread), or spice-cake (a cheaper form of plum-cake) and cheese, will be found upon the sideboard or table. ‘Ya mun ’ev a bit o’ keeak an’ cheese, hooivver,’ say the country folk almost before you are seated. And be it remembered, for every cake and cheese you taste one more happy month is added to your life.

On St. Stephen’s Eve maybe some will pay a visit to the ’coo byre’ in the hope of seeing the oxen kneel, for the quaint notion still lives that on this eve the oxen kneel in their stalls in commemoration of the martyr’s death.

On New Year’s Eve it is customary to eat the remains of the frumenty left from Christmas Eve. This being finished, none other will be made until the festive season comes round again. The older people always watch the old year out and the new year in, which is made known by the ringing of the church bells, and the loud knocking at your door of the ‘first foot or lucky bird.’ This happens immediately on the last stroke of twelve. This first foot to cross your threshold—for none must go out until the first foot has come in—must be a man or boy with dark hair. Such only can bring luck to the household; for should he have light hair, he would not be admitted, for he could only bring dire and disastrous results.

The same clamorous singing as on Christmas Day commences just as early on New Year’s morn, greetings for the new year are as freely given, and the festive season itself lasts pretty well on towards the middle of the month.

The dumb-cake is yet made—of which more here72after—whilst other rites, ceremonies, and charms are still indulged in by the buxom lasses of the riding.

By due observance of certain ritual performed on the eve of St. Agnes, a maiden might have a vision of her future spouse.

Very often, however, difficulties of no light kind had to be overcome, before the ritual could be carried out in its entirety. And in some cases, to my thinking, the maiden would need nerves of iron, and the supple limbs of an acrobat, before she would be able to accomplish the demands made upon her.

Take for example the following, which was given to me by an old lady in Rosedale:—At midnight on the eve of St. Agnes, a maiden must pluck from the grave of a bachelor a blade of grass, walk backward from the grave to the church gate, and then hurry to her bed-chamber. Safely there, she had to lock her door, hanging the key on a nail outside the window, then undress herself; but—and here comes the difficulty—her various garments had to be removed in the same order as they had been put on, that is, that which she had donned first must be taken off first. This must have been a feat requiring great agility and no little patience, exceeding by a long way the task of skinning an eel in the dark. No doubt everything would be worn very loosely that day, and any undue exertion must have rendered such a maid liable any moment to assume the condition of a statue. Of one thing I am absolutely certain: did the maid accomplish the feat so far as her skirts and other items of her apparel are concerned, she would have to sleep with her73 boots on, for her stockings would present a problem which jeers at the senile efforts of the Sphinx. But, having performed the said ritual so far, it only remained for her to wrap the blade of grass in a clean sheet of paper, place it under her pillow, leave a burning candle near the window, and retire to rest, when presently she would see the man who was to be her husband open the window, look in, throw the key into the room, close the window, and depart. Where the chamber was on the ground floor, or ladders were handy, I can well understand this ritual would often succeed.

Maidens, however, may have a vision of their future lord and master(?) without the necessity of almost dislocating their joints. For I find at the present time it is only needful, on the day of the eve of St. Agnes, to fast from the time of rising, only eating a little stale bread and drinking parsley tea. On retiring to rest, remake your bed, putting thereon clean sheets and pillow-cases, remembering to repeat as you lay on each cover the following:—

St. Agnes, I pray unto thee,
I, a maid, would married be,
So thou my husband show to me.

Retire to rest, sleeping by yourself, and you will see the man you will marry in a dream. Should you awake, my advice is—having seen the future husband, get up and have a good supper; parsley tea and stale bread for a day is not satisfying. There are other forms of the same charm, differing only in minor details.

The making of the dumb-cake, however, differs only in one particular throughout the riding. Some74 hold that those engaged in its preparation must stand on something upon which they have never stood before, no two persons standing on a similar thing, e.g. a box-lid, a newspaper, &c. Others altogether ignore this canon in the ritual. Therefore I must leave my fair readers to decide which formula they will adopt, in case they decide to make a dumb-cake for themselves. As to the actual preparation, it must be begun after eleven o’clock p.m. on the eve of St. Agnes, and either three, five, or seven maidens may take part. In the making of a dumb-cake, each must take a handful of flour and lay it on a sheet of clean paper (this must be pretty large), bearing in mind that from the moment the first hand is dipped in the flour, not a word must be uttered whilst the cake-makers remain in that room, or the spell will be broken.

Having each laid a handful of flour on the sheet of paper, all add a small pinch of salt, water being also added, all taking part in working the same into dough, every one kneading and assisting in rolling the same into a thin cake, sufficiently large for each to mark her initials in fairly large letters thereon. All must now lend a hand in lifting it on to a tin, and in carrying it to the fire, in front of which it must be laid. Having seated themselves as far from the fire as possible, each will in turn rise, cross the room, and turn the cake round once—not over, as it must be left the inscribed side uppermost. All this having been accomplished before twelve strikes, remain quietly seated; for, a few minutes after midnight, the husband of the maiden who is to be married first will appear and touch her initials, often leaving his75 fingermark upon the same. So there can be no doubt about it.

Should you have no opportunity of joining others in the preparation of a dumb-cake, you may, if so inclined, on the Friday evening following that of St. Agnes (some say any Friday but Good Friday), have a vision of your future husband by a strict observance of the following:—

Make a flat dough cake about the size of a crown piece; on this prick the initials of the one you secretly love. Next procure three small keys, all different, and make an impression of each on the underside of the cake. On retiring to rest, thread the three keys on the garter of your left leg, wrapping the same about the little cake; stitch this ball to the inside of your nightdress so that it will rest in the centre of your bosom, and you will then dream, either of the man you love, or some other swain. If not of the one you love, then your affections for the present are misplaced.

The days in Holy Week are familiarly known as Collop Monday, Pancake Tuesday, Frutas or Fritters Wednesday, Bloody Thorsday,

An’ Lang Friday ’at’s nivver deean,
Seea lig i’ bed whahl Seterdaay neean.

The usual menu for the week is still pretty much as it was. Collops of bacon and fried eggs on Monday. Pancakes served with either treacle or lemon-juice and sugar on Tuesday. Frutas, or fritters, made from a light kind of tea-cake paste, only much richer in fruit and fried either in lard or butter, on Wednesday; and, with many of humble degree, black puddings on Thursday. Whilst on Friday, fast is kept on any76 frutas which may have been spared from Wednesday’s feast, and there always is a very considerable helping left over.

Paste-egg or Troll-egg5 Day, is now celebrated on Easter Monday, but in days past Easter Day and Paste-egg Day were one. At the present time the last five Sundays of Lent and Easter Day are still called Tid, Mid, Miseray, Carlin’, and Paum, an’ Paste-egg Day. There is some uncertainty as to what Tid and Mid mean, but there can be no doubt that Miseray is a corruption of Miserere, the commencement of one of the psalms ordered to be read during Lent. The whole of the names, however, take us back to mediaeval times, and though some are inclined to think that Tid means ‘Te Deum’ and Mid ‘Mid Lent,’ it seems to me careful research will in time give a more plausible solution. Carling Sunday is still observed in many places, grey peas fried with bacon or in butter being a well-known dish on that day, many even carrying a goodly store about in paper bags. At Great Ayton, and in many parts of Cleveland, Carling Sunday is still fully observed. The same is equally true of Palm Sunday, or, as it is called, ‘Paum Sunda,’ catkins, or lambs’ tails, as they are universally designated, being carried in the hand, thrust in the buttonhole, or worn in the hat, whilst many a mantelpiece and ornament is often tastefully decorated with the same. From noon on Easter Day to noon the following day, an old custom which is now only kept up in remote villages, but which was quite general throughout the riding when I was a lad,77 was that of one or more young fellows seizing a female and forcibly pulling off her shoe, sometimes both, laces being no protection. These were held in bondage until a fine was paid. This very rough proceeding was formerly known as ’buckle-snatching,’ the old name for the theft during the days when buckles were worn. However, if the lads had their good time from the Sunday to Monday’s noon, the lasses did not fail to retaliate from that time until noon on Tuesday. From any hidden corner or doorway, out they rushed, and rarely failed to snatch either a hat, whip, stick, handkerchief, or something, they were not particular what, or to scratching either, generally managing to recuperate themselves for any losses of the day previous. On Easter Monday the bairns hie themselves to some field and roll or troll their hard-boiled eggs dyed in many colours; this lasts until the egg is broken, when the youngsters feed upon the contents. Many of the lads, however, have a much speedier method of either adding to their store of food or losing their egg. They jaup or jarp them together, i.e. one lad strikes his egg against that of his opponent, when one or both are broken; if only one, it is forfeited and becomes the property of the conqueror. Shuttlecock and battledoor is now greatly en evidence with the girls, and knur and spell with the lads. One might well, and with profit, write a chapter on the sequence of games, but such comes hardly within the scope of this work. But here and there a few will be noted when they have attached to them special peculiarities.

There is an old custom, almost dead now. It is78 only in hidden and unfrequented spots that it still survives—I mean ’the wading of the sun.’ It was common enough thirty years ago. The modus operandi was as follows:—As the sun rose on Easter morn, a bucket of water was placed in such a position that the sun was reflected in it. If the sun waded, i.e. glimmered in the water, it would rain that day; but if it kept fine in the morning and rained in the afternoon, then the spring would be fine and the autumn wet, and vice versa. On this morning too the flight of the crows was carefully observed; if they settled near home, instead of flying far afield to feed, the farmer shook his head, for they plainly told him, by so doing, that grub and other pests would sorely afflict his crops that year.

Friday is looked upon as an unlucky day to commence or conclude any undertaking. It is considered unlucky for the first lamb to be dropped on a Friday, to begin sowing or reaping, or to lead the last load on that day. Should the weather be very threatening, instead of finishing leading on the Friday, one stook is very often left, and not brought in until the following day.

Of St. Valentine’s Day we might truly write, ‘Poor St. Valentine! for with thee it is Ichabod.’ No longer do we find shop windows filled with works of art, wrought in silver, lace, and gold; no longer within a coral bower, hung with icicles and rosebuds, is the maiden’s hand clasped or waist encircled; no longer does a pathway of powdered fish-scales lead direct to the little church seen in the far distance, whilst the overfed cupid, who managed to sit on the edge of79 a very thin cloud, must have fallen off and decamped with the couple of skewered hearts which were usually floating at their own sweet will ’mid heaven. Hearts are at a discount now. Fifty years ago, love-making was a very real and somewhat pedantic proceeding; in these days, when time is money, the whole thing has been curtailed. It is—cut the dialogue and come to the bank book.

Why, there was a time, and only a few years ago, when as many pounds were spent on these love tokens as pennies now.

There may be, here and there, a maiden left who, before retiring to rest, splits a holly twig and binds within the split part a small slip of paper, upon which she has written, with her heart’s blood, the name of him she loveth best, and who places the same under her pillow, so that she may dream her fate. There may be, but I doubt it. Their grandmothers did, though.

Valentine’s Day may be dead, but April Fools’ Day is still with us. ‘Makking t’ feeal o’ yan’ is yet common. The last sell I heard of was sending a lad from one place to another for a bucket of steam. I wonder how long ago it is since the first boy was sent for ’a penn’orth o’ strap oil’ or ’a pint ov pigeon’s milk,’ &c., &c.

On Good Friday it is considered impious to dig or plough.

On Good Friday rist thi pleeaf;
Start nowt, end nowt, that’s eneeaf.

Perhaps one of the oldest customs is that in connexion with St. Mark’s Eve. The belief is still held that those who watch the church porch at the hour80 of midnight on that eve, will see pass in front of them and enter the church the spirits of all those friends who will die during the coming year. With some it is held to be a sine qua non that the watcher must sit within the porch; whilst others hold four cross roads to be equally efficacious, always provided that the body of one who had committed suicide, with the orthodox stake driven through the chest, had been buried there, that being the end of suicides in the good old days.

It should be borne in mind that there are two slight penalties attached to this porch or cross-road watching.

Firstly, should the watcher fall asleep, there is every probability of its being the sleep of death. Should he, however, manage to awaken from such a lethargic slumber, it doesn’t amount to much, as he will assuredly die within the next twelve months. Secondly, whoever tries this game once must continue to do so ever afterwards. There is no escape; the spell upon them is said to be too strong to withstand.

Said an old fellow at Carthorpe, ‘Ah nivver watched mysen, bud one James Haw used ti watch t’ deead gan in an’ cum oot o’ Bon’iston Chetch ivvery St. Mark Eve ez it cam roond. He ’ed teea; he war forced tul’t, he c’u’dn’t help hissen; he’d deean it yance, an’ ‘ed ti gan on wi’ ‘t. Aye, an’ he seed t’ sperrits ov all them ’at war gahin ti dee that year, all on ’em dhrissed i’ ther natt’ral cleeas, or else hoo mud he ’a’e kenn’d whau tha war? They all passed cleease tiv him, bud neean on ’em ivver gav’ him a nod, na nowt o’ that soart. Bud,’ added he, almost in a whisper, ‘them ’at duz it yance awlus ’ev ti deea’t;81 tha cann’t ho’d thersens back, they’re forced ti gan ivvery tahm St. Mark’s Eve cums roond. Mun! it’s a despert thing ti ’a’e ti deea, ’coz ya ’a’e ti gan, whahl at t’ last end ya see yersen pass yersen, an’ then ya knaw ’at yer tahm’s cum’d an’ ‘at ya’ll be laid i’ t’ cau’d grund afoor that daay cum twelve-month.’

There was another method of divination very commonly resorted to, known by the name of ’caff riddling’ (chaff riddling). The rite was carried out as follows:—At midnight, with the barn doors thrown wide open, a quantity of chaff had to be riddled, those taking part in the ceremony riddling in turn; should a coffin pass the door whilst any one was working the sieve, that person would die within the year. A story is still current in Malton of a woman who tried the above divination. It would seem, some little time after she had commenced to riddle, two men passed the open doors carrying a coffin, and on those who were with her rushing outside to see where they went, neither men nor coffin were anywhere to be seen. Only the woman saw the coffin. It is on record that she died within the year. The occurrence took place about forty years ago.

Perhaps we are a trifle more superstitious than some other counties, but it must be borne in mind that a wealth of folklore adds great respectability to a genealogy which dates back to times so far remote, that the rites and ceremonies of the religion from which it sprang must now be sought for in the myth-history of other lands.

In connexion with Royal Oak Day took place the82 locking out of the schoolmaster by the scholars, loudly singing, whilst they held the fortress—

It’s Royal Oak daay,
T’ twenty-nahnth o’ Maay,
An’ if ya deean’t gi’e uz hollida
Wa’ll all run awaay.

The above was sung, to the entire satisfaction of the lads, a couple of years ago at Great Ayton. On this day it is customary for every one to display a twig of oak; should any one be so remiss as to walk abroad without sporting an oak-leaf or two, it is quite probable some urchin may give the delinquent a sharp reminder by switching him over the hand with a nettle. And woe betide the lad who is so foolhardy as to venture forth oakless, for in addition to being stung with nettles, he may have to submit to being rubbed over with chalk until he looks very like a miller. It may be mentioned that Royal Oak Day is often called Chalky-back Day.

There are several charms and ceremonies peculiar to Midsummer Eve, the careful observance of which enables a maiden to learn something of what fate may have in store for her. Does she doubt the constancy of her lover, she can satisfy herself once for all, no matter what other folk may say, and in spite of anything she may have seen or imagined herself, by observing the following rite. Certainly the carrying out of the ceremony is a wee bit troublesome, but of what account is trouble when such vital points are at issue as the unmasking of perfidy or the establishment of truth and love? To perform the rite the maiden must proceed as follows:—Pull three hairs from the83 tail of a perfectly black cat, also three from a red cow; gather three leaves of the deadly nightshade, and, having killed a white pigeon, smear each leaf with blood from its heart. Now make three flat parcels, each containing a cat’s hair, a cow’s hair, and a leaf. Next stew the pigeon, saving the gravy. Now make a savoury dish, adding thereto the gravy. The suspected one must be asked to supper on Midsummer Eve, the damsel being careful to place under the tablecloth the three parcels, in such manner that one will lie under his plate, one under the dish containing the gravy, and the third under her own plate. During supper, should her lover find the least fault with any person or thing, he is faithless. If the maiden is very deeply in love, I should advise her to do most of the talking; let it be only a one-course supper, and hurry through with it. The above charm is rarely resorted to now; the several difficulties which have to be overcome before it can be successfully carried out, have almost laid it on one side. But I well remember its being tried years ago by one of our servants, and I have been informed that it was resorted to, inside of the last five years, at a farm-house near Swainby.

Here is another one for the same eve, which is much more widely known, and believed in yet by many. Three maids, unseen by and unknown to any other but themselves, must each gather a sprig of rosemary, and between the hours of eleven and twelve p.m. retire to an upper chamber, lock the door, and from the moment the key is turned not a word must be spoken. Near one end of the room a basin half full of water must be placed, in which each maiden84 has dropped a handful of red-rose leaves; the three sprigs of rosemary must now be laid on the rose leaves; next, fix a line across the room, over which each must throw—not fasten in any way—a chemise of her own make, but which she has never worn. Having thus arranged matters, they must seat themselves as far from the basin as possible, when they will be shortly rewarded, for a few moments after twelve o’clock the husband of each will appear. There can be no doubt about this, because each apparition will seize a sprig of rosemary and sprinkle the chemise of the girl he loves. Nothing could be more convincing than this; now, could there be?

If not yet fully satisfied, they may make another attempt on the eve of St. Mary Magdalene. For this they will have to prepare the following decoction:—Take a wineglassful each of rum, gin, and red wine, a teaspoonful of honey, treacle, and sugar, and the same of vinegar, lemon-juice, and sour oranges; these must be mixed together in some utensil purchased that day, and for which each must pay an equal share. When mixing the ingredients, the following rule must be observed: the first maiden must pour in the spirits and wine, the second the sweets, and the third the sours; this must be done at the hour of midnight. Let each now take a sprig of rosemary, dip it in the liquor, and then carefully stitch the same securely to the bosom of her nightdress; bear in mind you are an old maid for ever if you and your sprig part company during the night. Each in turn must now drink a tablespoonful of the mixture, until every drop is consumed, then jump into bed, all three together, and on falling85 asleep, each maiden will have a dream, the meaning of which cannot be misunderstood. This seems to be quite certain, and there is another thing equally assured—one and all will awake with such a splitting headache in the morning, that they will forswear improvised cold punch for ever afterwards.

It is not within the scope of this work to take note of purely local customs, deeply interesting though they be. Therefore the Vardy dinner at Helmsley, the procession of the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of York at Kilburn, the race up the hill at Askrigg, or the May-pole dances at several other places, and the like, must be passed over.

The mell supper, though lacking much of its pristine glory, is still with us. Mr. Robinson of Carthorpe, and many others in the riding, still keep to the good old ways. The mell supper, i.e. a supper and a dance after the ingathering of the harvest, is exceedingly common, but with its older observances, or at least as many of them as are remembered, is only adhered to here and there. Still, at the present day, something of the old-time doings are to be met with. The last sheaf at Carthorpe, as in Jutland, is called the ’widow,’ and the last load is always led triumphantly home with songs of joy.

In many places it is common for the last few sheaves to be bound together, these being decorated with ribbons and handkerchiefs—the women racing for the ribbons, and the men contending for the handkerchiefs. This, of course, is a survival of the time when the sheaves themselves were run for; and in the days when an additional bushel of grain was a thing86 greatly to be desired, the prize would be not a little coveted. Here and there the mell doll is still made; certainly it is not now bedecked with all the gaudy trappings it was adorned with in days of yore, but often some skilful hand will plait the straw into fantastical shapes, exhibiting considerable artistic taste and skill. When completed, whether it be in the form of a doll6 or that of some other device, it still goes by the name of ’t’ mell doll,’ and is placed in the centre of the barn, round which, by-and-by, the guests will trip on the light fantastic toe.

One characteristic of the mell supper, so far as I know, is now a thing of the past, i.e. the guisers. These were a kind of sword-dancers, who twenty years ago generally came as unbidden guests after the dancing had commenced; as a rule they were accorded a hearty welcome, as they added greatly to the merriment of the evening’s revel, for as the cake and ale went round, the excitement increased, songs and shouting became general, and the dancing something after the nature of a stampede, till at last the uproar was general. It is at such times when age forgets its years, and the young let slip the tether of their youthful spirits, and romp—aye, romp; for the ale is good, the lasses are bonny, ‘slim o’ waist and leet o’ foot.’ It is Yorkshire, all Yorkshire.

The fifth of November, with its bonfires and Guy Fawkes, is as religiously observed in the riding as in any other part of the country. Over a wide area it is the festive occasion on which every good wife bakes87 a store of parkin, its general form being that of a flat cake of gingerbread, the recipe varying according to the means of the house.

In the days when there were no county police, if not wise enough to securely lock up your yard broom, of a certainty it would be stolen; and if ever you did see it again, it would be on the evening of the fifth, soaked with tar, in the hands of some fellow rushing like a mad thing along the street with your property blazing in front of him. I have known of scores of brooms which were stolen—aye, and stolen them myself—but I do not recollect an instance of the thief being prosecuted. No, if you did not secure your broom, it went, and that was very much the end of it. There was more fun running with a stolen besom than a bought one.

Quite an interesting collection of doggerel verses might be given, which the lads in various parts sing when dragging their load of sticks and thorns to the site of the bonfire. I give one, which an old inhabitant of Great Ayton tells me was sung when his grandfather was a boy.

Au’d Grimey sits upon yon hill
Ez black ez onny au’d craw;
He’s gitten on his lang grey coat
Wi’ buttons doon afoor-oor-oor,
Wi’ buttons doon afoor-oor-oor,
Wi’ buttons doon afoor-oor-oor,
He’s gitten on his lang grey coat
Wi’ buttons doon afoor.

Within a week, the young carol-singers will be on your doorstep night after night, reminding you that Christmas is drawing nigh.


A very old custom, but which has now been pretty nigh stamped out by the county policeman, is that of ‘Riding the Stang.’ It is not dead yet, though; I witnessed the stang being ridden as recently as 1891 in Guisborough, and in many of the villages in Wensleydale it is to this day resorted to when considered needful.

The stang is held in wholesome dread by a certain class of evil-doers. Wife-beaters and immoral characters chiefly had and have the benefit of the stang7. Whatever their discovered sin might be, was fully set forth in the stang doggerel. One or two points have to be, or at least are, most carefully observed: (1) The real name of the culprit must not be mentioned. (2) The stang must be ridden in three separate parishes each night; and in many places, to make the proceedings quite legal, it was considered a sine qua non that the stang-master must knock at the door of the man or woman they were holding up to ridicule, and ask for a pocket-piece, i.e. fourpence.

The whole proceeding was carried out as follows:—An effigy made of straw and old clothes, representing the culprit, was bound to a pole8 and set in an upright position in the centre of either a handcart or a small pony cart, in which was seated the stang-master; and following behind were gathered all the ragamuffins of the village, armed with pan lids, tin cans, tin whistles, or anything which could be made to produce a discordant sound. Being ready, the cart89 was drawn in front of the culprit’s house, and after a fearful hubbub, the stang-master cried out, in a sing-song voice,—

Ah tinkle, Ah tinkle, Ah tinkle tang,
It’s nut foor your part ner mah part
‘At Ah rahd the stang,
Bud foor yan Bill Switch whau his weyfe did bang,
Ah tinkle, Ah tinkle, Ah tinkle tang.
He banged her, he banged her, he banged her indeed,
He banged her, he banged her, afoor sha steead need;
Upstairs aback o’ t’ bed
He sairly brayed her whahl sha bled,
Oot o’ t’ hoos on ti t’ green,
Sikan a seet ez nivver war seen,
Ez neean c’u’d think, ez neean c’u’d dream.
Sae Ah gat ma a few cumarades
Ti traal ma aboot;
Sae it’s hip hip hurrah, lads,
Set up a gert shoot,
An’ blaw all yer whistles,
Screeam, rattle, an’ bang
All ’at ivver ya’ve gitten,
Foor Ah ride the stang.

Then, for a few moments, there arose a tumult of sound, to which the wildest ravings of bedlam would seem insignificant.

This performance lasts three nights, and on the third the effigy is burnt in front of the culprit’s house.

Another very old custom, which is now rarely seen, is that of bottle breaking. When a house was ready for the thatch, in later days the tiles, a bottle was suspended by a ribbon from the ridge beam. Stones were then shied at it, and the one who was lucky enough90 to smash the bottle claimed the ribbon. If in days past this custom had anything of an occult nature attached to it, it has long ago been forgotten. In its last days it degenerated into what was considered to be a valid excuse for spending the rest of the day in the village pub. O tempora, O mores!

The daily life of the Guisboreans does not seem to have altered much from the time of Edward VI to the end of last century. In a letter among the Cottonian MSS., the writer, addressing Sir Thomas Chaloner, says, ‘The people bread here (Guisborough) live very longe, if they be a while absent they growe sicklye; they are altogether given to pleasure, scarce any good husband amongst them; Day and Nighte feastinge, making Matches for Horse Races, Dog runninge, or runninge on Foote,’ &c. The above was written about 1550, and we find in 1784 that things were still pretty lively, as the contents of the small hand-bill9 (see next page) fully testify. The contents of another, setting forth the varied attractions of ‘Staithes Feast,’ are also characteristic of the time.


Gisbrough Races.

Saturday, August 14, 1784.

A MATCH between Sir William Foulis’s Ass Colt, Turkey Nab, and Mr. Chaloner’s Ass Colt, Sturdy; Catch-weights, 1l. 1s. play or pay, the last Comer-in to Win. Change of Jockeys, crossing, jostling, and kicking.

A PURSE of SILVER to be run for by Men in Sacks. Crossing and jostling.


A SHIFT to be run for by Ladies. No crossing-and-jostling. No Lady to enter who has won more than one Shift. A Pair of Cotton Stockings for the second Lady; and a Pair of Garters for the third. Free for all Weights and Ages.

⁂ After the Races, A Soap-tail’d PIG will be turn’d out. Whoever throws him over his Shoulder by the Tail is to have him for his own Property.

††† Smoaking, Cudgel-††playing, and other Entertainments.

JOHN HALE, Steward.

‡‡ An Ordinary at the Cock at Gisbrough at Half past Two o‘Clock. The Race to begin at Five o‘Clock.


Staithes Feast.


TUESDAY, JUNE 20, 1797.

When the prizes As advertized Below will be offered to All those skilled in such matters, as well as Divers others not herin stated.


⁂ A fish skin purse contayninge SILVER will be run or rolled for in sacks a man and a boy in each sack. 25 Yrds. Eric Staumer Esq. will adjudge.

††† A 50 Yrds. race. To be run for, A Hood and Cloak, each, for maidens runninge in pairs, the right legge of the one to be fast bound below the knee and at the ancle, to ye left legge of the other10. T. Metcalfe will Bind ye legges and Adjudge.

⁂ A CROWN piece for A MAN and WIFE race, ye wife to be hugged either on the backe, in arms, or by any other device, so as she be lifted clean from ye ground, Husbands with light wives to be put backe. No WHEELBARROWS allowed. Mr. Mat Petch will Adjudge.

The choyce of a sark or petticote offered to the best performance of skille in a Skep and Pole tryal11. Only93 for married women. One clean turn to be mayde.
Thos. Hiltune Esq. will adjudge.

††† A CŌBLE RACE for 1.l. 1.s.

⁂ A LYKE SUM will be gyven to the owners of the best kept CŌBLE. To be equally divided. W. Hymers Esq. WILL adjudge.

††† 2 new CROWN pieces will be gyven to ye maid under 18 yeares who shalle fyrst cleanly bayte 100 hooks. Mr. W. Pickles will adjudge.

Lykewise, Genning throw a Barfan, Smoaking, and other pastimes for ye entertainment of all commers will in nowise be found lacking.
All friends and nighbours are dilligently invited.
This was wrote by I. Storey, schoolmaster.

N.B. This hand-bill was not printed, but most carefully and neatly written.




The old customs and superstitions connected with marriage festivities are perhaps more closely observed here and there in the North Riding than in any other part of Yorkshire. In some parts of Cleveland, I doubt if the bride and bridegroom would consider themselves properly wedded if there were no race for a ribbon or handkerchief. And certainly it would be a most unlucky omen, should any one but the bride cut the first piece from the bride’s cake. But I anticipate—let us commence at the beginning. Very rarely, I imagine, is it that an orthodox proposal is ever made by a Yorkshire lad to the lass of his choice. No, they just ’keep cump’ny t’ ane wi’ t’ t’other.’ ‘Keeping company’ is the Yorkshire idiom for courting; and during that happy time, in days past, were a young fellow ever caught kissing his lady-love whilst a roof was over their heads (i. e. in any one’s house), he was liable—if he did not instantly throw on the table kiss-money—to be ‘pitchered12’ on the spot, i.e. either have a hole burnt through his coat or his buttons cut off. This violent attack on the person of arson and robbery was usually effected by a bevy of damsels.


In time, if all went well, the twain decided to become one; to this end the ’spurrings’ were put in, i.e. the banns were published. This having been accomplished, the couple were said to be ’hanging in the bell-ropes’—no maiden would ever think of attending church during the time she was hanging in the bell-ropes, or to use another expression, ‘whilst she was suffering from a broken leg after having tumm’l’d ower t’ bauk.’

The wedding day having arrived, the happy couple, accompanied by their friends, either proceed two and two, or hire a cab.

Of course the bride is properly garnished for the occasion, and very nice and blushy she looks—that goes without saying. But whatever her toilet may be, one thing is certain—not a speck of blue or green will be found anywhere about her, both colours being considered very unlucky; neither will the wedding take place on a Friday.

Deean’t o’ Friday buy yer ring,
O’ Friday deean’t put t’ spurrings in,
Deean’t wed o’ Friday. Think on o’ this,
Nowther blue ner green mun match her dhriss.

If during the ceremony the sun is obscured for a short time, and then bursts forth shining on the couple, happy will such a bride be. For

Blessed is t’ bride ’at t’ sun shines on,
An’ blessed is t’ deead ’at t’ rain rains on.

Years ago, it was the custom, in many parts of Cleveland, for the bride and bridegroom to leap over a form on leaving the church porch. On this feat being accomplished, a gun was fired, this often being96 charged with feathers. At Guisborough the firing of guns was continued throughout the whole route. And in many parts of Cleveland, meeting the bridal procession with hot pots was common; these were bowls filled with a kind of steaming punch, and as the bridal party were expected to drink from every hot pot, one can well imagine and understand the revelry which so often took place, especially when the hot pots were numerous. Afterwards, these pots were carried from door to door, a plate covered with a saucer being also presented; a gift of money was slipped under the saucer, given to enable the hot pot to be replenished. In the Staithes district, if a guest stepped in any kind of filth on his or her way to the house, on no account would it be wiped off, it being considered very unlucky to do so. I believe, at that time, sanded floors and not carpets were the rule.

On passing through the church gates, the bridegroom usually threw a handful of coppers amongst the crowd. A man now headed the procession, carrying under his arm a young cockerel, which he made continually to ‘skrike oot’; this could only be silenced by the payment of bride’s money. On arriving at the bride’s home, she was met on the doorstep, and presented with a small cake on a plate. A little of this she would eat, throwing the remainder over her head, typical of the hope that they might always have plenty and something to spare. She then handed the plate to her husband; this he threw over his head, their future happiness depending upon its being broken13.


The race for the bride’s garter was a common custom in former times, its possession being held in high esteem, and valued as a potent love charm.

Now, however, the custom has almost fallen into disuse, though within the last five years the ceremony was fully carried out. At one time it was not only a recognized custom, but in most cases special preparation was made for its due observance, the maidens spending no little time and skill in the working of their bridal garters.

Immediately after the plate had been broken, the bride’s attempt to cross the threshold was hindered by the kneeling figure of the winner of the race, claiming the privilege of removing the prize. The bride then raised her skirt whilst he removed the valued trophy14.

As it was the correct thing in those good old days for ladies to raise the skirt quite as high when dancing, and as elaborately worked stockings were worn to be looked at, nothing was thought of lifting the skirt, and nothing would in these days if some lady of title revived the custom. From an old rhyme, I give the following lines:—


Blushing, theer oor Peggy sits
Stitching, fahn stitching,
Luv knots roond her brahdal bands,
Witching, bewitching.
T’ brahd’s maids all mun deea a stitch,
Stitching, fahn stitching,
An’ tha mun binnd it roond her leg15,
Witching, bewitching.
Bud sum bauf16 swain ’at’s soond o’ puff17,
Stitching, fahn stitching,
‘Ll claim his reet ti tak’ it off,
Witching, bewitching.
An’ he aroond his awn luv’s leg,
Stitching, fahn stitching,
‘Ll lap it roond ti binnd his luv,
Witching, bewitching.
Whahl sha sweet maid’ll wear his troth,
Stitching, fahn stitching,
Mahnding each tahm sha taks it off,
Witching, bewitching.
That daay when sha will ’a’e ti wear,
Stitching, fahn stitching,
Nut yan, bud tweea, a brahdal pair,
Witching, bewitching.
Oh, happy day! when sha s’all stitch,
Stitching, fahn stitching,
Her brahdal bands, the wearing which
Mak maids bewitching.

It may be remembered that knights often bound the garter of their lady-love about their sword-hilts.

The following lines evidently were written when the bridal garter was held in greater favour than the ribbon:—



Drink to the Bridal Garter.

Nance is wed ti morn at morn,
High doon a derry O,
Monny a lad ’s this daay ’s forlorn,
High doon a derry O;
Bud cheer up, lads, yer glasses fill,
Fer ivvery Jack ther is a Jill.
Sup off, my bucks, an’ divn’t spill,
An’ maay Ah win her garter O.
Neea prude is Nance; tha saay sha’s maad,
High doon a derry O,
Her brahdal bands ov gowden braad,
High doon a derry O.
Noo fer a ribbon Ah weean’t run,
It gi’es neea luck, an’ stops wer fun,
Sike nimmy nammy waays ’ez sum;
Cum drink ti t’ brahdal garter O.
Here ’s health an’ luck ti t’ brahd ’at darr,
High doon a derry O,
Her brahdal bands baith stitch an’ wear,
High doon a derry O;
Ti them ’at ho’ds a ribbon up
Neean on uz here’ll draan a cup,
Sike healths wa ’evn’t tahm ti sup,
Ov slipshod, undarned stockings O.
T’ brahd ’at darn’t her skets pull up,
High doon a derry O,
Maist leykly is a mucky slut,
High doon a derry O.
Yan best can tell a lass’s waays
Byv what sha wears, ’an what sha saays;
A ribbon gi’en o’ wedding days
Screens mucky undarned stockings O.100
Maay ivvery bonny blushing brahd,
High doon a derry O,
‘Ev nowther muck ner hoals ti hide,
High doon a derry O,
An’ maay sha on her brahdal daay
Pull up her skets, an’ smiling saay,
‘Mah garter’s thahn, tak it, Ah praay,
An’ gi’e ’t ti thi true lovey O.’
Afoor wa pairt fill up each glass,
High doon a derry O,
Let each yan drink tiv his awn lass,
High doon a derry O,
Ti Bessy, Sally, Sue, an’ Peg,
Ti Martha, Mary, Maud, an’ Meg;
An’ here’s ti ivvery shap’ly leg
Roond which a brahdal band diz go.

Originally the ceremony of removing the bridal garter was, as has been said, carried out in a perfectly decorous manner; in time, however, it degenerated into actually stealing the garter by force. This unseemly proceeding possibly arose from the strong opposition and resentment which was felt, and for long demonstrated, whenever the ribbon supplanted the garter.

Why, as recently as 1820, Lady —— 18, a great stickler after old customs, on stepping from her bridal coach, inquired who had won the race. ‘Ah did, my lady,’ answered one of the stable lads. Ascending the steps, her ladyship stepped half over the threshold, calling out to the lad, ‘Come, Tom, and claim your prize,’ adding, as she raised her silken gown, ‘I intend to be properly married and have the luck I am entitled to.’ Then turning to101 the young fellow, smiling, she added, ‘Take it off, Tom, and give it to your sweetheart, and may it bring luck to both of you.’

In Great Ayton the ribbon seems to have supplanted the garter in the early part of this century. In fact it is only the old folks who remember, and can tell you anything concerning the gay and festive doings of those days. But the older custom held its own for long afterwards, and that, too, within a very few miles. But intercommunication between villages has never been a strong feature. Even to-day there is a species of rivalry existing between Stokesley and Great Ayton people, but this is common to all adjacent villages.

It only adds one more proof in support of what has already been said, that the customs, superstitions, and dialect of any given locality, or even that of a whole dale, cannot, and must not, be taken as being that of the whole of the North Riding, much less of Yorkshire.

A case in point may here be mentioned. In days past it was usual in Great Ayton to discharge firearms over the bridal party as they processed both to and from the church. This, however, was by no means the custom throughout Cleveland19. Neither was the firing of the stithy, which I am told was never omitted; i.e. a charge of powder poured into a hole in the anvil, upon which a heavy weight was laid; this, when fired, went off with the report of a cannon. In many places the latter was only resorted to when either objectionable people were united or in the102 case of a forced marriage. In Great Ayton it was done in honour of the occasion.

Much variation exists as to the exact time when the ribbon is to be run for. In some places it is the custom for the racers to stand at the church door, and start off on a signal being given that the ring has been slipped on the bride’s finger. In other localities the race takes place the moment the bride and bridegroom leave the church porch, the one arriving first at the bride’s door being the winner.

In other localities it does not take place until after the wedding feast, and again, often not until evening.

In many places it is customary for the bride to stand as the winning post, holding the ribbon in her hand, the winner not only claiming the prize, but a kiss also. It may be mentioned here that the best man generally claims the first kiss at the conclusion of the ceremony. At Great Ayton and many other places sixty years ago, before the bride left the altar steps the sexton removed her shoe, which was ransomed by the bridegroom. It was, and is still, considered most lucky to rub shoulders with the bridegroom. And until somewhat recently the parson officiating was always expected to kiss the bride. Before railways were so general, and when, as often happened, the honeymoon had to be spent amongst friends within driving distance, or at the bride’s home, ‘throwing the stocking’ at the bride and bridegroom after they had retired to rest was never omitted.

It is a bad omen should the bridal party meet a coffin, or should a cripple cross their path. Had they to pass over a stream, it was usual for both to103 throw something over their shoulder into the stream, saying as they did so, ‘Bad luck cleave to you,’ being very careful not to set eyes on the object again. On an occasion of this kind, should the man wish to be master in his own house, he had better see that he cross the centre of the bridge a little in advance of his bride, or that lady will gain an advantage she will be careful not to undervalue—the husband will have to do the wife’s bidding. It is also considered unlucky to remove the wedding ring before the birth of the first child. Should a bride unfortunately do so, be sure it is the husband who replaces it; on no account must she let another man do so, unless she wishes speedily to become a widow. Before the bride and bridegroom left for their own home, it was common for a kettleful of boiling water to be poured on the front step, upon which the bride stepped, being careful to wet both her shoes. The due observance of this custom ensured another happy marriage being arranged amongst the company there assembled.

When the time arrives for the happy couple to take their departure, either for their own home or the honeymoon, great care must be observed that the husband steps over the threshold in front of his bride, otherwise she will take the lead in all things through life. It would be a great advantage to a lot of men if the wife did step a little in advance. They must also be very careful not to make their exit with the back and front door open at the same time; and on entering their new home, a man must receive them, never a woman, neither must they enter an empty house, as it would result in a lack of friends. The104 belief in open doors, &c., applies to all occasions when leaving or returning home after having spent the night under a strange roof. As the bride leaves the paternal roof, some swain will endeavour to seize her foot. This doubtless is a surviving relic of the time when it was deemed a post of honour to assist the bride into the saddle. It ensures little separation through life if the happy pair, on rising from their bridal couch, take each other by the hand, and slip out of bed, so that their feet touch the floor together; then, still keeping hold of hands, they must cross the room and step outside, as equally as possible.

Whilst the immediate friends enjoyed themselves as guests at the bride’s house, many of their well-wishers adjourned to the nearest hostel and drank their healths with many a glass and catch-song.

One, a kind of catch-verse, was very common a few years ago. Each time it was sung the glasses were drained, some one else being called upon to repeat the song. This had to be done at once, and in the reverse way to the former vocalist, i.e. if the last singer toasted the bridegroom, the next must commence with the bride; did he make a mistake, he had to pay for glasses round.

The Verse.

The brahdgroom’s health we all will sing,
In spite of Turk or Spanish king,
The brahd’s good health we will not pass,
But put them both into one glass.
See, see, see that he drink it all,
See, see, see that he let none fall,
For if he do, he shall drink two,
And so shall the rest of the company do.


Another catch-rhyme must have resulted in innumerable glasses having to be paid for each time it was sung. It was quite an action song, each taking a line in turn, every glass being raised at the commencement of each line, and then replaced, forming a ring round the bride’s garter, which lay in the centre of the table, or a borrowed one doing duty for the time. As each glass had to be lifted on the word DRINK, and tapped against that of its right and left hand neighbour at CHINK, then set on the table again without spilling, some one would have to pay for glasses round. The verse ran:—

Wa lift each glass ti t’ brahdgroom’s health,
Drink, Drink, Drink.
T’ yan ’at slaps pays fer t’ next roond,
Chink, Chink, Chink.
An’ here’s ti t’ brahd, good luck ti t’ lass,
Drink, Drink, Drink.
Wa thruff her band noo pass each glass20,
Wink, Wink, Wink.
Wer liquor will all t’ better seeam,
Chink, Chink, Chink,
When wa call ti mahnd wheer it hez been,
Drink, Drink, Drink.
Bud him ’at trimm’ls, smiles, or slaps (spills),
Chink, Chink, Chink,
Pays fer wer glasses gahin ti t’ taps,
Drink, Drink, Drink.

Quite a collection of these catch-songs might be made; they are all quaint, and if they point to days when things were a trifle different, we must bear in mind that a hundred years hence we shall be pretty severely criticized.



The future of a child greatly depends upon which day it is born.

A Munday’s bairn will grow up fair,
A Tuesday’s yan i’ grace thruff prayer,
A Wednesday’s bairn ’ez monny a paain,
A Tho’sday’s bairn weean’t bahd at heeam.
A Friday’s bairn is good an’ sweet,
A Settherday’s warks frea morn ti neet,
Bud a Sunday’s bairn thruff leyfe is blist
An’ seear i’ t’ end wi’ t’ Saints ti rist.

From the day of its birth to that of its baptism, pepper cake, cheese and wine, or some other cordial, are offered to all those who cross the threshold. No one would think of refusing to ’tak a bite an’ sup,’ to wish the little stranger all the happiness and good luck possible. In many places, the doctor cuts the cake and cheese immediately after the happy event is over, giving a piece to every one present; neither cake nor cheese must have been previously cut into, and what is cut must be divided into just so many pieces as there are friends present, neither more nor less. Should it unfortunately happen the pieces exceed in number that of the guests, it would portend that troubles in this life will be too many to contend against; but should there be not enough pieces to go all round, then the child in after years will lack many of those comforts, the possession of which make life a blessing.

When possible, a new arrival, before being laid by its mother’s side, or even touched by her, is placed in the arms of a maiden. To a boy, this early contact,107 with our highest ideal of earthly purity, gives to him a nobleness of character which in after years will help the world to be better, whilst in the case of a girl she will grow up to be modest and pure in all things. The idea is pretty.

In Cleveland, and some of the dales westward, the notion still prevails that a child should always go up in the world before it goes down; so when it happens that a child is born in the topmost story, in which case it is impossible to carry it into a higher room, the nurse will stand upon the bed with the child in her arms, holding it above the mother, that being a higher position than it held at its birth. After this ceremony it may be safely taken to the lower regions. Were this rite omitted, and the child allowed to descend before it had gone up, failure in life would most likely be the lot of such a one—the tendency of such always being downhill. These little ceremonies, anyway, point a splendid moral. One cannot begin to be good and diligent too early in life.

When a child is born with a mask or caul over its head, good luck will follow it all the days of its life, always provided the caul is properly preserved. There is some rite in the preservation of such, the details of which I have not been able to obtain. Speaking to one old dame, she said to me that she did not rightly know what they did in such cases, none of her children having been fortunate enough to be so distinguished at their birth. This much, however, she did know, that some just dried such a covering by laying it between two layers of muslin, but—and to give her own words—‘Ther’s other some ’at108 ’ev a straange carrying on wi’ sike leyke; they lap it roond t’ Bahble an’ deea summat, bud Ah deean’t knaw what, bud Ah can git ti knaw foor ya.’ That cannot be now; she has crossed the borderland. That such cauls or masks were held in high esteem at one time, is proved by the high prices paid for them, not because they had belonged to people of note or high degree, but because they possessed the power to ward off many evils which might assail the possessor. Sailors even to-day set great store by them: they act as a charm, saving the possessor from drowning in case of a wreck. These veils were much prized by witches, and great was the evil they could work should such ever come into their possession, hence the necessity of using all precautions against their loss.

An old body, Ann Caygill by name—I think she was a native of Bedale—told me the following story. She was seventy-five years of age, and the event took place some twenty years before she was born, but as the individual affected told the story to Ann herself, I have it pretty much from its original source. Jane Herd at her birth had a mask covering both head and face, which, as quite natural in those days, her mother carefully preserved. It turned out to be one of extraordinary power. If Jane laid it on the Bible and wished to see any one, they were bound to put in an appearance. And many other wonders she could work with her caul. Jane, it seems, was a pious girl, and never used it for an evil purpose, though, said my informant, she might have done had she been so minded. One day when Jane was using her mask109 for some rightful purpose, a puff of wind blew it through the open window. Jane of course rushed into the street to recover her treasure, but it was gone, and could not be found; being of such an exceedingly light nature, the wind had carried it no one knew whither.

And from that day Jane’s life became a burden. Her lover grew cold—the wedding day had been arranged, but he declined to carry out his promise—a nasty lump came on her neck, and a fearful pain and swelling attacked her right knee, which made her walk very lame, and indeed she became a perfect wreck. At last things got into such a parlous state with her, that people began to suspect some evil-minded person had found her mask, and was working her evil with it. It was then remembered, when Jane had rushed into the street to recover her lost treasure, that the only person visible at the time was one Molly Cass21, a witch of considerable local repute in those days. But Molly at the time had been so far distant from Jane’s cottage, that she was not even questioned. In the end, Jane had resort to the wise man, or rather men, of that day—Master Sadler and Thomas Spence22, both of Bedale. These two worthies, after many questions, made a sign round the lump as well as round her knee, telling Jane to collect certain things—what these were could not be called to mind—and bring them next day near midnight. These several things having been collected and duly delivered to the charmers, were mixed together, with other ingredients,110 and the whole boiled on a wickenwood fire, and stirred by Jane with a wickenwood stick; near the end of this boiling, a great smoke arose from the pan, which Jane was told to inhale. She did so, but it nearly choked her, still she kept on swallowing mouthful after mouthful, until she had done so nine times; she was then told to cease stirring, but to retain the stick in one hand, the other being laid on the Bible. She had then to repeat the following question: ‘Has—— ’ (here mentioning the name of anyone she suspected) ‘gotten mah caul?’ Then Master Sadler, after a moment’s pause, said, ‘No, she is free.’ Master Spence then joined in with ‘By the power of the Holy Writ and the charm of Hagothet and Arcon23, mention the name of some other person thou doubtest.’ This formula was gone through until the name of Molly Cass was mentioned. Even as the witch’s name was uttered, the pan boiled over, filling the room with such a fearful stench, that all three had to hurry into the yard. So quickly was this accomplished, that they surprised the old witch scrambling off a settle, upon which she had been standing to enable her to peep through a small hole in the shutters. She was instantly seized and thrust into the room, and kept there until so nearly suffocated, that she confessed she had the caul on her person, and promised then and there to deliver it up. On being brought out of the room more dead than alive, she further confessed that she had been forced to run all the way from Leeming—the current belief,111 however, was that she had come astride of a besom—the moment they had put the pan on the wickenwood fire. She begged to be forgiven, but as a punishment she was locked up in a stable, a wicken peg having been driven into the door to prevent her from escaping; and next day, for the diversion of the Bedale inhabitants, she was hurried to the mill dam and duly ducked nine times.


On the Witch Molly Cass.

  .   .   .   .   .
Foor seear sha war a queer au’d lass,
Ez meean ez muck, ez bou’d ez brass;
Ah meean t’ au’d witch, au’d Molly Cass,
‘At lived nigh t’ mill at Leeming.
Noo fooak will clack, Ah’ve heeard ’em saay
At t’ dark o’ neet, when pass’t that waay,
Tha fan’ it ommaist leet ez daay,
Sike leets war awlus gleaming;
An’ sum held ti ’t ’at mair ’an yance
Wiv her feet fra t’ grund they’d seean her prance,
Loup hoos heigh up, wi’ t’ Divil dance.
  .   .   .   .   .

The above would, I believe, be written about the year 1810 by one who wrote under the signature of R. H.24 At that time Molly must have been dead some twenty years, but her deeds would still be remembered by many. Mr. W. Hird, from whom I had the above fragment, told me he used to know the whole piece, which was of considerable length.

But to return to recent times, still keeping to Bedale. I remember a shopkeeper’s wife saying to me, ‘That112 girl has been lucky, but then she had a veil on when she was born, so one need not wonder.’

The case is a simple one, I know, but a straw shows which way the wind blows, and here was the belief still flourishing in the potency of the caul. This happened about twenty years ago. One has no need to go that far back; so recently as four years ago, a man, a native of Great Ayton, said to me, pointing to a girl, ‘Ah’ve putten that lass’s muther intiv a straange stew. Ah’ve stown’ (stolen) t’ lass’s mask, an’ her muther’s ommaist to’n’d t’ hoos upsahd doon latin’ on ’t, bud Ah s’all let her ’ev ’t back agaan; Ah wadn’t keep ’t foor nowt;’ and then he added, ‘An’ Ah wadn’t wark neeabody onny ill wi’ ‘t.’ Here again you have the old belief showing itself as strongly as in days past.

But to return to the baby. The baby’s nails must not be cut during infancy; should they grow inconveniently long, they may be bitten off by the mother, for if they were cut, the child would grow up light-fingered, i.e. a thief. When the child has celebrated its first birthday, they may be properly cut; but here again certain days must be avoided—Fridays and Sundays are considered to be very unlucky. It is a common saying—

Better t’ baan ’ed ne’er been born,
‘An cut its naals on a Sunday morn.

There is no virtue attached to the pieces of the nails when cut, but the first pieces bitten off should be carefully preserved, until there is a scrap from every nail on both hands; these must be wrapped together and buried under an ash-tree, and the child,113 if not freed from the diseases incident to the young, will only have them in a slight degree.

The old rhyme says—

Cut ’em o’ Munday, cut ’em foor health;
Cut ’em o’ Tuesday, cut ’em foor wealth;
Cut ’em o’ Wednesday, cut ’em foor news;
Cut ’em o’ Thorsday, ya cut foor new shoes;
Cut ’em o’ Friday, ya cut ’em foor sorrow;
Cut ’em o’ Seterday, t’ bairn nivver need borrow;
Cut ’em o’ Sunday, ’t ’ed better be deead,
Foor ill-luck an’ evil ’ll lig on its heead.


Sunday clipt, Sunday shorn,
Better t’ bairn ’ed nivver been born.

Before the baby is nine days old it is wise to decide upon its name, and once having done this, so let it be. If either parent should happen to say, ‘We will call it So-and-so,’ do not alter after having so declared, for if so the child will grow up a liar, and probably have to assume several aliases before death. But the worst of all is to decide upon a name before the child is born, and then afterwards change to some other. Singular to say, in Cleveland you are told that such a proceeding ’can end i’ nowt bud harm’; but you are not informed either precisely what form the harm will take, or why. There is a legend lingering still in Wensleydale, to the effect that once a soul was permitted to view the body it would shortly tenant. The mother happened to say whilst the soul was near, ‘When my baby is born, if a boy, we shall have him christened——,’ mentioning the name they had decided114 upon. The soul knew it would be a boy, and on its return to spirit-land gave a full description of the body it was going to have for its companion on earth, mentioning at the same time the name by which it would be known. What then was its dismay to discover, on being carried to the font, that it was being christened by some other name. For a time it was sorely troubled. What must it do? What could it do? In the end it felt there was only one way open: it must hurry back to soul-land and clear itself from an apparent untruth, but in order to do this it must free itself from the body; but if ever the soul and body part company they never meet again. So the baby died, and the soul went back to spirit-land.

The above was given to me years ago by an old Yorkshire dame, who during her girlhood, if not a native, lived for many years in the village of West Burton. In the dales of Cleveland and Wensleydale, to guard her babe from the influence of evil spirits and bad wishes, the mother used to place a Bible under the pillow of the sleeping child, until such time as the infant had been christened, that being considered sufficient protection against all evil spirits. And in the days of witchcraft, in many houses where the first cradle would shortly be tenanted, it was most carefully kept wrong side up until the child was laid in it. This was done so that no other living thing in that house should sleep in it before the coming owner. Otherwise the cradle would be forestalled, and in after years the occupant might have reason to doubt the fidelity of his wife, or vice versa.

In such fear was this forestalling of the cradle held,115 that one was rarely purchased until absolutely needed. A cradle should always be paid for before it crosses the threshold. It is said that the child who sleeps in an unpaid-for cradle will end its days lacking the means to pay for its own coffin, or, as others put it, be too poor to pay for its lodgings on the earth or in it. Should the baby when grown older say ‘Papa’ before he or she utters ‘Mamma,’ then be assured the next little stranger will be a boy; however, should it say ‘Mamma’ first, then it will be a girl; and should it say ‘Papa’ and a girl is born, then be quite sure that it said ‘Mamma’ some little time before, when no one was near. This last bit is mine; I like to help even a superstition out of a difficulty.

If baby’s first tooth appears in the upper jaw, it is not considered a good sign; there is a fear of the child dying in infancy. Sometimes they don’t.

Should the baby be born with a mole on its chin, success is strongly foreshadowed; the same on the left thigh is considered quite the reverse. One on the right temple gives wealth and high position, and one placed at the outside corner of either eye denotes a sudden death. Whilst

A dimple on the chin brings a fortune in,
A dimple on the cheek leaves the fortune for to seek.

No woman ever dreamt of crossing any threshold but her own until after she had been churched, as in doing so she carried ill-luck into every house she entered.

At the baptism, should a boy and a girl be presented at the same time, the boy must always be christened116 first, as otherwise he will play second fiddle to his wife, and when come to man’s estate be for ever beardless and effeminate; and worse than this, the baby girl when grown up will assuredly possess more hair on her face than is usually considered needful, and more than beauty demands. She will also be manly and masculine in her ways and habits.

When the new baby is taken round for inspection, the lady of the house, after passing various eulogiums on and over the small being, pins to its garments a small packet to help the future Lord Chancellor on his way through life. This packet contains three things—an egg, a silver coin, and a pinch of salt: the salt, so that it may never lack the savour of life, whatever that may be; the egg assures it food, raiment, and a roof over its head; and the coin starts it off with a banking account. If these well-wishers were to add a fourth gift, in the form of a small cane, sufficiently hypnotized so that the young mother would be compelled to use it when needed, what a lot of really fine bairns there would be. Unfortunately superstition has never been run on practical lines.


A lack of the needful may compel the parties concerned to wed without the smallest attempt at rural ostentation, but not so in the case of a funeral. Every sacrifice is made to honour the dead. They like it to be said that their loved ones were decently buried. They themselves feel proud to say, ‘Aye, he’s geean; wa’ve gitten him sahded by’ (buried), ‘an’ it war a beautiful funeral; Ah will say that.’


In these days one can scarcely conceive the needless waste of money, and by those too who can ill afford it, which is so lavishly squandered on funeral folly. It was even worse a few years ago.

Had it been possible for the moment to put on one side the solemn fact that some dearly loved one was being borne to his or her last long rest, funerals, as I remember them years ago in Ripon, were more like circus processions than anything else. Happily many of the old notions are being laid aside by the rising generation. Yet often to-day in country places, as far as circumstances will admit, the old order of things is most rigidly observed.

Two years ago I witnessed a country funeral, almost in all the pristine glory of my youthful days. One thing it lacked, the hearse and horses with their sombre nodding plumes. This, be it remembered, was the funeral of a widow’s son, her finances at the time being in anything but a flourishing condition. Two mutes stood guarding the open door. A silk scarf about three yards long was given to each bearer and mourner to fasten round his hat, and a pair of black kid gloves to every one bidden. I cannot say how much port wine was drunk, what it cost per bottle, or the weight of finger biscuits consumed, but as these were freely handed to every one assembled inside and outside the house, who could roll a pocket handkerchief into a ball, and assume a funereal aspect of countenance, considerable expense must have been incurred with these two items alone. After the return from the graveside, there was the funeral feast. Those who have never seen what provision is made for an affair of this118 kind can form but a very poor idea of the actual amount of food provided for and consumed by those who follow as mourners to the graveside. Refreshment is necessary for those who have driven, it may be, a long distance to pay their last respect to the departed one, but in the case of those who live near by, surely it does not need a moment’s thought for them to decide upon the more seemly course to pursue. The old days of the funeral arvel, when almost the whole countryside were bidden, not only to the funeral, but to the funeral feast, have passed away, or nearly so. Even to-day, in many of our dales, the neighbours are still bidden. This bidding, and the very name of it, are both of Scandinavian origin. The order of men carrying men, and women women, is still observed. The same also with the sex of the young; only, in the case of a young maiden, the girls who act as bearers are dressed in white, and the carrying of a garland in front of the coffin is not even yet extinct. At one time these garlands25 were after the funeral hung up in the church, and I believe in some of our dale churches in Cleveland these emblems of purity are to be seen hanging yet.

In the case of women who died in childbirth, a white sheet was thrown over the coffin. The bearing of the coffin either by towels (staves are things of119 the past now) or on the shoulders is equally common in various parts of the riding.

Should the family of the departed one possess a hive, the announcement of a death must at once be made to the bees, and the hive be draped in black. The bees must also have given to them a portion of everything, to the minutest detail, which is offered to the bidden guests, including wine, spirits, tobacco, and pipes; nothing must be omitted, for in some undefined way bees watch over the welfare of those to whom they belong, and it would be unwise to offend them. It is held that if the first swarm following a death, no matter how long the interval, is easy to hive, success is guaranteed for the next business transaction, but should the swarm settle on a dead bough, it foretells death to another of the family in the near future; while should the swarm fly away and be lost, then great care must be exercised in all undertakings, until such times as a swarm has been successfully hived.

It is not so very long ago since every funeral at Guisborough26 was headed by the sexton singing a hymn from the house to the church gates, but this singing by friends is common to-day.

The superstitions connected with the dying and the dead are many and varied. Few country people doubt the existence of a power by which the living can (as they put it) hold back the dying. It is not an uncommon thing to hear some one say, ‘Sha wad ’a’e deed last neet, nobbut Mary wadn’t let her gan,’ or ‘Mary wadn’t gi’e her up,’ or ‘Mary ho’ds on120 tiv her seea.’ It is, as it were, the last link of the chain connecting life with the earthly side of eternity, the snapping of which would for ever free the soul, but which the dying person is unable to break, because some one refuses to be reconciled; they cannot bear to part with them, and in this way hold them back. Again, the soul cannot free itself if the dying person has been laid on a bed containing pigeon feathers, or the feathers of wild birds even. Instances are on record of pigeon feathers having been placed in a small bag, and thrust under dying persons to hold them back, until the arrival of some loved one; but the meeting having taken place, the feathers were withdrawn, and death allowed to enter.

On the other hand, when something unaccountable has seemed to prevent a person in extremis from passing into the other world, pigeon feathers have often been suspected. Under such circumstances the invalid has been lifted out of bed, and either laid upon another one, or seated in a chair. And as a rule death speedily followed either treatment, the patient passing away in an incredibly short space of time, which of course clearly proved that such feathers had inadvertently been mixed with those in the bed.

When the signs of death are observed the windows and door are thrown wide open, and a silence as still as death itself is maintained, so that nothing shall either hinder the dark angel from setting his seal on their loved one, or impede the soul’s flight over the borderland into that of the great unknown.

Much of what is done may be rooted in the rankest superstition, or in many cases long-forgotten pagan rites,121 and one feels inclined to smile; but, after a moment’s consideration, one is forcibly reminded that it is equally deeply rooted in the old belief, which embraces in its faith a devil, a fiery hell, Jonah, whale, and everything. As things go nowadays, theorists are not leaving us much to believe or be superstitious about.

The death-watch, with its ’tick-a-tick,’ has blanched the cheek of many an otherwise brave Yorkshire man and woman. Tell them it is only the head of a small beetle called Atropos tapping against the wood as it eats its way out, and they will jeer at you. They know, as their fore-elders did before them, that it is the sign of death; if not for some one in that house, assuredly so for some one in the village, and by-and-by some one dies, and wise heads are shaken—they knew.

Every care is taken that nothing animate shall pass over the corpse. I never heard of any domestic pet having been killed which so offended, though such at one time would have been the case a little further north.

The belief still lingers that the passing bell possesses the power to drive away all evil spirits, and so prevent them from troubling the soul in its upward flight, for even to-day a sexton, on being asked to ‘ put the bell in,’ is also often urged to do so as speedily as possible.

It is looked upon as a kindly action, when standing by the corpse of some dear one, if the visitor gently touch the same. In some undefined way, this solemn contact of the living with the dead, makes known to the sorrowing ones that nothing but sympathy is felt. By this act all past injuries or misunderstandings, if such existed, are blotted out, forgiven, forgotten.


So soon as the vital spark has left its earthly house, the fire, if such be burning in the room, is immediately extinguished27, and it is not an uncommon thing for the looking-glass to be either draped entirely, turned with its face to the wall, or removed from the room. The omens denoting the near approach of death are many—a white dove fluttering near the window, the rapid flight of birds over the house, and in some instances the actual appearance, to some dearly loved one, of the wraith of the person about to die. Many instances of the latter could be given.

I cannot say when or where the Lyke Wake dirge was sung for the last time in the North Riding, but I remember once talking to an old chap who remembered it being sung over the corpse of a distant relation of his, a native of Kildale. This would be about 1800, and he told me that Lyke Wakes were of rare occurrence then, and only heard of in out-of-the-way places. Doubtless this was so, but a superstition closely connected with the Lyke Wake is still with us. Old people will tell you that after death the soul passes over Whinny Moor, a place full of whins and brambles; and according as the soul when a tenant of the body administered to the wants of others, so would its passage over the dreaded moor be made easy. It seems, according to the old belief, every one ought to give at least one pair of new shoes to some poor person, and as often as means would allow, feed and clothe the needy. Whether these123 rules were faithfully carried out or not, the soul on approaching Whinny Moor would be met by an old man carrying a huge bundle of boots; and if amongst these could be found a pair which the bare-footed soul had given away during life, the old man gave them to the soul to protect its feet whilst crossing the thorny moor.


This yah neet, this yah neet,
Ivvery neet an’ awl (all),
Fire an’ fleet an’ cann’l leet,
An’ Christ tak up thi sowl.
When thoo fra hither gans awaay,
Ivvery neet an’ awl,
Ti Whinny Moor thoo cum’st at last,
An’ Christ tak up thi sowl.
If ivver thoo gav’ owther hosen or shoon,
Ivvery neet an’ awl,
Clap tha doon an’ put ’em on,
An’ Christ tak up thi sowl.
Bud if hosen or shoon thoo nivver ga’ neean,
Ivvery neet an’ awl,
T’ whinnies ’ll prick tha sair ti t’ beean,
An’ Christ tak up thi sowl.
Fra Whinny Moor that thoo mayst pass,
Ivvery neet an’ awl,
Ti t’ Brigg o’ Dreead thoo’ll cum at last,
An’ Christ tak up thi sowl.
If ivver thoo gav’ o’ thi siller an’ gawd,
Ivvery neet an’ awl,
At t’ Brigg o’ Dreead thoo’ll finnd footho’d,
An’ Christ tak up thi sowl.
Bud if o’ siller an’ gawd thoo nivver ga’ neean,
Ivvery neet an’ awl,
Thoo’ll doon, doon tumm’l tiwards Hell fleeams,
An’ Christ tak up thi sowl.
Fra t’ Brigg o’ Dreead ’at thoo mayst pass,
Ivvery neet an’ awl,
Ti t’ fleeams o’ Hell thoo’ll cum at last,
An’ Christ tak up thi sowl.
If ivver thoo gav’ owther bite or sup,
Ivvery neet an’ awl,
T’ fleeams ’ll nivver catch tha up,
An’ Christ tak up thi sowl.
Bud if bite or sup thoo nivver ga’ neean,
Ivvery neet an’ awl,
T’ fleeams ’ll bo’n tha sair ti t’ beean,
An’ Christ tak up thi sowl.

Although there is a place called Whinny Moor, as used in the Lyke Wake song it is mythical, simply representing a wearying hindersome tract of land through which the soul must perforce pass, the ease or difficulty of such passage being lesser or greater according to the good deeds done and alms bestowed during life. There are other versions of the song; the one here given is as it was dictated to me. How the original from which it was taken was worded, I cannot say. There is another version in the North Riding which seems to have been written according to the tenets of Rome; at least I imagine so, as purgatory takes the place of hellish flames, as given above. It may be mentioned that the influence of the Reformation never reached many of the dales in Cleveland and those further westward. Hence the more com125monly known version is in the phraseology of the predominant belief of that time.

Evidently the version given is one of a much later date, and must have been sung by a Protestant.

As to the ‘Brigg o’ Dreead,’ I dare say but little; ‘Fools only rush gaily in where angels fear to tread.’ However, I may venture this far; just as Whinny Moor had to be passed, so the ‘Brigg o’ Dreead’ had to be crossed. Upon one point all authorities agree. Wherever it was, or whatever its form, the Brigg was the real crux. Whether we incline to the theory that it was as narrow as a thread, shaky as an aspen leaf, or slippery as a glacier side, it had to be crossed. This accomplished, the soul was fairly safe. But did it slip or stumble whilst crossing, then the length of time occupied in its fearful descent, the depth to which it fell, together with all the concomitant evils belonging thereto, depended solely upon the amount of good and evil with which it had been accredited during its earthly pilgrimage.



Quite a volume might be written on the above; their number and variety is legion. Therefore in brief only will it be possible to treat many of our omens, &c. To some few of the more striking a few details will be given.

Many of the omens, charms, &c., quoted are in no sense peculiar either to our riding or county. They are with us, they are duly observed, and the belief in them is not wholly dead yet.

To break a looking-glass foreshadows an early death, or great evil in the near future, and for any one (if they have not previously seen or spoken to the person that day) to look over his or her shoulder, so that their reflection is seen in the glass, foretells an untimely death to one or both. Should a hen crow, the reward for its exhibiting such marvellous vocal powers would be immediate death. The old song says (date, the early seventies)—

Than awn a crawing hen,
Ah seeaner wad t’ au’d divil meet,
Hickity O, pickity O, pompolorum jig,
Or breed a whistling lass,
Ah seeaner wad t’ au’d divil treeat,
Hickity O, pickity O, pompolorum jig.
Nowt bud ill-luck ’ll fester wheear
Ther craws an’ whistles sike a pair;
Maay hens an’ wimin breed neea mair,
Pompolorum jig.

A dog howling under your window three nights in succession portends evil or death in the near future. A picture falling, if the glass be broken, speaks clearly of a death in the family at no very distant date; the glass being intact, implies that misfortune of some kind is hanging overhead, but possibly everything may come right in the end.

A strange cat coming to your house, if black, should never be driven away; if you do so, you simply drive luck from your door.

If you are unmarried, be very careful to keep in mind the fact that, having attended three funerals, you must at least be present during part of a wedding service before standing at the graveside of a fourth, or you will die single, unless you are exceedingly rash, and get married in spite of everything.

If you accidentally break anything, it is a good plan to let two other articles of little or no value slip from your hand. This will save you from breaking two other things of value, because you are bound to smash three, and it is really an advantage to be allowed to choose two of them yourself.

Yes, things go by threes. If one death takes place in a street, it won’t be long ere the bell tolls for two others—so say they.

If the youngest daughter in a family is married128 first, the eldest had better unravel one of her garters, knitting the same, mixed with other wool, into something a man can wear. This she must present to the one she has a special regard for, and it most likely will incline his heart towards her. Garters, by-the-way, are rather out of it now; they once were articles in great request, to work charms and spells with, but that was in the days when either a long band with a buckle, or a knitted affair about an inch wide and a yard long, was universally worn. In these days of patent things and other inventions, some of which do not encircle the leg at all, the girls are debarred from resorting to many of the old-time spells. In days past, so long as a fellow wore one of his lady love’s garters round his neck, he was bound to be true to her and she to him. Did a fellow try the same thing now, he would strangle himself. The old-time garters, by-the-way, had other uses; the Bible, a key, and a garter often playing the part of a private detective, or infallibly making known to some doubting maiden the name of the man she would marry. The modus operandi was as follows:—In the case of an undetected thief, a key was placed within the Bible; this was bound securely within by winding a garter round it, the whole being suspended from a nail. The name of the supposed thief was now mentioned three times—in some districts seven—and if the key turned round, the thief was discovered.

Very similar were the rites used for the discovery of a future husband. In this case, however, the maiden wishing to know her fate, had to use one of her own129 garters, and it was also needful that the Bible should be opened at Ruth i. 16, 17. Some part of the key resting on the verses named, the Bible was then closed, and the key as before bound fast with the garter. The questioner and some other person now seated themselves opposite each other, each placing an elbow on a table and resting the open part of the key on their index fingers. All being thus arranged, the names of several of their male acquaintances were mentioned, the key turning on the name of the future husband being uttered. Not long ago the writer helped a maiden through the ceremony. The above, and the two following, are still commonly resorted to.

There is no difficulty in obtaining information touching the time you will be married. Simply let an anxious maiden take a looking-glass, and an apron which she has never worn or held between herself and the light, into the garden when the moon is at full; she must be careful not to look upon the queen of night until the rites are concluded. Keeping her back, then, to the moon, let her stand upon something she has never stood upon before—a newspaper, an old box, anything—and drawing the apron over the glass, hold it so that the moon shines upon it; let her now count the number of moons she sees reflected through the apron, and so many years will it be before the happy day arrives. I may mention, if such a one is in any violent hurry to get married, it is best to choose the apron of some light material, and to draw it tightly over the glass; careful attention to these small details has a marvellous tendency to lessen the number of moons.


Throughout Cleveland the maidens have recourse to the following method of divination for the discovery whether they are to be married or die old maids. From a stream running southward a maiden fills a clean glass with water, and having borrowed an old wedding ring, or one worn by a widow—the ring must grace maternity—she suspends it over the glass of water hanging by a single hair drawn from her own head, her elbow resting on the table and the hair being laid over the ball of the thumb. Should the ring hit the side of the glass, her fate is sealed—she will die an old maid; if, however, it spins round quickly, she will have to wait a year; if slowly, she will be wedded more than once.

It is commonly held that if you can find a four-leaved clover, and then walk backward upstairs to bed, sleeping with the leaf under your pillow, you will dream of the man you will marry.

It is considered most unlucky to see the new moon for the first time through glass. To break the spell cast upon you by such an unfortunate occurrence, make the sign of the cross on the doorstep, and jump backwards over it into the house.

Should a hairy worm cross your path, pick it up, throw it over your shoulder, and wish.

If you tread on an ordinary road beetle, rain will presently fall.

Whenever you hear a cuckoo, turn the money over in your pocket for luck.

To see a single magpie is very unlucky; two together is the reverse.

To see a single owl is also unlucky; but to hear one131 hoot, and then see it, foretells that you will have timely warning of some impending evil.

Wet your finger and cross your left shoe and wish every time you see a piebald horse.

Should two persons utter the same words at the same time, they must link their little fingers together and wish, keeping their wish secret.

The deciduous teeth of a male child, which have not touched the ground, if kept about the person are a specific against all manner of evil.

To ensure the child having a good and sound set of teeth, those which fall out of themselves, or which the child itself pulls out, should be dipped in salt and thrown into the fire.

A tooth found in a churchyard is believed to charm away the toothache if rubbed on the cheek.

And lastly, children’s teeth must either be carefully preserved or utterly destroyed by fire with salt, as should one accidentally be swept away and fall into the ground, or be buried by some evil-minded person, the child will not live long, the first rites of ashes to ashes having been consummated.

No luck will follow a declaration of love if made on St. Dunstan’s Day.

To be wed on St. Thomas’s Day makes a bride a widow ere long.

A young woman, a native of Great Ayton, assured me the following was a certain charm for obtaining a sight of one’s future spouse. The individual desirous of obtaining such a vision must make a cake of the following ingredients:—flour, a small pinch of graveyard mould taken from nine different graves,132 sufficient water from nine distinct sources, a pinch of salt, and a drop or two of blood from her third finger. The resulting dough had to be baked at midnight on the eve before that of St. Agnes, and whilst warm placed under the pillow; if found whole in the morning, well and good; if not, the charm could not be carried to its conclusion until the following year. The cake, if whole, had to be carried on the eve of St. Agnes and laid where four cross roads meet. All being accomplished, just before midnight the future husband or wife would come along, halt, look at the cake, and then vanish. Although the night might be pitch-dark, the apparition, it seems, would be quite visible. Immediately the spirit form vanished, the watcher must regain possession of the cake at once, or the water elves would seize it and work all manner of evil. These water elves keep cropping up, but little of their doings and nothing of their appearance seems to be known amongst our people. It is a bit of lost myth.

During harvest time you may easily discover how long you are destined to wait before being led to the altar. When the moon is at full, pluck three ripe ears of barley, which must be carefully wrapped up together with something belonging to him you love best. The parcel must be laid under your pillow, and on arising in the morning, open it, and if all the grains have remained in situ, then you will be wed that year; but if any have broken away, count how many—they tell how many years you will remain single.

If a young fellow is in love, and the girl’s heart133 does not incline towards him, there is a charm which will cast a spell about her from which she cannot escape. There is a difficulty, and rather a grave one, but love surmounts all things, so they say. He must cut off a willow knot and chew it. So far, it is quite a simple affair; given time, a love-lorn swain might manage to masticate the whole tree. But now comes the difficulty—having chewed the said knot, he must secrete the same in the bed of the girl he loves. Once she falls asleep with that chewed knot as her companion, she will be bound to yield to his importunities. Should, however, the knot be so placed that it causes the fair sleeper such inconvenience that she is compelled to find the cause, and having done so, throws it away, that young man may consider his case as hopeless.

If you can, within three days after becoming engaged, seize a snail by its horns and throw it over your left shoulder, you will to a very considerable extent reduce the roughness of the road which true love is said to journey along.

And remember it is unlucky to say good-night three times to the girl you love, without returning to the house and starting the whole thing over again, but one doesn’t mind that. When parting with friends for any length of time, never say goodbye without adding that you hope to see them again, and never watch the parting ones out of sight—it is most unlucky.

The various nostrums administered, and the methods employed in days past for the cure of all the diseases man is heir to, one cannot help but think, if carefully134 observed, would usually have terminated in a funeral feast. The rank filth our forefathers had prepared for them, and doubtless were induced to swallow, has left behind the unsolvable mystery of accounting for the fact that specimens of the Anglo-Saxon race are still extant. Putting on one side for the moment the wretched stuff they had to swallow, let us turn to a few things usually employed to effect a cure.

If any one was seized with a colic, and colic water was not handy, all that was necessary was for some one to slip out and catch either a carp or a pike, slit the fish open whilst alive, and clap it on the stomach of the sufferer—and lo! a cure. This sounds all very nice, but it has often taken me three days to catch a pike, and carp, by-the-way, are not very widely distributed; and as colic water required for the making thereof nearly every flower which blooms in our woods and gardens, and of two or three others which never do so in ’perfidious Albion’—and when actually all things had been obtained, it could not be properly prepared under nine months—possibly there may have been some other remedy I have not heard of, and which could be applied during the time the pike was being captured, otherwise the patient would often have a lengthy squirm of it.

For pains in the joints, a toad tied belly downwards over the affected part would enable the patient to walk as well as ever. Now this is something sensible; just you find a poor body suffering from pains in the joints, and then produce a toad, and you will work a miracle. Long before you can tie it belly downwards anywhere, the patient, if a female, will be135 beating her best running record; if a male, his joints will be right in an instant, and you will have to take the toad outside, minus dignity.

An old lady tells me she has known a drink made from the following ingredients do a power of good in case of fever:—a handful of dandelion, agrimony, verjuice, rue, powdered crab’s eyes and claws, and yarrow from off a grave. These had to be boiled for some hours, and taken when the moon was on the wane. Doubtless there was another recipe equally efficacious for those who unfortunately were struck down with fever when the moon was on the rise.

The tongue of a still-born calf, if dried and worn so that it touched the spine, would prevent fits of almost any kind.

Wart-charmers are not defunct yet. I know several who, after pronouncing an inaudible incantation, rub the wart with a special stone, and then you are assured the wart or warts will die. Frog spit rubbed on a wart is said to be a certain cure. If you rub your wart with a black snail, sticking the snail on a thorn where you will never see it again, the wart, as the snail dies, will disappear. If you yearn to afflict any one with warts, let them wash in water in which eggs have been boiled. This belief is quite common to-day. A plate of salt, upon which a dead man’s hand has rested overnight, used to be considered good for chilblains.

Master Sadler of Bedale, in the year 1773, undertook the cure of ague in quite a simple way. After the patient had answered a few searching questions touching his past private life—which information136 doubtless he would much rather have kept to himself—his name was chalked at the back of the hob, an incantation pronounced, and he went home whole. I am inclined to the belief that many in these days would have to take the ague back with them. The ague is bad enough, but for a fellow to systematically trot out one’s past doings would be infinitely worse. That was a hundred years ago; but only the other day I was told that if a field-mouse was skinned and made into a small pie and eaten, and the warm skin bound hair-side against the throat, and kept there for nine days, the worst whooping cough ’’at ivver was’ would be cured.

Speaking of whooping cough, I remember a lady at Guisborough, only a few years ago, taking both her boys to the gasworks for them to inhale the fumes from the gas-tank. It nearly poisoned the whole three, but the cough survived it nicely. However, that and the field-mouse were infinitely preferable to the recipe I had from an old dame, who assured me ’no cough o’ no kind whatsoever could stan’ agaan it.’ It was this: equal quantities of hare’s dung and owl’s pellets—the latter are the disgorged remains of feathers, bones, &c., which the owl objects to digest. Well, having carefully mixed these two ingredients with dill-water, clay, and the blood of a white duck, the resulting filth had to be made into pills the size of a nut, three of which had to be taken fasting on going to bed. This was to be continued until the cough was cured or the patient buried. A much simpler method is to catch a frog, open its mouth and cough into it three times, throw the poor brute over your left shoulder, and the137 patient will be cured at once. If not, depend upon it there is some very good reason why the charm has failed. One woman I knew, used to take her little girl and hold her over an old well when a bad fit of coughing seized the child. She declared, if at the time either a frog or a toad happened to be at the bottom of the well with its mouth open, the child would be cured instantly. I offered to catch her a frog and open its mouth for the child to cough into; this she objected to, because, as she said, the frog might spit at it and injure it for life. This belief in the poisonous and spitting power of frogs is still retained by the good people of Great Ayton, and also of many other places. I remember an old angler once saying to me, ‘Ya see, the Lord gav’ t’ fishes understan’ing; tha knaw ’at frogs is venomous, an’ tha’re a gran’ bait foor pike, bud neea pike’ll tak ho’d if ya deean’t run t’ heuk thruff baith ther lips, seea ez tha can’t spit at ’em.’ ‘But,’ said I, ‘how do the pike catch them when they are swimming in a natural state?’ ‘Easy eneeaf,’ answered he; ‘tha tak hodden ’em fra behint, an’ tha can’t spit backkards waay ower ther heeads, ya knaw.’

Still another plan may be tried to ease the little sufferers. If they be passed nine times under the belly and over the back of either a piebald pony or an ass (the latter preferred), the cough will be immediately charmed away, whilst a touch on the larynx from the hand of a seventh son of a seventh son is held to be a certain cure. And a hairy caterpillar or small wood-lizard tied round the child’s neck, having been stitched in a small bag, was, and I believe is yet, looked upon as a sovereign remedy.


Snail soup is drunk even to-day for the cure of consumption. And the skin of an eel (if skinned when alive), placed in a silken bag and worn so as to rest on the chest, is believed to cut phlegm when nothing else will.

To cure the ‘water-springs,’ an old name for acidity or heartburn, old people tell me the following is an infallible cure if taken in time—a very wise proviso—burnt oyster, cockle, and mussel shells ground to powder, equal parts, and mixed in worm-water. This latter was prepared by gathering a handful of worms from the churchyard and boiling them. The burnt shells might do good; ordinary water and chalk would have been equally efficacious, had they but known it.

But nearly every disease or complaint had its cure in days past, and, in a more or less degree, all were nasty.

For the moment let us return to wart-charmers. There is room here for both speculation and research. They did cure warts, of that there is not the least shadow of a doubt. The amount of evidence on record is such that contradiction and disbelief amounts to crass folly, and shows an ignorance of well-authenticated facts. A man I know, whose hand was covered with warts—warts which simply jeered at caustic and all such applications—at last went to the charmer. What did the man do? He simply asked the old chap if he believed he could remove them. Having answered in the affirmative, the charmer just rubbed his hand over the whole lot, muttered some words, and told the warty one to go home—in a139 fortnight’s time he was wartless. Hundreds of cases could be given. Absolute faith that they would disappear, may have exercised some mental action over the physical, and the trick was done. In this way, if we admit some hypnotic power which they unconsciously used, we may account for many of the wonders which these charmers and wise men worked in days past, often bringing about results at which possibly no one was more surprised than the wise men themselves; but they, like many of to-day, had the sense to hold their peace, and that has often dressed many a conjuring trick with all trappings of philosophy.

It is held to-day, when any one is bitten by a dog, that the only certain remedy against hydrophobia is to have the brute killed at once. For, say they, should the dog in years to come go mad, all those bitten by it will go mad at the same time.

The wearing of silver rings made from a single coin presented at Holy Communion, was once held as a sovereign remedy and preventive against epileptic fits.

The cures for children and others afflicted with worms are many and curious. A few of the more striking will be noticed. A bunch of fine yarrow, gathered from off a maiden’s grave, had to be boiled in water, and a wineglassful of the liquor, with the addition of as much finely powdered glass as would lie on a groat, had to be taken fasting for six alternate mornings, bearing in mind that each morning the patient was not fattening himself on corpse yarrow and broken window-panes; he had also to swallow a stiff glass of salts and senna, which140 not only made every kind of worm quit its hold of his inside, but left him in a condition almost, if not quite, ready for the worms to commence their attack from the outside. Worms, however, are seized with such a sudden fear when a live trout is brought near them, that they die right off. Hence it is not an uncommon thing for a father to procure a live trout, and lay the same on the stomach of a wormy one. And then, what with the fish kicking and the bairn screaming, the poor worms have no chance, and they know it, and throw up the sponge accordingly.

In days past cramp seems to have awakened people three or four times a week. But sleeping with your stockings on, with a piece of sulphur in each, or the skin of a mole bound round the left thigh, or even crossing your shoes on retiring to rest, would drive the cramp away. Cramp, it would seem, was formerly looked upon as having a very close connexion with the devil, and was often the result of an evil wish, spell, or witch-work. In cases when it arose from any of the latter, something more potent than sulphur and the crossing of shoes had to be resorted to. A silken thread which had been passed round a coffin, care having been taken to thread the silk through the handles, would, if worn round the leg, just below the knee-joint, securely guard the wearer against wicked spells of that nature.

The skin of an eel, if tied round the leg, prevents cramp whilst bathing.

Rings fashioned from any metal accidentally turned up whilst digging a grave, were until quite recently in great repute, especial virtue being attached to141 one made from a coffin handle. Such rings acted as a charm against almost every kind of evil spell.

Years ago it was commonly believed that there was some kind of sympathy existing between the cause and the injury itself. An illustration of this has been given in the case of a dog-bite, but it had a much wider application; e.g. should any one be injured by a nail, or anything else, the nail, &c., was carefully cleaned, polished, wrapped up, and put away each time after dressing the wound.

I remember a case in point within the last ten years. A plough lad was hurt by the colter, the cutting iron of the plough; the ploughing was stopped, the colter removed, and sent to the blacksmith, with orders to remove all dirt and rust, and to polish all parts to which blood was adhering; and during the recovery, each time the wound was dressed, the colter was cleaned and polished with equal care.

Flint arrow-heads were for ages looked upon as elf-stones, and are to-day worn as charms against unseen evils. They also possess healing power in certain diseases. So, too, do the belemnites—a fossilized portion of an extinct cuttle-fish. These, in the hand of a skilled person, work wonders in the case of sore eyes and ringworm. Unfortunately, though belemnites are common enough, the skilled hands are rare, and so their virtue in thousands of instances lies dormant. These belemnites are supposed to fall from the clouds during a thunderstorm; the same is said of rounded pieces of quartz or flints, one and all being called thunder-bolts, or ’thunner-steeans.’


When a boy, I was an ardent archaeologist. I remember on one occasion having been told that chipped flints were to be found in a field near Blois Hall28. Hurrying thither the first whole holiday, I was fortunate enough on that occasion to find a flint arrow-head—the only one I ever did find. This I showed to an old fellow who was hedging; without hesitation he pronounced it to be an elf-stone, declaring that the elves were evil spirits, who in days past used to throw them at the kie—I had up to that time always been told they were shot at cattle—but my informant stuck to throwing. I well remember that he also said the elves got them out of whirlpools, where they were originally made by the water spirits, but he could not say what the water spirits used them for, though he knew of several instances in which both cattle and horses had been injured by the elves throwing their elf-stones at them. He further informed me that when the elves got them from the whirlpools, they had much longer shanks than was on the one I had found: this was so that better aim might be taken with them. ‘But,’ said he, ‘tha’re nivver fund wi’ lang shanks on, acoz t’ fairies awlus brak ’em off, seea ez t’ elves wadn’t be yabble ti potch ’em at t’ beasts neea mair;’ and he had been told that fairies often wore them as ornaments. Sore eyes could be cured by the touch from an elf-stone, if a fairy had ever worn it, and they were also a potent love-charm if worn so that they rested near the heart.

Speaking of fairies, I know an old lady who still fully believes in their existence. She assures me they143 have most beautiful houses at a great depth below the surface. It seems no one ever finds them, because the little folk possess the magical power of transporting them to a distance in an instant, should there be the least likelihood of their being disturbed; owing to this, ‘Nobody nivver cums across ’em when well-sinking, mining, or owt o’ that soart.’

The old body told me the following story:—

In the days when tailors went out to work, she remembered one who came to work for her aunt being lost for a long time in a big field, and unable to find his way out, and all because he had said, ‘If ever he saw a fairy he would catch her, and take her home, and put her in a bottle and keep her there.’ So it happened, when he left the house to go home, and just when he entered the long pasture, he dropped his scissors, and for long he could not find them, and when he did place his hand on them, his sleeve-board was snatched from him. He heard it drop quite close to him, but when he stooped to pick it up, a pork pie which the farmer’s wife had given him mysteriously disappeared; how, he did not know. However, a little way off, he saw a most beautiful damsel carrying a light; he implored her to come to his aid, and as the damsel and the light would not come to him, like Mahomet he went after them. This proved a most bootless errand, for the damsel and light led him on and on, hither and thither, now shining quite close at hand, then disappearing, and at last vanishing altogether, leaving the tailor utterly lost; and for long the poor fellow wandered about, until his cries for help were fortunately144 heard, ‘bud nut afoor he’d bed aboon tweea hours on ’t.’

That he had been under a fairy charm, and that she (the fairy) had been making sport of him, was evident to all. Never again did that man say he would bottle a fairy—at least, I imagine so. When a sleeve-board, a pair of scissors, and a pork pie are snatched from you, and you see a beautiful damsel carrying a light of some kind, which she snuffs out every time she is going to be caught, only to light up again some yards ahead, and then finally disappear altogether—well! even a tailor can draw his own conclusions after a game of that kind.

The other day I met an old lady in the train—a Mrs. Peary, of Sand Hill Farm, near Picton. Although the old lady told me she was turned seventy-three, she was as active as a woman of forty, and boasted she could do the work of two lasses yet. I soon discovered she possessed a fund of both witch and other lore. Next day I paid a visit to Sand Hill, and had a couple of hours’ chat, or rather, I asked a few leading questions, and then made notes as quickly as I could.

For many years she lived in Bilsdale, her native place. Now, the dale in question is only a few miles distant from the borders of Cleveland, and yet she had never heard of many of the customs so common to that division of the North Riding. ‘Mell suppers,’ she told me, were kept up in Bilsdale in all their pristine glory so lately as twenty years ago—guisers, mell doll, and everything. She did not know the word ‘spurrings,’ meaning putting the banns in. The145 common expression in her part was, and still is, ‘So-and-so ’ev tumm’l’d ower t’ bauk an’ brokken ther legs.’ I fail to see the application.

Again, though it was the custom for the bridesmaids to undress the bride, and see her comfortably into bed, she never remembered a case of stocking throwing, though she had heard of it, or of any attempt to keep the bridegroom amongst the revellers all night. Running for the bride’s garter was common in her mother’s time, but mostly a ribbon in her own. She had never heard of the custom of letting a child go up before it went down, or that it was unlucky to mention what name the child should be christened before its birth.

I mention these facts because it bears out a previous statement, that it is inadvisable to draw conclusions as to the non-existence of customs or superstitions on evidence of a purely local character.

Although much of what the old lady told me was general throughout the riding, the following was new to me.

For whooping cough I was assured that nothing was better than to walk along a road until you found nine frogs; these had to be carried home and made into soup. The patient on no account must see the frogs, or be told of what the soup was composed—a most wise precaution—but on his or her finishing the whole nine, soup and all, they would be found to be quite recovered. It’s marvellous!

Those who suffered from a weak bladder had a remedy at hand: they simply had to stand astride at the head of an open grave, after the coffin had146 been lowered, but before being filled in, and then walk backwards to the foot of the same. It seems simple enough, but when you come to look at it, nine people out of ten, in endeavouring to perform the feat, would assuredly have surprised the onlookers by turning a somersault and landing flat on their backs upon the coffin below.

Again, count your warts, then unknown to any one take a small pebble from as many different graves, put the lot in a small bag, throw it over your left shoulder, and the warts will all disappear in a few days. My old friend would not commence or conclude any business on a Friday, and to break a clock-face was equally as unlucky as breaking a looking-glass. Neither did she ever allow a candle to die out; to do such a thing was, to her way of thinking, equal to passing sentence of death on some one of the household. The cutting of the pepper-cake by the doctor, on the birth of each grandchild, is still rigidly adhered to by the old lady. Being farmers, one ceremony they still observed, which was quite new to me. On the birth of a calf it was always carried rear first to the stall in which it was to lie, a little salt and water was given it to drink, and no one ever allowed to stride over it, as that would mean death or ill-luck to it; but generally ’an ower-stridden cauf deed,’ said she29.

It is a bad sign, when starting on a journey,147 should the first person you meet be a woman. In such fear was this held until quite recently, that the fishermen near Staithes would not have gone to sea that day; neither was it a good omen for a four-footed animal to cross their path when going to their boat, or at any time.

If whilst a fisherman was baiting his nets any one mentioned anything in connexion with a pig, or Dakky, as it was called, the worst of luck would be looked for, and in many cases the fisherman would have ceased to bait his lines for a time.

Again, no fisherwife would dream of winding wool by candle-light—to do such a wicked thing would be tantamount to winding the husband overboard.

Some years ago a young fisherman paid a visit to some relations inland; during his stay he fell in love with a maiden whom in time he took home as his bride. She, new to their ways and beliefs, simply laughed at their superstitions. It happened one night, when her husband was away on a voyage, that a fisherwife looked in for a bit of friendly gossip, and discovered the young wife by candle-light about to wind some wool. She implored her not to do so, telling her of the dreadful and sure result of such wicked folly; others, too, who had also dropped in, joined in declaring what a fearful and certain risk she ran, but it was all of no avail. With a laugh at such nonsense the winder laid the wool over a chair-back, daring them to wait and watch her wind it; but not a woman would stay in the house—they dare not. They fled, and the wool was wound. Three times did the ball slip from148 her hand. When the good wives heard of it, they shook their heads—it was a bad omen, so said they. When the husband returned hearty and well from his voyage, the young wife laughed at them more than ever, but they shook their heads. The ball had slipped from her hand thrice; he might go and return again, it was the third journey they feared. When he was told what his wife had done, his face blanched—if she had no fear, he had. He had been taught the belief all his life, she only, in a way, for five minutes. One more voyage would he make, and then the sea should know him no more; he would not, dare not chance a third voyage. Again he returned safely to his wife, but, as he had said, that was his last voyage. The two set up a little shop, and for three or four years all went well. Then there came a great storm. Volunteers were needed for the lifeboat—few able-bodied men were in the village at the time. For the moment everything was forgotten; Jack jumped in, and off they went, the women helping to launch the brave crew. The wrecked ones were saved, but in getting the last half-drowned wretch into the boat, Jack overbalanced and fell into the foaming sea; nothing could save him, and his body was found lying peacefully on the beach next morning. And then they remembered. Aye, and so should we, had we been taught the same belief when round our mother’s knee. The neighbours were kind—they were more than that, they gave to the sorrowing one all their sympathy—but, in spite of their kindness, the widow felt that they held her guilty of her husband’s death. So the149 little shop was closed, and she went forth from amongst them, and the village knew her no more.

There is a superstition in Cleveland that you must not eat a ’cock’s egg,’ i.e. a small egg, the last one a hen lays before sitting. When such are found, the contents are blown from the shell and burnt—the merest speck of the contents even adhering to the clothes has a baneful influence. The devil is said to superintend the laying of this last egg.

It is considered advisable that a new broom should sweep something into the house before it is used in the contrary direction, otherwise you sweep good luck away from your threshold.

I am told years ago it was considered ’a ventersome thing ti deea’ for any one to speak disparagingly of their broom; the reason given being that no one was ever certain as to whether or no it had been witch-ridden. For should it have happened that a passing witch had one night borrowed their broom for a ride, it became witch-ridden, and was ever afterwards jealously watched over by the witch, and any indignity offered to her steed was sure to be resented.

It is looked upon as a most unwise thing for any one to give salt out of the house. In days past it was supposed to give witches power over the giver. Cases could be mentioned in which the work of the wise man was totally frustrated by such a proceeding.

It is most unlucky to give any one either a knife or any sharp instrument: such folly severs love, and breeds suspicion in the breasts of those who hitherto have held you in sincere regard. You may buy such150 a present by giving something in return for it, and such payment may be of the most trivial kind—a pin, a bit of paper, or anything.

When you discover your shoe-lace is loose, walk nine paces before tying it, otherwise you will tie ill-luck to you for that day.

Should a mouse run across the room, throw something at it, or, anyway, in the direction in which it ran. It may happen to have escaped from a witch’s cat, and you will please either the cat or the witch, or both, by making some kind of pretence to stop it.

It is lucky, and acts as a charm, if you spit on, or place in your mouth, the first money you receive each day. This is common to-day, but I doubt if those who do so know its origin.

Years ago witches were supposed to watch over or, as my informant put it, ‘eye-spell’ the first money paid, and often used to spirit it away. This they were unable to do after it had been placed in the mouth. It has now degenerated into what is vulgarly called ’spitting on ’t fer luck.’ It is quite commonly done in our markets to-day.

A weasel crossing your path is most unlucky: it speaks of treachery. This evil omen may be counteracted by the performance of a very mean trick: drop a coin on the road where you saw the weasel cross, and the evil which was yours by right, will cling to those who are unlucky enough to find it. If there is a tramp behind you, when you see a coin lying, leave it for him; he won’t mind about the ill-luck.

Always pass an old shoe so as to have it on your151 right hand; and don’t move it, lest you should help some unknown person on in the world, which would only be done to the detriment of yourself, for just as much as you advanced them, to that extent you would be the loser. An old hat you may kick about as much as you have a mind, always being careful to see some one has not placed a big stone underneath it—in that case it is always unlucky to kick a hat.

When a child was born, and it proved either unhealthy or deformed, it was generally supposed some evil-disposed person must have pricked its name with pins on a pincushion. When such a discovery was made by an expectant wife, nothing was said to the person working the evil, but the cushion was stolen, the pins withdrawn one by one, and stuck into the heart of a calf. This had to be buried in the churchyard, care being taken to bury it sufficiently deep, so that the dogs would not scratch it up. All this had to be done before the child was born, and by the mother. Such a discovery was made, and a heart stuck with pins and buried, within the last twenty years.

Sores or other evil diseases caused by witchcraft could be speedily cured if attended to when the moon was on the wane. I do not know in what form the application was used, but here are the ingredients as given to me by an old fellow who, though he had never used it, had heard ’’at nowt cud cum up tiv it.’

Tak’ tweea ’at’s red an’ yan ’at’s blake (yellow)
O’ poison berries three,
Three fresh-cull’d blooms o’ Devil’s glut,
An’ a sprig o’ rosemary;
Tak’ henbane, bullace, bumm’lkite,
An’ t’ fluff frev a deead bulrush;
Nahn berries shak’ fra t’ rowan-tree,
An’ nahn fra botterey bush.

To this day there are fisher lasses who wear their chemises wrong side out when their sailor lads are away at sea, and stormy weather threatens.

A friend of mine within the last five years heard a fisher lass say to a group of her friends, ‘Ah deeant leyke t’ leeak o’ yon cloods, an’ t’ winds gittin up; let’s gan yam an’ to’n wer sarks,’ and every one of those who had a loved one on the water promptly did so.

Again, does a maiden fear that her lover is growing cold, she turns her chemise, so as to win back his cooling affections. This, like most other old beliefs, is dying out now. It is rather an undertaking, as fashion goes, for a lass to undress and dress again nowadays.

... Her Jack war on t’ sea,
An’ t’ tuckkins marked her swelling breast,
Fer her sark war to’n’d aboot.



Witch-lore runs so very much in the same groove, that one fairly good example throws light on many points of interest. It was either the evil eye, or the working of some spell, injury to cattle, or surreptitiously riding horses during the midnight hour, an amusement which it would seem witches were very prone to indulge in. Then followed a visit to the wise man, during which he did something, usually winding up on his part with an incantation, or the working of some anti-witch spell by the injured ones on their own account at home.

These charms for destroying the power of witches were numerous; in fact a careless inquirer would be led to the conclusion that every dale of any size possessed its own peculiar charm, but after a little careful research and comparison, such an opinion will be found to be untenable. The difference exists only in detail, nearly all springing from one or two common roots. When and how it came about these varied alterations crept in, is somewhat of a mystery, because one would naturally suppose, where such a vital point was at issue, every word and detail as to manipulation would be most carefully handed154 down. The only solution I can offer—and I do so in all humility—is that these charms had their birth in remote ages. Afterwards local circumstances may have placed almost insuperable difficulties in the way of certain details being carried out; others would then be substituted as nearly approaching to the original as possible, probably by order of the priest or wise man. Add to this the fact that a fable told through long ages in different districts always unconsciously takes a local colouring, and you have a partial solution. Still, if the details differ, they do not run on widely diverging lines; in general they manage to keep fairly parallel, the main essentials being always kept well in sight. Whether animate or inanimate, the thing had to be injured, and then something burnt; midnight was always the time chosen for the final part of the ceremony, seclusion, as far as possible, and absolute silence being necessary. Many of these rites and ceremonies, especially in connexion with witchcraft, consisting as they do of blood, death, and burning by fire, seem to be all that is left us of what may have been in remote ages a propitiatory sacrifice to some pagan god.

Chatting with an old mother one day, she remarked, ‘Aye, things is altered noo. T’ young uns to’n up ther neeases’ (noses) ’at ommaist ivvery thing ’at yan yance thowt an’ did; tha deea nowt bud mak gam o’ yan if yan diz tell ’em owt, seea Ah nivver tells ’em nowt.’ This statement explains much; the old people nowadays do keep their mouths shut. It often happens that after an hour’s chat with some155 grey-headed occupant of the big armchair, you gain more information about the doings of days past than the rest of the household could have given you, were they even willing to do so, because in many cases they have little interest in things which ’happen’d afoor their tahm.’ But, bear in mind, the unsealing of aged lips can only be accomplished when properly approached, and a bond of mutual sympathy has been established; then the lips and hearts will pour forth such a wealth of bygone lore, that you will hardly be able to jot down your notes fast enough.

But to return to my old lady. ‘Why,’ said I, ‘when you were a girl there would be witches, or was that before your time?’ For the benefit of my readers I will give the rest of the story literally, but in standard English. ‘No,’ said she, ‘that it is not. There was one Dolly Makin; I once saw her myself, but she will be dead now, for she was over a hundred then; but my aunt once had a strange bout with her.’ ‘And where did Dolly live?’ I asked, for I had years before heard of this same Dolly Makin. ‘Nay, that’s mair ’an Ah can tell ya,’ said she. ‘And what did she do to your aunt?’ I inquired. ‘Nothing; she only tried to. It was like this. There was one Tom Pickles wanted to keep company with my aunt, but he found out that she had a liking for one William Purkis. It was always thought, when Tommy found this out, that he went to the witch and gave her something to work a spell on my aunt. Anyhow, one night when she had just finished milking, a fortune-teller came up and took hold of her hand, and told her a long story about the carryings-on of William156 Purkis and another lass, and she advised my aunt to take up with Tommy, telling her that things looked very black for her if she did anything else. But my aunt said that she would wed who she liked, and it would not be Tommy. At that the fortune-teller struck the cow with her stick; the cow lashed out and knocked the milk-pail over; my aunt flung the milk-stool at the fortune-teller’s head, but she ducked, and it missed her, and next moment they were one grappling with the other like all that. My aunt, however, was a well-built, strong lass, and after they had fought for a long time, neither gaining an advantage, the fortune-teller screamed out that my aunt had something about her that belonged to the unburied dead, or otherwise she would have mastered her, and had her in her power for ever. “But,” said she, as she walked away, “I have not done with you yet;” and then my aunt saw it was the old witch. My aunt did not know what the witch meant by saying she had something about her that belonged to the unburied dead; but news came next morning that her uncle had died the day before, and it happened that a brooch she was wearing had a bit of his hair in it. It was that which had saved her. It would have been useless trying to overtake the witch when she left her, even on horseback, for she once went from the top of Ingleborough to the top of Whernside at one stride.’ ‘But,’ I ventured to say, ‘it is a long way, that.’ I was not quite sure of the distance, but I knew I was within bounds when I added, ‘It will be quite nine miles.’ For a moment the old lady hesitated; even to her, after making all allowance for157 the witch’s marvellous power, it did seem a prodigious stride. ‘Well,’ she said, with a sigh of relief, as an idea struck her, ‘maybe I am wrong; it would be a leap;’ or, as she put it, ‘mebbe Ah’s wrang; sha wad loup it.’ Again I pointed out that it was an enormous leap. ‘Deean’t ya want her ti ’a’e deean’t?’ (i.e. ‘Don’t you want her to have done it?’) she questioned, losing her temper. And then I had to smooth her ruffled feelings. I knew I was precious near treading on her pet corn, but I wished to see how, as I knew, she would explain away the difficulty. ‘Whya, noo, ez you saay it’s a gertish loup,’ she admitted, and then added, ‘maist leykly sha wad deea ’t iv a hitch, strhad, an’ a jump; onny road, sha did it.’ That being settled, I asked what took place when she herself saw the witch. ‘Nowt, bud summat might ‘ deean.’ And then she explained that one evening, a few months before she was married, she and her sweetheart were walking to Feetham Holme when they saw an old lady sitting on a great stone. It seems she looked that sackless, that her sweetheart burst out laughing. The moment he did that, the old lady sprang to her feet, and almost shrieked, ‘Ya aren’t wed yet,’ and then disappeared. A moment afterwards, however, a black cat sprang across their path, which was a most unlucky omen. My informant could not say what it was, but something told her that the black cat was none other than the old witch. She mentioned none of her fears to her future husband, but the next day she paid a visit to the wise man of Reeth. To him she unburdened herself of all her fears, inquiring what158 would have to be done to break any spell Dolly might work to prevent her marriage. It seems there were only two things the wise man knew of equal to the occasion. One was to tear a piece of cloth from the garment of a man hanging from a gibbet, cut it into nine pieces, and burn them at dead of night, with every door and window not only closed but securely fastened. This she had declared to be quite impossible. Her next chance was to hear the last words of a man just before he was hanged, write the same on nine pieces of paper, stick a pin through each piece, and then burn them at midnight, doors and windows as before. This she thought might be managed. From a copy of the Yorkshire Gazette which came into the dale every week, she learnt that a man was to be hanged at York; so to Settle she went, and thence by the carrier to her destination. She had a cousin living in York, with whom she stayed until after the eventful day. She managed to hear the last words, and carried out all other injunctions, and so, as she said, ‘Dolly nivver c’u’d deea nowt nowther ti me ner onny o’ my bairns.’

It is a well-known fact that witches have a decided aversion to a stone with a hole through it. So one hanging in the house goes a long way towards keeping them outside; and an old horse-shoe, which has been picked up and nailed on the door, has even greater power. Again, any girl, whilst a maiden, who was so fortunate as to find three horse-shoes in one year, if she threw them over her left shoulder, and walked round them three times, being careful to preserve all three, not only she, but when married159 her children, could never be witch-held. This, be it observed, only protected the person, it did not extend to property of any kind.

Dolly Ayre, the Carthorpe witch, died within the ken of many now living. Richard Kirby, an old inhabitant of Carthorpe, gave me the following only a short time ago. I must really give it in his words. Filling his pipe, he began, ‘Aye! Ah ken’d her weel; she yance witched sum coos ov au’d Tommy’s, an’ sha wadn’t tak ’t off.’ I inquired what it was she would not take off, and was promptly informed it was ‘summat sha’d deean tiv ’em: a spell o’ sum soart ’at sha’d warked on ’em.’ Old Tommy, it seems, hurried off to the wise man, Sammy Banks o’ Mickly, who, after Tommy’s story had been told, ‘did summat, an’ Tommy did summat, an’ atween ’em tha baith did summat else ’at completely flustrated Au’d Dolly intiv a cocked hat, bud nut afoor sha’d mannished ti spell t’ leyfe oot o’ yan o’ t’ coos—ya see, iv a waay, sha ’ed t’ fost ho’d.’ On asking what they had done to master Dolly, he replied, with a shake of his head, ‘Naay, noo, Ah deean’t knaw; that war kept a dark secret. All ’at ivver war knawn, war ’at Tommy ’ed driven a peg o’ wickenwood inti summat, an’ ‘at he’d thrussen summat thruff t’ au’d witch’s latch slit, but what it war no man nivver knew, bud it mun ’a’e been summat varra larl, or else he c’u’dn’t ’a’e thrussen ’t thruff, an’ he bo’nt’ (burnt) ‘summat at midneet ’at stank warse ’an nowt. Aye! an’ noo ther war yance a queer thing happen’d at Ness, near Pickhill.’ A man, it seems, took a farm over the head of the then tenant. The man who had160 been so shabbily treated had once done a great kindness to Dolly, though, according to my informant, it was a most risky thing to offer a kindness to a witch, as they might take offence even at that. However, in the case mentioned, the kindness had been graciously accepted. When the new-comers arrived with their goods and chattels, they found written in blood-red writing on every door and shutter, these words, Bad Luck; there was also something written underneath, which no man could make out. ‘Aye,’ said the old man, in words which there was no gainsaying, ‘an’ afoor they’d gitten hauf ther sticks in, doon cam a lahtle bit ov a shelf they’d putten sum pans on, an’ it tumm’l’d reet on t’ top o’ yan o’ ther bairns, an’ killed it wheer it stood, an’ ther’s neea gitting ower that; noo, is theer?’

In this same Carthorpe, years ago, one of the houses was suspected of being witch-held, and everything about the place witch-stricken, and for some time neither land nor beast throve. It happened that one who possessed the power of smelling witches slept for a night under this particular roof. In the morning he said they were quite mistaken in supposing the house was witch-held, declaring that it was haunted. He advised them to prevail upon the parson to shout it down. The then Rector of Burneston, having been seen, kindly undertook the shouting down of the said spirit. To this end he partook of a good meal, rested for an hour, and then betook himself to the farmer’s well. There he read something out of the Prayer Book, which ‘incanted t’ spirit up ti t’ wellsahd,’ and then the parson called out, ‘For ever and for ay,161’ to which the spirit replied, ‘For a year and a day.’ Then the parson at it again, and the spirit did the same, ‘and they baith went at it leyke all that foor ower tweea hoors, bud t’ parson gat t’ last wo’d acoz t’ spirit c’u’dn’t ho’d oot neea langer, an’ seea t’ parson wan t’ battle i’ t’ end, an’ cungled it doon; an’ seea that spirit nivver na mair, at noa tahm, ivver agaan c’u’d cum oot o’ t’ bad pleeace ti wark ill agaan neeabody30.’

For some unexplained reason, witches held in great aversion posthumous children, more especially male children. In fact their malevolence was often made manifest prior to the child’s birth. An old dame gave me the following as having occurred years ago at Kirby Hill, near Boroughbridge. A young couple, recently married, met the witch (Sally Carey) near the Devil’s Arrows. What they had done to gain Sally’s displeasure, legend does not say, but as they passed the old lady she shook her stick, and almost screamed, ‘Ya want a lad, bud Ah’ll mak it a lass’; and sure enough, when the baby arrived, it was a girl. They had hoped it would be a boy, for much future fortune depended upon their having a son and heir. Still they hoped, should they be blest with a further addition, that the next arrival would be a boy. Three or four months after the birth of their daughter, the husband was thrown off his horse and killed.

Some time after the sad event, and late in the evening, Sally knocked at the widow’s door; on its being opened, the old hag screamed, brandishing her stick in the widow’s face, ‘It shan’t be a lad this tahm,162 nowther.’ So terrified was her victim that she fainted, and was found some time afterwards in a doubled-up position and unable to rise. By-and-by, when sufficiently recovered, her friends strongly urged her to pay a visit to the wise man of Aldborough. At last she was prevailed upon to do so, when a supreme effort on his part was made to break the witch’s power. Much of what the wise man did, the old lady had forgotten. All she remembered was that at midnight, with closed doors and windows, a black cat and a black cock bird were roasted to a cinder, on a fire made from boughs of the rowan-tree; a long incantation was also pronounced, of which she could not call to mind a single word, for as she put it, ‘wa war all ti freetened.’ The ’all’ consisted of the widow, my informant—then a maiden—and a mother of seven sons, the trio being necessary for the working of the charm. When the baby was born, it was a boy, but a cripple. Once again the wise man was visited. This time the almost heart-broken mother was assured that, if she remained unwedded for seven years, her son would outlive his weakness, his back would grow straight, and all would be well. This demand was readily complied with. ‘But,’ added the old dame, ‘t’ au’d witch tried all maks an’ manders o’ waays ti git her ti wed. Ah nivver knaw’d a lass seea pesthered wi’ chaps iv all mah leyfe. Sha’ (the witch) ‘war awlus sending some good leyke leeaking chap for ti ’tice her, bud sha kept single, and bested t’ au’d witch i’ t’ end, fer t’ bairn grew up ti be ez straight an’ strang a chap ez yan need wish ti clap yan’s e’es on. Ah mahnd him weel, an’ ther’s nowt aboot that.’


Only the other day I met an old fellow who firmly believed not only in the power of witches, but that they existed at the present day. He held that the evil eye accounted for many mishaps, which ‘fooak c’u’dn’t account for nooadays neea road at all.’ Of witches he had known several, but of fairies he could only speak from hearsay. ‘Nobbut sum fooak,’ explained he, ‘war yabble ti see t’ fairies’; he had never possessed that power; but he continued, ‘Ah’ve knawn fooak ’at ’ez seean ’em monny a tahm, bud that’s years sen noo.’ He had come to the conclusion that as people had got so into the way of saying there were no such things, ‘tha ’ed all ta’en t’ hig, an’ takken thersens fo’ther up t’ dale; bud tha cum back sumtahms ti t’ au’d spots, acoz yan offens sees t’ rings wheear tha’ve danced owerneet. Onnybody can see t’ rings fer thersens if tha nobbut tak ther een aboot wiv ’em; bud,’ said he, emphatically, ‘Ah think ’at tha mun awlus keep ther heead-gear on noo.’ I was given to understand that so long as a fairy kept its cap or bonnet on it was invisible, but this, I think, is a bit of lore gone wrong; he ought to have said, so long as they keep their invisible caps on, &c. This old chap gave me a bit of lore which was quite new to me.

We all know that witches kept a black cat, and as a rule it was a Thomas cat; but if, to work something especially evil, a witch took to keeping a black tabby, she was, by some higher power, compelled to keep that tabby until it had kittens. When this interesting event was about to come off, the said tabby was securely locked up and guarded until the expected164 increase arrived; immediately this happened, the whole lot were drowned. The reason for this hurried departure of mother cat and kitten babies from the land of the living was made quite clear. For had the witch a son when the kittens were born, and any person managed to steal one of the said kittens, the witch from that moment became a ’bustard,’ being bereft of all power to work evil; but if up to that time she had only given birth to girls, she remained a bustard only until a son was born; then all power was restored to her. My informant remembers a witch who was made a bustard of, and who never again regained power to work evil, being too old at the time to dream of having a son.

Perhaps the most widely adopted anti-witch charm was that of sticking a beast’s heart full of pins and roasting the same at midnight, being careful to observe the rule of closed doors and windows, absolute silence, and the refusal to admit any one during the performance of the rite; this, however, will be referred to by-and-by.

I think it must be put on record that witches sometimes did good even if they committed evil to bring it about. To do this, I shall have to step just over the boundary of the North into the West Riding. There was a widow residing in the village of Aldfield, whose son, her only support, lay at death’s door: he, so I was informed, was afflicted with a disease which was consuming his vitals. After the matter had been fully discussed by the neighbours, the consuming of his vitals was pronounced to be the result of a bad wish, the evil eye, or a witch spell, and, according to their verdict, one Nanny Appleby was suspected of165 being the spell-worker. Nanny lived somewhere on the other side of Dalla Moor. This must have been before the days of the wise man of Mickley, or assuredly thither the widow would have gone. It seems that the poor mother screwed up courage to seek Nanny out herself, hoping to appease her—an almost hopeless task. Anyway, early one morning off she set; fortunately she met the old witch before she had completed half her journey.

On being questioned, Nanny swore she was innocent, but declared she knew what ailed the lad, and offered to go back with her and cure him. In much fear and trembling, the widow returned with Nanny, to the astonishment of the whole village. After having been left alone with the young fellow for some little time, Nanny told the weeping mother that her lad was possessed of a devil, which she promised to drive out. By what means she managed to induce the devil to let go his hold ’of the vitals’ is not known; but a terrific fight took place, furniture was smashed and pots were broken, amidst yells Satanic, and Nanny came off victorious. Having got the devil out of the young fellow, the next thing was, what must be done with the little imp? Nanny, however, seems to have been equal to the occasion. Of course such a doubtful customer could not be allowed to roam about at his own sweet will; oh dear no, Nanny would not grant a favour of that kind. The spirit was commanded to enter the body of a certain Tom Moss. Probably she had a spite against Tom; anyway the order seems to have been most promptly obeyed, for within a month166 Tom was found drowned in Grantley Lake. The invalid recovered, and so there is no doubt about anything.

The following witch story unfortunately is wanting in one or two points of interest. I am unable to give the witch’s name, or with certainty her dwelling-place. One or two things, however, tend to the belief that she was the Ayton witch, who flourished about 1750-80. If in this I am correct, she was known as Au’d Nanny; and though a native of Stokesley, she lived for many years in a tumble-down old cottage in the far corner of the green near the mill at Great Ayton.

Though doubtless a terror in her day, nearly all her deeds, like herself, have passed away. Two or three stories are yet told concerning Au’d Nanny, but they are unauthenticated and of doubtful origin. They seem to me most like latter-day ghost stories told to terrify children, with Nanny’s name tacked on to them. They preserve her memory and christian name, and that is all.

One story, however, I had from an old lady whose grandmother once had an encounter with Au’d Nanny. As the story was told to me in that matter-of-fact way which leaves small room for imagination to exploit itself, I have no doubt it was repeated, for my benefit, as her mother or grandmother had told it her years before. The main interest of the story lies in the fact that it contains a witch’s curse, and sets forth the proposition that a witch had the power not only of assuming the form of one recently dead, but could even inhabit the body itself.

To divest the story of much repetition and redun167dancy, it will be better to keep mainly to ordinary English.

It seems that her grandmother lived at Stokesley, and had a cousin living at Kildale, to whom she was deeply attached. This cousin’s name was Martha Sokeld. One day Martha was taken very ill, and sent for her cousin Mary Langstaff to come at once and nurse her. Mary sent word back she would be along directly; so after she had cleaned up and ‘putten things ti reets,’ she put on her hood and shawl and set off to walk to Kildale—‘an’ it’s a goodish step an’ all, Ah can tell ya; an’ ther’s nowt aboot that.’ Well, when Mary had walked above halfway, she saw an old woman ’hoppling alang t’ road.’ It seems there was something about the old lady which struck Mary as curious—‘sha didn’t leyke t’ leeak on her.’ What it was which made her feel certain the old body approaching was none other than ’t’ au’d witch31,’ she never could tell, but such became her conviction. So, to avoid the necessity of speaking to her, she stooped down and commenced to cull flowers from the hedge side. But on the old witch drawing near, she called out in a creaking voice, ‘Thoo’s neea call ti hing thi heead doon i’ that waay. Ah ken tha, Mary Langstaff, reet weel; aye, ez weel ez if thoo ow’d ma summat. Noo, ’t wadn’t ’a’e cossen32 tha mich ti ’a’e passed t’ tahm o’ daay wi’ ma; bud sitha, Ah s‘an’t forgit ti-daay, an’ Ah knaw all ’at thoo off’ns sez aboot ma an’ all; but Ah’ll paay tha168 oot for ’t, Ah’ll paay tha oot for ’t.’ She then banged the ground three times with her stick, and when my informant’s grandmother looked up, the witch had disappeared. The reason why the witch did not do her an injury at that time was easily accounted for—she happened to be wearing in her bosom a bunch of wicken-tree, i.e. mountain ash, berries.

On arriving at her cousin’s, she found her almost recovered. She stayed with her a few days and then returned to Stokesley—this was on a Monday afternoon. Much to her surprise, who should walk in on Wednesday evening but Martha Sokeld. Martha told her she had had another bad bout, and felt she was not going to last long, but before she died she would like to see her sister who lived at Northallerton. She had got a ride so far on the way that afternoon, and then, after a night’s rest, she thought she would be able to go by the carrier to Northallerton. Just then she felt very tired, and thought if Mary would go over to Hannah’s and get her to put some things together which she wished to send to her sister, she could manage to get a nap lying on the settle. She was most pressing that Mary should not hurry back, but stop a good hour, giving as an excuse—she did not wish to be ‘wakken’d efter sha ’ed yance gitten ti sleep.’ Mary went to Hannah’s, but there was a something that made her feel very uneasy—she did not know what it was; ‘an’ i’ t’ end it gat sike a grip on her, ‘at sha left an’ set off yam agaan.’ So that she should not awaken her cousin if she had fallen asleep, she approached the house very quietly; and peeping between the shutters (they did169 not fit very closely), she beheld a sight which made her ’oppen wide baith e’es’—her cousin, instead of being asleep, was sitting in front of a blazing fire, dropping things into a pan ‘an’ saying ower an’ up agaain’—

Fire cum,
Fire gan,
Curling smeeak
Keep oot o’ t’ pan.
Here’s a teead, theer’s a frog,
An’ t’ heart frev a crimson ask;
Here’s a teeath fra t’ heead
O’ yan at’s deead,
‘At nivver gat thruff his task33;
Here’s pricked i’ blood a maiden’s prayer
‘At t’ e’e o’ man maunt see;
It’s pricked reet thruff a yet warm mask,
Lapt aboot a breet green ask,
An’ it’s all foor him an’ thee.
It boils, thoo’ll drink,
He’ll speeak, tho’ll think,
It boils, thoo’ll see,
He’ll speeak, thoo’ll dee.

Something seemed to say to Mary, ‘Sha’s working a curse on thee an’ Tom’ (Tom was her sweetheart). ‘Thoo mun deea summat, or sha’ll mak mischief atween ya.’ So Mary opened the door and walked boldly in. She then told the witch—for by this time she had no doubt her visitor was such—that she had heard all she had said, and seen all she had done. She then took hold of the Bible, and said, ‘Ya mun deea yer warst; Ah ho’d byv this,’ meaning the Bible. No sooner had she said that she had heard and seen all, and declared that she held by the Bible, and dared her to do her170 worst, than the witch turned the pan wrong side up on the fire, and shrieking out, ‘Thoo’s ’scaped ma this tahm, bud Ah’ll mell on tha yet,’ disappeared. Early next morning a man rode over from Kildale, with the news that Martha Sokeld was nowhere to be found, and it was not until three days afterwards that her dead body was discovered on the moor head. The conclusion come to at that time (and which my informant thought most probable) was that the witch had lured Martha on to the moor and then spelled the soul out of her, taking possession of the body herself, and so deceived her grandmother. However, her grandmother lived until she was eighty-five, having brought up a large family; and so, as the old lady put it, ‘Efter that t’ au’d witch ’ed nivver been yabble ti deea owt tiv her; sha aiblins off’ns aim’d ti deea, bud it seeams ’at it nivver cam tiv a heead.’

The following further information regarding Molly Cass, the Leeming witch, of whom mention has been made, was given to me by Abe Braithwaite, a noted character of Bedale twenty-five years ago. Molly, although a native of Exelby, lived for many years in a cottage close to Leeming Mill: some declare in a disused part of the mill itself. Be that as it may, one night whilst the miller, two others, and Abe’s grandfather were playing cards in the mill, George Winterfield (one of the players) had the nine of hearts dealt to him eight times in succession. As the ninth deal was proceeding, one of the players laid a guinea on the table, offering to wager Winterfield that amount to a shilling, that the nine of hearts did not fall to his hand that deal. ‘Put thi brass i’ thi pocket,’ said171 Au’d Molly, popping her head just inside the door; ‘thi brass is nut foor him, an’ his brass is nut foor thee. Put thi brass i’ thi pocket, an’ leeak sharp aboot it.’ So terrified was the owner of the guinea of gaining the ill-will of Molly, that he pocketed his guinea at once. When the last card of the deal fell, and whilst the cards still lay on the table, Molly said, ‘Thoo’s gitten ’t again, George; tak thi han’ up and see,’ and such turned out to be the case. ‘Aye, thoo’s gitten it hard eneeaf, an’ thoo’s had it eight times alriddy; t’ au’d un’s34 i’ tha noo, an’ he’ll nut leeav tha whahl he’s gitten tha altogither. Thoo hed thi chance, an’ thoo wadn’t tak’t, seea Ah’ve potched it inti t’ Swale’ (the name of the river hard by), ‘an’ thoo’ll ’a’e ti gan theer ti late it. T’ Swale’s waiting ti be thi brahdal bed. Thoo’d better gan noo; think on t’ langer thoo waits, an’ t’ langer thoo’ll stay35.’ On hearing this, George, turning as white as chalk, arose, saying, ‘Ah’ll wed her; Ah’ll mak an honest woman on her, if thoo’ll nobbut gi’e ma anuther chance; Ah’ve rewd all ’at Ah’ve deean.’ To which Molly replied, ‘Ah’s nut off’ns i’ t’ mahnd o’ gi’ing onnybody yah chance, let aleean tweea; thoo sez ’at thoo’ll tak her ti thi bed, Ah’ve sed ’at thoo s’all gan tiv hers. Noo, then, gan thi waays; thi brahd’s waiting foor tha, sha’s ligging asleep on a bed o’ bulls an’ segs. Oh, what a brahdal bed! Oh, what a brahdal bed!’ she screamed, banging to the door.

Winterfield left the company, saying he would go172 at once to his old sweetheart and promise to marry her. The night was intensely dark, and whether he missed his way and slipped into the beck, which was much swollen at the time, and his body drifted into the Swale, or whether it was as Molly shouted to him as he left, ‘Good-neet, George, all roads leead ti t’ Swale ti-neet,’ it is impossible to say. One thing, however, is certain—though he joined his old sweetheart, he never saw her again. It was as a corpse the current carried him along, and left his body late that night by the side of her, who, only a few hours before, in a fit of desperation and despair, had confided to the silent waters the whole of her sin and shame. Both bodies were found quite close together, tightly held by the ‘bulls and segs,’ in the backwater where the beck joins the Swale. I well remember, when fishing near the spot late in the evening for eels, an old lady remarking on what she considered my temerity, for she fully believed that any one who ventured near at midnight would see the dead body of a girl, and presently that of a man, float by, both being quite visible until they joined each other in the high seaves and bulrushes.



So far as we have gone, it will be evident to those who read a little between the lines, that mixed up with fact, imagination, and exaggeration, there exists a very considerable amount of respectable myth. But to which of the ancient myths we owe many of the stories told in connexion with our local witches, is often somewhat difficult to determine; but certain it is that nearly all of them possessed the power, so common to those of an earlier date, of changing themselves into some animal, the hare and cat being the favourite forms which they assumed when hard pressed. Very similar stories exhibiting this power are told of the following well-known local witches, all of whom flourished during the present century:—Peggy Flaunders, of Marske-by-the-Sea; Bessy Slack, of West Burton, Wensleydale; Nanny Pearson, of Goathland; the Guisborough witch, Ann Grear; Nan Hardwicke, of Spittal Houses; Au’d Nanny, of Great Ayton; Nanny Howe, of Kildale; and Nanny Newgill, of Broughton and Stokesley. Then there was Dolly Makin and Au’d Mother Stebbins, who seem to have had no regular place of abode, but tramped the country with a few small wares.


Of these and others, pretty much the same stories are told, differing only in slight details. These also bear a very strong resemblance to others current in different parts of Europe, but of much earlier times. Then, too, we have their malicious attacks on the dairy, either in the form of spoiling or purloining the produce, or in surreptitiously milking the cows, though the latter was more prevalent further north, and often practised by the German witches. But in the exercise of the evil eye, and in the committal of all manner of evil acts, our North Riding witches held a position second to none.

Again, the methods used to overcome their power and break their spells, as has been said, runs very much on the same lines throughout Europe.

Peggy Flaunders died in 1835, at the age of eighty-five, and was buried in the churchyard at Marske-by-the-Sea.

Many old people have a lively remembrance of Peggy, with her tall hat and red cloak; and the stories which are told to-day of the pranks she played and the wonders she worked, make us open our eyes with amazement, because we are not listening to the marvellous deeds of some person who lived in mediaeval times, but of one who lived amongst those now living. Do you wish to hear of her doings from one who knew her? then find your way to Boyes Wetherell’s cottage, and have a chat with the old worthy, and you will have such an outpouring of ancient customs, rites, lore, smuggling stories, and the doings of days gone by, together with touches of his own eventful life, as will stock your mind with information175 such as it is only possible to obtain from an original source36.

But of Peggy and her doings.

On one occasion Peggy is said to have cast a spell against one Tom Pearson (who lived on a farm near Marske), and every head of cattle he possessed died. Whether this ruined him or not, is not known, but he left the farm, and his cousin took it. As this cousin crossed the threshold for the first time, Peggy passed by. (This cousin, it seems, had once befriended Peggy.) She called out to him as she passed, ‘Thoo ’ez mah good wishes,’ and with that she turned three times round, threw her cloak on the ground, jumped over it, mumbled something, and walked away, and from that day everything prospered ’awlus wiv him.’

For three weeks in succession, Hannah Rothwell’s butter didn’t come rightly, churn as long as she might; and at the same time Mary Parker, her next-door neighbour, began to get very little milk from her cow. These two old worthies having talked the matter over, decided they would pay a visit to Jonathan Westcott of Upleatham, a wise man of that day37. Jonathan, on hearing what they had to say, declared it was all owing to Peggy’s malice. So far as Mrs. Rothwell was concerned, she was told to return home, scald her churn out three times, first with boiling water, in which a handful of salt had been dissolved; secondly,176 with boiling water in which a handful of wicken-tree berries had been thrown; and, thirdly, with a large amount of plain boiling water. She had also to get two small wickenwood pegs and drive them into each end of the churn, and whilst turning the churn with the last filling of water, she had to repeat, as she pretended to look if the butter was coming,—

This tahm it’s thahn,
T’ next tahm it’s mahn,
An’ mahn foor ivver mair.

This had to be repeated nine times, giving nine turns before repeating the lines, when the churn would be found to be all right. At least it would be quite clean, and that is needful for the making of good butter. The milk case was a much more difficult one to tackle. However, after Jonathan had consulted his almanack, and seen what direction and position the heavenly bodies were in—he was great on the planetary world—he advised the following: first, a good drench38 must be given the cow, followed by gentle exercise; secondly, it was not to be milked to its full yield for nine days, but on the tenth, before seating herself to milk, Mary had to whisper in the cow’s ear, ‘Ah’s milking tha foor Peggy Flaunders.’ The cow would then yield its proper quantity. This pious fraud of deliberately whispering tarradiddles into the cow’s ear had to be continued indefinitely. On the other hand, if after having so whispered Mary drew no more milk than usual, Jonathan declared Peggy had nothing to do with the case, that she would be free from all suspicion of milking the cow at home177 by magic art, and that it was nothing ’neea warse ’an that t’ au’d coo war a larl bit oot o’ fettle, an’ wad mebbins cum roond iv a bit; if nut, sha mud git shut on’t sumhoo.’

On one occasion some sportsmen, coursing in the old close field at the top end of Marske, put up a hare, which was recognized as one the dogs had often tried unsuccessfully to capture. Peggy’s son was one of the company. The lad, it seems, had heard his mother say no hare could escape their black bitch, but he was to be very careful not to mention the fact, and never to slip it at one without her consent. In the excitement the lad disregarded his mother’s commands, and repeated what she had said. The black bitch was slipped, and, after an exciting chase, seized the hare by the haunch just as it was trying to enter Peggy’s worral hole39. On Peggy being examined, teeth-marks were found on a corresponding part of her body.

The Guisborough witch, Jane Grear, was perhaps more widely known than Peggy. She, like Peggy, was bitten by a dog, and bore the marks until the day of her death. She received her injuries when trying to jump through her own key-hole: it must have been either a very small hare she had turned herself into, or she must have owned an abnormally large key-hole; but this is a matter of detail. Whatever Jane may have been like in the decline of her life, in her youthful days she must have been quite a good-looking girl.178 There are two old rhymes still remembered, one of which tells of her various charms, perhaps a little too freely. So much into detail does it go, that only a few lines can possibly be given. The second recounts a mighty hunt which once took place.

Plump ez a suker40 war Jinny when young,
Wi’ t’ waast an’ t’ bust[41] ov a queen;
T’ gallants an’ t’ bucks did all on ’em sweear
Sha beeat owt ’at ivver tha’d seen.
Her hair it war black ez an au’d raven wing,
An’ breet war t’ glint ov her een;
Neea kerchief hauf hid sike an ivory breast41,
Whahl her throat wad ’a’e deean foor a queen;
An’ larl war her feet, an’ trim war her waast,
An’ reead ez a roaze war her lips,
Whahl her cheeks egg’d yan on for ti steeal a sly kiss,
An’ shaply an’ roond war her hips.

An’ when, tripping ti music, sha pulled up her goon,
Tweea feet war nivver mair nim (nimble);
Her ankles an’ buckles fair ’wildered yan’s seet,
An’ seea, mun, did t’ shap ov each limb.
Bud noo ’at Ah’s au’d, Ah finnd ’at sha’s t’ seeam.
Her charms ’ev all swithered awaay;
Sha ’s ugly ez muck, wi’ black blood iv her heart.
Au’d Scrat’s42 bowt her sowl, seea tha saay.

It would seem that Jane, like Peggy, occasionally afforded sportsmen a good run; at least, so the following would lead us to believe. But here, again, much has had to be suppressed, being unfit for publication. The lines, however, which are given are valuable, show179ing as they do that several old customs were quite common at the time—about 1820, I should imagine.

Fra t’ Applegarth, ti Slapewath slack,
Wi’oot a rist i’ seet all t’ waay,
Sha (the hare) teeak uz roond byv t’ alum warks
Ti Aisdale gaate, an’ gat awaay.

Wa knocked at Tom’s, bud he warn’t up;
Bud then, it’s t’ seeam wiv all. Besahd,
Yan may loup up ti cauv a coo,
Bud finnd t’ bed pull ti leeave a brahd.

Wa drank ther healths at Jack’s belaw,
Wa wished em weel, an’ soup’d wer beer,
All hoaping when tha did git up
Tha wad tigither loup on t’ fleear43.

Jack leeaked bit dazed, an’ hauf asleep;
Bud then, he’s a fair Tyke wi’ t’ lasses.
He cuddles, kisses, drinks wiv all;
Neea hot pot ivver by him passes.

T’ race he’d won, an’ t’ brahd he’d kissed,
On t’ thresho’d knelt, her garter gitten,
Fra snowy breasts ther kerchiefs stown,
Then wi’ ther budding charms war smitten.

Again they put up the hare, and the old dog gave chase.

Fra Scaling dyke ti Wapley end,
Thruff Tommy44 geese an’ Mary44 stee,
Alang t’ au’d to’npike, here then theer
That witched hare alang did flee.180
Neea cleeaser did wa ivver git,
Neea gerter leead it ivver teeak;
Ten yards i’ front o’ Billy bitch—
Fra t’ fost it seeam’d a narrer squeeak.
At last ’mang heather, brackken, whin,
Lang stanghow bru’, wi’ hosses blawn,
An’ Billy bitch wi’ tongue loll’d oot,
Fair beeaten it war fain ti awn.
Just when, wi’ yah gert loup, t’ bitch thowt
Ti grab t’ hare haunch, t’ poor spent au’d bitch
Fan nowt ti snap at; t’ hare ’ed geean.
An’ then wa kenn’d wa’d hunted t’ witch45.

I know a very similar set of verses exist, telling of a wonderful run after a hare in connexion with Bilsdale and that district. But the language, in fact the whole tone of the rhyme, is much too loose for the publication of any part of it.

A word here explaining what is meant by witches milking cows may not be out of place. It has been mentioned that Peggy Flaunders was thought to have drawn the milk from one Mary Parker’s cow. How or by what means, deponent sayeth not, but one Ann Allan, of Ugthorpe, who kept pigs, was almost caught in the act. This was about 1780, and as Ann’s procedure was run on much the same lines as the most respectable witches used some hundreds of years before her time, we may take hers as a typical example.

Not one, but three or four Ugthorpe cows ceased to give their usual quantity of milk. Of course the villagers talked, and at last the priest was visited;181 but a hundred years ago many of the clergy, both of Rome and the Church of England, so far as learning was concerned, would have been knocked into a cocked hat by a Primitive Methodist local brother of these days. So it will be readily conceived the visit to the priest resulted in very little good. He declared the devil had got hold of the defaulting cows by the tail, and this made them hold their milk back; he further assured them the only way to get the devil to let go was to say three pater nosters and Ave Marias over their milk-pails, and to subscribe a certain sum, which had to be paid to him, to celebrate a mass to Saint somebody, who would send a holy angel to frighten the devil away. Now, I know nothing about doctoring cows, but I am inclined to the belief that old Jonathan Westcott, of Upleatham, was much nearer effecting a cure, when he ordered an aperient draught, to be followed by gentle exercise, than prayers muttered inside any number of milk-cans.

I believe the good people of that day would have fallen in with the prayers, but they drew a hard and fast line when the collection box obtruded itself. They returned home dissatisfied. They were losing their milk—that they could not help; but they could prevent their pockets being dipped into, and they did. Another meeting was held, and a watch was set on Ann, but nothing came of it. At last a neighbour’s cow dried up altogether. At this the good man was so exasperated, that he went to Ann’s and boldly accused her of milking the cows. Words ran high, till in the end he seized a three-legged stool, intending to hurl182 it at Ann’s head, when, lo! a curious thing happened—as he gripped the leg of the stool, a stream of milk ran from it. The neighbours, who by this time had flocked round the door, cried out with one voice: ‘Thoo’s gitten ’t; that’s what sha milks wer coos wi’.’ And sure enough such was found to be the case. On the name of any neighbour’s cow being mentioned, and a leg of the stool handled as in milking, a fine stream of milk came from it, and the bag of that individual’s cow was found on examination to have shrunk. No wonder she had fat pigs, when she could give them new milk in any quantity and from any one’s cow she liked to name. Such a stool was not a fit piece of furniture for any one to possess, so it was publicly burnt on the moor just beyond the high end of the village, near to where the windmill stands. Ann was ordered to walk three times from one end of the village to the other, clothed in nothing but her sark46, i.e. chemise. The Godivan rule, which compelled every one to keep within doors during the time of penance, seems (so far as Ugthorpe was concerned) to have been absolutely reversed—they were all there, even down to the babies in arms. From all accounts, Ugthorpe has never had quite such a lively time since. Before judging the people and the ways of that time as altogether too idiotic, indecent, and unjust, it is as well to bear in mind that every age has its curious idiosyncrasies. In 1898 affiliation cases are heard in open court; a man may nearly kick the life out of his wife with a pair of clogs at a small183 outlay of about seven-and-six; but stealing a turnip necessitates a low form of diet, and enforced seclusion for three months. These masterpieces of our time will bring a smile to faces yet unborn.

Nan Hardwicke’s fame at one time was great, and her name and deeds still live in many of the Cleveland dales. I remember once being driven to Westerdale by an old chap, who gave me the following story. I think the circumstance occurred to his father, and not himself—on this point my notes are silent, anyway. Either his mother or his wife was expecting the advent of a new baby, and the expectant mother’s sister had to be sent for, to some place about five miles distant. That afternoon Nan Hardwicke called as she was passing (she must have been some miles from home), and asked for ’a shive o’ breead an’ a pot o’ beer,’ which were given her. Nan let them know she was aware of all that was about to transpire. Finishing her food, she opened the door of the room where the wife was lying, and poking her head inside, said, ‘Ah wish ya weell; ya’ll ’ev a lad afoor morning, an’ ya’ll call him Tommy, weean’t ya?’ ‘Whya, wa ’a’e made up wer mahnds ti call him John,’ replied the wife. ‘Aye, mebbe, bud ya’d best call him Tommy; an’ thanking ya, Ah’ll be saying good-daay ti ya.’ And with that she closed the door and departed. The husband, on being made acquainted with the witch’s request, declared that nothing of the sort should happen—John they had decided to call the bairn, and John it should be—he dare not run the risk of changing its name then. About six o’clock that evening the husband put his horse in the gig, or whatever he184 had, and drove away to bring back the sister-in-law. About three miles on the journey, he had to cross a small bridge, but when within twenty or thirty yards of it, the horse stopped, and could not be persuaded to move a step further. The good man at last decided to get out and lead the mare over, but in this he was wrong. Much to his amazement, he discovered he could not leave his seat—he was ‘ez fast ez owt.’ Vainly did he strive, but it was of no use. At last he came to the conclusion that a spell was on them both, so he called out, ‘Noo, Nan, what’s ti eftther? this is thi wark.’ Immediately he heard Nan commence to laugh, and then she shouted, but he did not know where the voice came from, ‘Thoo’ll call t’ bairn Tommy, weean’t ta?’ The husband was desperately bold for those days, for he shouted, ‘Neea, Ah weean’t, nowther foor thoo na all t’ Nan divils i’ t’ country.’ ‘Then thoo’ll bahd wheer thoo is, whahl t’ bairn’s born an’ t’ muther dees,’ croaked Nan. This, in its way, was a bit of a clincher, to sit stuck fast in a gig, neither able to proceed nor get out, at a time too when all speed was necessary; add to this a sinister threat of immediate death of the one he most loved, unless he consented to christen an unborn child Tommy, when he had decided to name it Johnny, and with a feeling at the bottom of his heart that there was a margin for uncertainty, and that after all it might happen to be a girl. Taking all these things into consideration, was it to be wondered that he gave way, and swore the child, if a boy, should be christened Tom? Having made this promise, he was allowed to proceed on his way.


But Nan did not always have her own way. She had a habit of hiding herself amongst the whins and brackens, which grew in abundance near her humble roof. The young men used to collect all the hounds together and put them on the scent of Au’d Nan. According to legend, they had many a good run, ‘bud tha nivver catch’d her.’ One other unrecorded story of Nan47.

Nan had a relation living at Lowna Bridge, to whom she occasionally paid a visit. This relation, I believe, only looked forward with pleasure to Nan’s departure. On this point, however, Nan seems to have been pretty thick-skinned. It is a mystery how this journey was accomplished. Some thought she turned herself into a hare and ran the distance of twenty miles easily in that form; anyway, the fact remains that now and again Au’d Nan turned up at Lowna Bridge. It may, en passant, be mentioned that human nature was very much the same in the early part of this century as it is to-day. I mean, poor relations are never welcome; their presence, or anything which calls them to mind, makes one feel we ought to do something which we had very much rather not do—their presence digs the spur into one’s conscience, you know! But to return to Nan and her Lowna relations. I believe the following occurred on her last visit: she arrived just after the bridal procession of the daughter of the house had returned from church. By-and-by the question arose—where could Au’d Nan sleep? On this particular occasion every bed had more186 than one claimant already. The matter was solved by a kindly bridesmaid offering to take Nan home and share her bed with her, and then bring her back when the guests had departed. Unfortunately, the bride, not knowing that Nan was near, said to her friend, ‘Relation though the old thing is, I would not sleep with her for anything.’ At this Nan turned round and, before the whole company, exclaimed, ‘Neea, bud thoo wad sleep wi’ him,’ pointing to the bridegroom; and then she added, shaking her stick,—

Ah’ve let tha be wedded,
Bud Ah’ll stop tha being bedded;

and so saying, turned about and left the house. Good cheer and bonny bridesmaids soon banished any gloom the old lady’s words for the moment had cast over the party.

Late that evening, after the bride had retired to rest, one of the bridesmaids, sister of the bridegroom, whispered to him, that it would be useless trying to join his bride by way of the stairs, as there was a plot on foot to keep him with the revellers the night long—not an uncommon thing in those days—it often needing all the scheming of bride and bridesmaids, to outwit the well-laid plots of the bucks of those gay old times. The plan which the bridesmaids had arranged for the bridegroom’s escape, was that a game of blindman’s-buff should be played, and on a given signal a maiden was to call out, ‘Kiss the girl you love in the dark’; on this being said, every candle was to be blown out, and the bridegroom had to seize the opportunity to escape.187 A ladder had been placed underneath the bride’s window, and although it was a little short, the bridesmaids had tied a long towel to the window-sash, by which he could pull himself through the window. Everything worked splendidly until he was just going to pull himself up by the towel, when some half-intoxicated idiot discovered he was escaping, and pulled the ladder from underneath him, bringing him to the ground with an awful bang. The poor fellow, on being carried into the house, was found to have broken his leg. The old lady was right after all. It seems they did have their little excitements in the good old days of yore—in these days it is a shower of rice48 and an old shoe.

Wrightson, the wise man of Stokesley, although he died about seventy years ago, has left such a record behind as few men in his position ever build up to their credit49. He was known as the wise man of Stokesley. He was the seventh son of a seventh daughter; and whether such a concatenation of circumstances lift a man out of the ordinary rut, I am not in a position to say. But judging Wrightson from the lips of those who knew him—they are all about gone now—or from those who have heard of him from their parents, one cannot but come to the conclusion, that he was undoubtedly a man endowed with marvellous psychic power, and with the smallest amount of charlatanry possible. In fact, all agree in testifying to the fact that he claimed nothing beyond188 the power which belonged to all such as are born under similar circumstances; and that sort of thing was fully believed in then, and, I might add, is yet, for the matter of that.

In dealing with such a celebrity—for such he was, his fame extending far beyond the boundary of the North Riding—one cannot be too particular as to the source from whence information is obtained. Fortunately, years ago, I knew an old Yorkshireman, already alluded to—William Scorer, a native of Basedale, but who for some years kept an inn at Fearby above Masham. During the time I knew him, he was the landlord of the Fleece, Bedale. He personally knew Wrightson.

Take the following as examples of the man’s marvellous power. A friend of Scorer50 had bought several head of cattle at Northallerton fair. These had to be driven to Stokesley; to this end they were given in charge of an old drover who was driving a lot to the same place for another buyer. The drover, arriving late at night, put the two droves into a field about a quarter of a mile on the other side of Stokesley, but in the morning two of Scorer’s beasts were missing; the drover declared they were all there when he gated them the night before. A suspicion somehow arose that the old chap had sold them on the way, and pocketed the money. At that time they were altogether without any proof that he had done anything of the kind.

The only way to discover if their surmises were189 correct, was to visit Wrightson. But to put the wise man’s power to the test, they decided to say it was a horse they had lost; arguing, if he really knew anything that could help them, he would find out the trick which was being played upon him. On entering his cottage, and before they could speak, Wrightson shouted from the scullery, where he was washing himself, ‘Noo then, if you chaps is sharp eneaaf, an’ ez that mich off’ (i.e. know that much) ‘’at ya can manish ti to’n tweea coos intiv a hoss, it’s neea ewse cumin’ ti me, foor Ah can’t to’n a hoss back inti tweea coos, an’ seea ya’d better mak yersens scarce. Ah’ve nowt ti saay ti ya.’ And for some time the wise man was past all persuasion. In the end he shouted, without leaving the scullery, ‘Tha’re baith i’ t’ beck, an’ tha’ve been theer sen yester neet.’ And sure enough both their bodies were found a good mile below the bridge; evidently they had missed the bridge when being driven over late the night before, and had both been drowned in the Leven, which was much swollen by recent rain. Here, as in many other stories told of the marvellous man, was an evidence of foreknowledge; and many of them rest upon what must be admitted to be very reliable testimony, and vouched for by most respectable people of that time51. Now for the other story, which occurred some years afterwards.

One Nathan Agar, for security, hid a stocking-foot (in which he had wrapped five golden guineas) under a portion of the thatch. One day, intending to add another golden one to his store, he found the stocking190-foot, guineas and all, had vanished. Nathan said nothing to any one, but just went straight to Wrightson. ‘Thoo’ll knaw what Ah’ve cum’d aboot,’ said Nathan. Wrightson at once twitted the old man, touching some previous conversation they had held as to the advisability of Nathan, who was about sixty years of age, marrying a girl not quite nineteen. But the combined wisdom and unhappy future which had been foretold by Wrightson, had not been sufficient to overcome the old fool’s idiotic passion for the buxom lass. In the end he was told to go home, and when no one was in the house, he had to lift up the flag in front of the doorstep, and place a certain leaf of the Bible underneath, and carefully watch who stumbled over the threshold as they entered. This, Nathan most carefully carried out. The first who entered was their young lodger, and he stumbled; after awhile in came the wife, and she stumbled. I don’t know if the flag tilted, or whether the next person would have stumbled also, because Nathan didn’t wait to test the result of a third entry, but hurried off to Wrightson, to whom he made known the result. Wrightson told him that his property was hidden in a certain part of a pig-sty, together with an old watch, which up to that time Nathan had not missed. Other and more serious charges were made, which for ever destroyed Nathan’s hope of future happiness. Wrightson’s advice was that he should return home, secure his watch, give them the five guineas, and send them about their business. This was promptly carried out, and I believe is the quickest and cheapest divorce proceeding on record. One other story has just come into191 my mind, which, if true, proves to what a wonderful degree he must have possessed a clairvoyant power.

A lady residing in some part of South Durham was likely to die from a lump in her throat—possibly a quinsy. Nothing that was done gave her ease; at last some one suggested the wise man of Stokesley. A man on horseback was dispatched—I believe the son of the lady. On approaching Wrightson’s house, even before he got to the door, the wise man looked out, saying, as the young man came up, ‘Bait thi hoss, git summat ti eat, an’ git thisen back agaan; t’ bleb’s brussen; sha’s all reet now;’ i.e. ‘Bait your horse, get some refreshment, and return home again; the lump has burst; she is all right now.’

I have just had the following story given me by Old Willie Bradley of Great Ayton. His father, who was a quarryman, had some tools stolen, and, like every one else in those days, he went to Wrightson. ‘Noo, then,’ said that worthy, on Willie’s father entering, ’thoo’s cum’d aboot thi teeals, bud Ah can deea nowt fur tha, ez they’ve been hugg’d accross watter; bud Ah can let tha see wheear tha’re liggin.’ Wrightson then put him in front of a seeing-glass (looking-glass) in a darkened room, and told him to keep looking at the glass, telling him if he took his eyes off something awful would happen, but my informant cannot remember what. Anyway, his father never was so terrified in all his life, and wished he had never bothered about the lost tools. In a little while, however, he saw them quite plainly, lying amongst some bracken in a wood—the place he recognized quite easily. On telling Wrightson what he had seen,192 he was cautioned not to touch them. Wrightson said he must bring him a live magpie. This he tried to obtain, but failed; he could not catch one, neither, for some reason, would any boy who had one part with his pet; so, after a week, he had to tell the wise man that the task was impossible. ‘Then,’ said Wrightson, ‘Ah caan’t wark him onny harm, an’ thoo’ll ‘ ti loss the teeals52.’

Other stories of this man’s foreknowledge could be given almost ad lib. Many of his methods suggested and adopted were of the heart-frizzling, pin-sticking, wickenwood, and bottery-tree order. His rites and ceremonies, too, occasionally savoured of the time in which he lived; and, after all, there is not much to wonder at.

We are most of us very much influenced by the environments of our own day; and after seeing a few of my own sex in Town, I can forgive Wrightson much. Like many another clever man, he played to suit his audience, and sang the songs of the day. There was, if all is true, no need that he should have done so, and possibly he knew it—who knows?

Nanny Pearson was held in great fear by the good people of Goathland, and that, too, a good way into the present century. As a witch of the old school, Nanny’s fame was not confined to that locality. Many stories are still told of her and her doings, two of which I will give, as they afford a bit of new information, i.e. the power which holy water had over witches. I believe in her younger days she was193 a communicant of the Roman Catholic faith; be that as it may, she was neither better nor worse than her sister witches of any other faith, or no faith at all. It seems that a Mrs. Webster had a goose, which, as was the custom of the time, was sitting on a cletch of eggs near the fireside. Now, Nanny came daily to Mrs. Webster’s for milk, bringing an empty jug, which she left, taking a full one away with her. The goose was set one morning, and remained dutifully on her nest until evening; but as Nanny approached the house, off flew the goose in a great state of agitation, breaking two eggs, and could not be pacified until Nanny was well off the premises. The same thing occurred each time Nanny came for her milk, until some one, who was going to Scarborough, called upon the wise man and asked his advice. He told them to get a little holy water, put it in the jug with Nanny’s milk, and her power would be broken—I suppose that meant her power over the goose, for she worked a vast deal of ill after that. This was done; the jug with the holy water and milk in due course was handed to Nanny, and just as she took hold of it, the goose plucked up courage and flew at her, knocking it out of her hand. It was broken in the fall, the contents splashing over her feet and gown; with a shriek she fled, and from that day the goose was never disturbed again.

Years ago, the Squire of Goathland had a very beautiful daughter. Some old chap with any amount of money, and quite ugly, wished to wed her, and for some unknown reason the Squire favoured his suit; but, as is often the case, the damsel had given194 her heart to a young farmer in the neighbourhood. The elder lover got it into his head the couple would elope, so he sought the aid of Nanny; and the old hag helped him with a vengeance, inasmuch as she so sorely afflicted the damsel that she could not rise from her bed, and her legs began to die—I don’t quite know what that means; anyway, her limbs became useless. Her father told her that one of the female saints was greatly displeased with her obduracy, and would not restore power to her limbs until she consented to marry the man of his choice. This she flatly refused to do, choosing rather to die outright. The younger lover was distracted; he could not gain any reliable information, and a personal interview was impossible. So he did as every one else did in those days—he paid a visit to the wise man of Scarborough. The wise man, after a considerable performance of his own, placed a seeing-glass in front of the young fellow, desiring him to gaze steadily thereon, and to tell him if he saw the likeness of any one appear. Presently the young chap swore he had seen the face of Nanny Pearson. The wise man, on hearing this, declared that she was the origin of all the evil, and told him to return home, procure by some means a drop of Nanny’s blood, and steal a few drops of holy water; these had to be mixed in a cup of milk drawn from a red cow, and rubbed by him on the soles and calves of his lady-love, when all would be well. This was a strongish order, and well-nigh staggered the young chap. Firstly, how was he to procure a drop of Nanny’s blood? Stealing the holy water was a195 simple affair, as also was the red cow’s milk; but how to gain admission to his lady-love’s chamber, and apply the remedies when obtained, was not only a task of difficulty, but of danger. Bear in mind this was in the days of dogs and horsewhips, which were often freely used; but then, as now, love laughs at difficulties. Once let him become possessed of a drop of Nanny’s blood, and he would overcome all the other obstacles. On making his trouble known to an old dame in the village, one Janet Haswell, she told him something he already knew in part, i.e. that in a certain field a hare nightly sat, which neither dog could catch nor man shoot; this hare, declared the old lady, was none other than Nanny herself. She further assured him that if he melted some silver and made shot of it, he would be able to hit the hare, and perhaps he might find some blades of grass stained with blood. Most carefully the young fellow carried out the old dame’s advice. He was successful; he hit the hare, and found several blades of grass spotted with blood, which he carefully gathered. Next day Nanny was confined to bed, and for some weeks after. At the time, he alone knew the cause. Having procured a ladder, he invaded his love’s room, and applied the remedy, when she recovered instantly; he then retired. The damsel, rising and dressing herself, descended the ladder, and was conveyed to a place of safety, where she remained until they were wedded. This, by-the-way, I believe is the first recorded case of massage.

A curious belief still clings to Gribdale Gate. Any one who dares to stand near the said gate on196 New Year’s Eve, will see an old man open it, pass through, and then vanish. This takes place just as the new year is born. There is one man still living in Great Ayton who has seen the old chap thus herald in the new year. Again, old people of Great Ayton still aver that on a certain night a once noted witch, Nanny Howe, may be seen riding astride on a broomstick over Howe Wood just at midnight. This witch, so mounted, is said once to have chased the devil for miles—on this occasion the two must have fallen out; perhaps at that time honest folk got their due. Howe Wood is near Kildale.

Ailer Wood, her real name being Alice, was a witch of considerable note throughout the Bilsdale district fifty years ago. In the form of a cat or hare, she seems to have cared little either what kind or colour the hounds were which chased her. She never was caught, but then she had a little way of making herself invisible when too hard pressed; but in this she was not alone, a case in point having already being mentioned. Innumerable times was she fired at, ‘bud nivver nobody could hit her.’ On one occasion a damsel named Annie Wilson felt sure the old thing had bewitched her sweetheart. The reason for such a supposition lay in the fact that the young fellow had transferred his affections to some other fair charmer. My idea is that the other girl had bewitched him; that, however, was not Annie’s notion. She, like many another maiden of her time, went with the sorrow of her aching heart to the wise man of those parts, one Henry Wilson, who, after carefully listening to Annie’s woeful story, told her197 how she could discover if it was the witch who had cast a spell on her lover. She was to return home, turn the cricket53 wrong side uppermost, pushing pretty close together and very securely into the wood nine pins, saying, as she pushed in the last one, ‘There’s nine for him and her and the witch’; in another place she had to push in another nine, repeating at the ninth, ‘There’s nine for the witch and her and him’; and lastly, in another place, another nine, concluding at the ninth by saying, ‘And there is nine more for all three of them, wi’ her in t’ middle.’ By this arrangement, the vile creature who had stolen her lover, was always mentioned so that she occupied a place nearest the witch. All this having been accomplished, the stool had to be set on its feet, and, under some pretext or other, Ailer was to be induced to seat herself thereon. On doing so, she would be unable to get up again until she truly answered any questions Annie asked her. Everything was carried out as ordered by Wilson: Ailer was called in, and offered a cup of tea, the stool having been pushed toward her; she was invited to seat herself, and have her bite and sup comfortably. Now, was ever a maiden nearer finding out just why her lover had deserted her? The stool was even put in front of the fire, and Ailer again invited to seat herself; but no, the witch quietly replied, it would not be possible for her to enjoy the good things they had given her, seated on the back of a ‘pricky-back otch’n54.’ Ailer by some means had found out what had been done, and so escaped the charm which had been prepared for her.


No doubt exists in the minds of many people now, that hedgehogs milk the cows55. It seems they creep up to them whilst they are resting, and draw their milk from them. My old friend told me they always killed a hedgehog whenever they saw one, for that reason.

One Nancy Newgill, a Broughton witch, used to set hedgehogs to milk the cows of those she had a spite against, and it was commonly believed that at times she used to turn herself into one, and then ‘neeabody’s coos had onny chance’; anyway, there was one hedgehog which could run as fast as a hare, and never was catched, ‘ner killed ner nowt.’ This Nancy Newgill cast a spell on a certain Martha Brittain, from which she could obtain no ease, no matter what she took; so off to the wise man56 Martha went. She was told to go to Stokesley, and buy a new fire-shovel, upon which she had to chalk Nancy’s name57; then to make a cake—the ingredients need not be given—and, after closing her doors and window, the cake was to be baked upon the shovel resting on the fire. This was done at four o’clock in the afternoon58. Now, at the time this cake was being baked, Nancy Newgill was ’luking’ weeds in a field a mile away, and standing quite close to her was my informant, Mrs. Peary. Suddenly Nancy clapped her hand on her stomach, crying out, ‘Ah mun gan yam! Ah mun gan yam!199’ She left the field, and was ill for days after; but Martha Brittain began to mend straight away, and was as right as ever she could be.

This, however, is a small affair, compared with the case of a man who lived at Broughton, and had a spell cast on him, by whom he did not know; at least, he was divided in his doubts. He suspected first Nancy, and also a man with an evil eye at Nunthorpe, but he could not really say which of them had cast the spell; so he went to the wise man, but in this he got little comfort. The wise man told him, before he could do anything he must be quite certain who had cast the spell, because if he worked a counter-charm on any one, and they were innocent, what he did would fall upon the complainant, in addition to what he was already suffering. He advised him to ‘plump59’ both Nancy and the Nunthorpe man with it. On accusing Nancy, she was so indignant, and looked him so straight in the face, and swore such a fearful oath, that he felt certain she for once was innocent; in such contrast was the behaviour of the evil-eyed one of Nunthorpe, that he was equally satisfied that he was the man. So sure was he, that he told the wise man he would chance it; so they set to work. A fire of wickenwood having been lighted close on midnight, a ball of clay was beaten flat with the back of an old Bible; on this a rude figure was scooped out in the shape of a man. Into this rough mould was poured a mixture of pitch, beeswax, hog’s lard, bullock’s blood, and a small portion of the fat from a bullock’s heart. The whole having200 been melted and well stirred on the wickenwood fire, what remained of the mixture after filling the mould was divided; one-half was thrown into water, worked into a ball, and thrown away; the remaining portion was poured on to the fire, causing a most tremendous blaze; when this died out, the ashes were buried in the churchyard. The figure having been removed from its mould, and two small holes made to represent the eyes, a pin was thrust into one of these eyes, an incantation pronounced, and the spell was concluded. The pain left the man as he was returning home, and that very night the evil-eyed Nunthorpian was seized with a fearful pain, and before morning was blind of an eye—the eye corresponding to the one through which the pin had been thrust in the wax figure. I had the above from one who well knew the trio. My informant is still living.

Matthew Appleton, of Busby, for many years ruled the planets—it seems he ruled them so well that he found a pot of gold. This was ruling the planets to some purpose, and it is a great pity astronomers don’t work this seemingly dead science up a bit.

In connexion with the witch-lore of the riding, it strikes one as singular, that whilst many of the stories told of local witches closely resemble those of other countries, yet other stories, equally common, both abroad and a little further north, so far as I have investigated, are with us conspicuous by their absence. Of witches turning their victims into horses by throwing a bridle over their heads and riding201 them the night through, or of a witch having been outwitted and treated in like manner, even in some instances casting a shoe, and of being reshod during the night, the shoe remaining nailed to the hand on regaining their natural form—of such stories, I repeat, not a vestige remains amongst us. Thorpe’s Mythology and the Wilkie MS. give many instances; and though some of the stories are dated almost in recent times, doubtless their radicals are to be found in the myth of times remote.

Again, whilst we retain the belief in the efficacy of the dead hand in the curing of certain diseases, one never hears mention of the ‘hand of glory60.’ There are old people to-day who tell you of its marvellous power, but their knowledge is that gained from hearsay. I have never met a single person who knew of an instance of its having been used in the North Riding; and if ever such was the case, it must have been long ago, for many of the old folk know absolutely nothing about it.

Silver shot was a deadly charge, because, in some way not explained, it was charmed. Jane Wood, who was accounted a witch about seventy years ago in the Basedale district, gave little heed either to dogs or guns; when she assumed the form of a hare, she escaped from the former quite easily, and the latter never could hit her. At last one sportsman, acting202 on the advice of a wise man, melted some silver coins in an iron ladle smeared with the blood of a hare. This was done at the blacksmith’s forge, the same being plentifully supplied with wickenwood. The melted silver was poured into a basin of water, which divided it into fine particles; suitable pieces were collected, the gun charged, and next evening the venturesome hare was fired at. Though it escaped, it was evidently badly hit. Suspicion had for some time rested on Jane. Her cottage was visited; she declared she was too ill to rise and open the door, having, as she said, accidentally turned a beehive over and got severely stung. This statement did not satisfy those outside. The door was burst open, and Jane pulled out of bed; over one part of her body she was found to be covered with small sores, which there was no doubt had been caused by the silver shot. Anyway, that venturesome hare was never seen again, so no further proof was required.

There is one point which requires a few words of explanation, at least so far as it can be explained. We have heard of witches who allowed themselves to be chased as hares, some of which, if not caught, were bitten just as they were entering their own homes; on examination, teeth-marks were found on a corresponding part of their body. The same may be said of the injuries inflicted by the silver shot. The telling of these stories leaves no doubt in one’s mind that the witches in the cases mentioned are supposed to have turned themselves into hares. This, however, was not always the case, as the following story will show. There was a woman on whom203 grave suspicion rested; for some reason or other she was never openly charged with being a witch, but old heads were ominously shaken when her name was mentioned. In the district in which she lived, there was a notorious hare, which simply jeered at dogs and guns alike. At length some one suggested silver shot; this was duly made, and the hare shot dead. Afterwards, on comparing the times, it was found that Mrs.—— had thrown up her arms the very moment when the hare was shot, ejaculating, ‘They have killed my familiar spirit’; uttering these words, she fell dead on her kitchen floor. Now Mrs.—— had not been out that day—there were plenty of witnesses to testify that—so it would seem it was not always a case of transformation, but a familiar spirit which was chased, whilst the individual herself was at home attending to her household duties. Of course all such were subject to the ills which might befall their familiars.

There seems to be a very close connexion between a hare being shot and corresponding wounds being found on the person of those who had so transformed themselves, and the stories told of the witch mares being shod and the shoes remaining fixed to their hands when their original form was resumed.


At one time the family of Oughtred, who lived on a farm near Hob Hill, Upleatham, were greatly assisted in their various occupations by the hobman, who lived in the Hob Hill. These hobmen are heard of now and again in the North Riding. The hob204man61 with us seems to hold the same place as the brownies of the north, and the pixies of Devonshire. Anyway, the hobman still did his work as recently as 1820; for the Oughtreds had their hay turned, their cattle brought home and driven back again, their corn and other grain winnowed, their turnips topped and tailed, and I do not know what all. What they did to offend the hobman, is not known. But it is thought that a man hung his coat on the winnowing machine, and forgot to remove it when his day’s work was done. The hobman possibly thought, when he entered late at night, that it had been left for him; and no offence, it seems, could be greater than to offer a hobman clothes of any kind, so he went away, and has never been heard of since. It seems at the very time they unfortunately displeased their friend the hobman, they also incurred the ill-will of Peggy Flaunders; for about this time, late one evening, a fearful knocking came at the back door. The maid, on opening it, saw a fearful thing like a blazing pig standing on the step; with one wild shriek she fled, crying out to her master and mistress that the devil had come, and was standing on the back doorstep. They at once asked, had she closed the back door? On being told that she was too frightened to do anything else but flee from such a monster, they both sank back in dismay, well knowing the evil spirit had been given a chance to enter, which they rightly feared it would not fail to avail itself of. They rushed to the back door, but nothing was there;205 still they had their misgivings—they were terribly apprehensive. And sure enough it turned out not without cause—crockery was smashed, machinery was broken, cattle died; in fact things got into such a parlous state, that they decided to leave. On the day when they were preparing to flit, a friend looked in, and asked Oughtred if he really meant shifting. As he asked the question, a queer little head popped out over the top of the press, and a voice squeaked out, ‘Aye, we’re gahin ti flit ti morn’; on hearing which, Oughtred said, ‘Whya, if thoo’s gahin wiv uz, it’s teea neea ewse gahin; wa mud ez weel stop62.’ The wise man was eventually consulted. Legend sayeth not where he lived; but under his directions a live black cock bird was pierced with pins, and roasted alive at dead of night, with every door, window, and cranny and crevice stuffed up. By these means Peggy’s power and the imp were overcome.

Years ago, when the old church at Marske-by-the-Sea was condemned, and a new one about to be built, it was decided to pull down the old structure and use the stone for building the new. This bit of vandalism was duly commenced; part of the old building was razed, and the stone carted to the new site63—so far, so good. The old people murmured, for they objected greatly to the demolition of the edifice in which they and their fore-elders had worshipped; but they were powerless—they could only stand by and watch with aching hearts stone after stone206 being carted away. And so the first day’s work came to an end, which to them was work of desecration, and they returned home sad at heart. But if they were powerless, they had a champion, and one whom they had never dreamt of taking up their cause. Next morning, when the men returned to their work, what was their surprise, and the amazement of every one else, to find the old church whole again, without a stone displaced or a mark of the previous day’s work to be found anywhere. Every stone had been brought back again and replaced in situ, and the mortar which had been used to reset the displaced stones was as hard and set as that of hundreds of years before.

This marvellous occurrence was duly reported at head-quarters. What the officials thought or imagined, is not recorded; they ordered the work to proceed, and even set on more men to pull the old place down, so that on the second day a considerable portion was carted away and stacked on the new site; but next morning the old church was found to have been fully repaired during the night, every stone having once again been brought back and placed in its original position. Things were now looking a bit serious. On the third day, however, work was resumed, a portion again pulled down and carted away, but this time men were set to watch the stones and find out who came for them. Now, whether these watchers fell asleep—they declared they did not—or whether in the darkness the stones were all stolen away so quietly that they never heard or saw anything of what was transpiring, cannot be stated; one thing is only known—when daylight appeared, every stone had vanished,207 and again the old church was found to have been restored, so perfectly that no one could tell that ever a stone had been removed. Those in authority were bound to admit that it was useless to contend further against such a powerful and invisible opponent. For long it was not generally known by what means the work of replacement had been wrought; but there were those who knew, and in time every one did. It was the hobman, assisted by others of his friends. In those days it was simply the essence of folly for architects and bricklayers to pit themselves against a hobman, just the same it would be to-day, if the hobmen took it into their heads to undertake a job—but they don’t now.

There was a hobman once had his home in a hill near to Hob Garth, and no doubt in his day performed many acts which are now forgotten; however, I had one related to me years ago by an old chap who at that time was working on the Mulgrave estate. His grandfather, Thomas Stonehouse, lived at Hob Garth for many years. I think he had a small holding; anyway, he kept sheep. It seems that some misunderstanding arose between him and one Matthew Bland, of Great Fryup. Bland was of a vindictive nature—at least, if the supposition was true that he broke Tommy’s hedge down late one night, drove the sheep out, and left them to wander whither they liked. And wander they did to some purpose, for at the close of the day following, Stonehouse had only managed to find five out of forty. Next morning, what was his surprise not only to find his sheep back in the field, but the hedge repaired with new posts and rails. The208 neighbours knew that he could not have done the repairing, for he had caught a severe cold, having been wet to the skin searching for the lost sheep the day previous. Next night, however, every head of cattle belonging to Bland was turned loose. ‘And great deed there was lating on ’em; it war ower a fo’tnit afoor they war all gitten tigither again.’ That Stonehouse was quite innocent of this bit of retaliation was clear even to Bland, as it was well known he was too ill to stir out of doors. But when Bland had recovered all his lost cattle, Stonehouse’s were set loose again, and the damage done was even greater this time; and as the poor fellow was still too ill to turn out to find them, the neighbours did what they could. This time, however, even fewer were found, but again on the following morning all but four were safely back in the field, and all damage repaired; subsequently the four were found dead, having fallen into a disused quarry. People talked, as naturally they would, and the bringing back of the lost sheep and repairing of the rails was put down to the hobman. When this conclusion was come to, heads were shaken in an ominous manner, for evidently if Tommy was befriended by the hobman, Matthew would have to mind what he did. As soon as Tommy could, he set off to see his sheep. It happened to be rather late when he paid the first visit after his illness, owing to the fact that a neighbour was driving past where the sheep were, and as he was returning presently, he offered to put Stonehouse down and pick him up again as he returned. Tommy counted his sheep, and after cutting some hay for them—it was wintertime—he sat209 by the gate waiting for the return of his neighbour. Presently an old man accosted him, and begged him not to fret about the lost sheep, as they would be more than compensated for when lambing time came. The old chap told him that Bland had on both occasions been guilty, but that he had not to mind. Just then his friend drove up. Tommy bade his new acquaintance good-night, thanked him, and got into the cart. No sooner was he seated, than the good neighbour asked him what he meant by saying good-night and thanking nobody at all. It transpired that the owner of the cart had not noticed any one speaking to Tommy. In the end he thought the old chap ’war a bit waak an rafflin.’ Anyway, when lambing time came, though the weather was very severe, and every one else, and more particularly Bland, lost many lambs, Stonehouse never lost one. Ewes, during Tommy’s absence, were found safely delivered of their lambs, and mostly had two, and never a black one amongst them. ‘An’ noo that war a larl bit sing’lar, warn’t it? Bud then, ya knaw, i’ them daays when t’ hobman did tak ti yan, ya war yal reet i’ t’ lang-run; an’ ivvery wo’d ’at Ah’ve tell’d ya’s trew, ’coz Ah’ve heeard mah gran’father tell t’ taal ower an’ up agaan; bud it’s a gay bit sen noo,’ wound up my informant. The hobman was described as a little old fellow, with very long hair, large feet, eyes, mouth, and hands, stooping much as he walked, and carrying a long holly stick. The date of the story would be about 1760.



Kindly contributed by the Rev. M. C. F. Morris, B.C.L., M.A., Author of Yorkshire Folk-Talk.

There is a saying current among us in the East Riding that ‘it takes a Yorkshireman to talk Yorkshire’; the very form of the expression smacks of the county; and if this be true, as true it is, of the mere pronunciation of the dialect, it is no less true with regard to those other linguistic features—the idioms, phraseology, and way of putting things, which in this, as in every other folk-speech, go to a great extent to make up the vernacular. We might even advance a step beyond the statement just quoted, for by no means the majority even of those who have lived in the county all their lives can tongue the speech aright, and many not at all. It is far from uncommon to hear an accurate pronunciation of the dialect from the lips of those who are supposed to speak it well, and to find at the same time that the speaker wholly lacks an appreciation of those modes of thought, those turns and peculiarities of expression in which the Yorkshire dialect is peculiarly rich, and without which it sounds by comparison only tame and feeble. As between dog211Latin and the well-turned and polished, though often long-winded, sentences of Cicero, so is it in some sort between the two styles of dialectical Yorkshire to which I refer. The one grates upon the ear, while the other rings true. Over and above idiomatic usages strictly so called, there are many sayings more or less familiar which, though they cannot be brought under any rules of speech, like those of grammar, yet seem to possess a certain raciness all their own, and at the same time bring before us something of the Yorkshireman’s force and character. To some of these I will here direct attention, though it must be understood that what are here cited are but a few disconnected specimens of many more which might be given.

We are most of us, no doubt, aware that in all his dealings and matters of business the Yorkshireman is pre-eminently of a strongly practical turn of mind. We ‘reckon nowt’ of a man who is not that.

It would be untrue to say that sentiment is a state of mind absolutely unknown to his nature; but its presence is so rare, and its hold upon him so feeble, that it need hardly be taken into account in considering his character. There may, no doubt, be times when such feelings are brought into play, but the strange thing is that when we might most reasonably look for them, we look in vain.

Those attractive personal charms of the gentler sex which with ordinary mortals are generally supposed to have their effect at times when a young man is seeking a partner for life, weigh but little for the most part with the matter-of-fact Yorkshire212man who regards his intended from a severely practical point of view. What, we may ask, would the sentimentalist of the highly strung poetical temperament think of this piece of advice which was once given to a youth at an interesting period of his life? ‘Leeak at a lass’s han’s when thoo’s laatin’ a weyfe; deean’t be daffled wiv ’er feeace!’ It was said in the olden days that the lass who churned ‘wi’ buckles on her shoon’ was to be lightly esteemed, but for sheer practicality the manual test could hardly be surpassed. I well remember, many years ago, the case of a man who was twice married. His first wife proved herself an excellent one in every way, and the couple lived happily together. When she died, and he proceeded to look out for a successor, his choice fell on one who also turned out a no less industrious and tidy woman, though her personal attractiveness was not of a specially pronounced character. On being asked by a neighbour what led him to make his selection in the way he did, he made answer to the effect that his sole reason for doing so was because his second wife’s ’carcase’ reminded him so strongly of that of his first; she was a lithe, active woman, and he thought, no doubt, that she looked like work.

Despite these purely utilitarian considerations in matters matrimonial, the saying we have heard that the ‘sweetness of a posy mainly hings on fra wheear yan gits it,’ indicates that some at least of our country-folk, under certain favouring conditions, can say pretty things, though it must be confessed such elegancies are few and far between. The ordinary village gossip213 who neglects her household duties for the sake of ‘having a crack’ with her neighbours, has from ‘prehistoric times,’ no doubt, come in for much plain-speaking, of which this may be given as an example: ‘T’ weyfe ’at can ho’d her au’d man up wi’ t’ news oot o’ t’ toon, meeastlins bakes bo’nt breead.’ Such wives as these are not the ones to pay much heed to principles of domestic economy. Nevertheless, considerations of this kind are as a rule carefully thought out by our country-folk, if not scientifically, at least in a way that makes a shilling go as far as possible. It may be said, indeed, speaking generally, that domestic affairs receive, on the part of the Yorkshire wife, an amount of attention that is highly commendable, and adds not a little to the happiness of the family, and in no part of England do the people understand the meaning of the word ‘comfort’ better than they do in Yorkshire.

Cleanliness is a virtue for which our people have long been conspicuous, though even here extremes will sometimes meet, and excessive scrupulousness in this respect will at times be something of a burden to the household rather than a joy.

It was once said of a ‘gudewife’ whose washings, scrubbings, polishings, and brushings were performed with more than ordinary frequency and vigour, ‘Sha scrats an’ tews fra morn whahl neet; sha werrits an’ natters an’ grummels t’ daay lang.... There’s neea comfort i’ t’ hoos; an’ ther nivver is wheear t’ kettle’s breet all ower.’

In days gone by it used to be said that a ’calling’ wife and a dusty spinning-wheel were commonly214 associated together, and the saying, ‘A mucky moos-trap shoots’ (shouts) ‘for t’ cat,’ was one of those standing rebukes to a slatternly mater familias which is tellingly put, while the following doggerel might well find a place on the walls of every kitchen:—

A cobweb i’ t’ kitchen
An’ feeat-marks on t’ step
Finnd neea wood i’ t’ yewn
An’ neea cooals i’ t’ skep.

No theme is more frequently harped upon by our old folks, when contrasting present manners and customs with those of a generation or two ago, than the change that has come over the community in the matter of dress, and there is a moral which they commonly draw therefrom. ‘There’s sadly owermich prahd noo,’ say they; while the money that many of the young people spend upon their dress passes the understanding of their elders, who in their younger days were content with fustian jackets and print gowns. It was said, for instance, by one who held that a hood was a suitable head-covering for a woman, that ‘she is a feeal ’at hugs a geease’ (i.e. the price of a goose) ‘on t’ top of her heead.’ In consequence of extravagancies of this nature, it is doubtful if, in spite of increased wages and cheapness of living, our farm lads and lasses save as much money as they did in the olden days. With corn at the high price it was, say, fifty years ago, the people were early inured to thrifty ways, and the absolute necessity for carefulness in all things was frequently insisted upon. Thus, for instance,215 a child would be told that ‘a beean thrawn away at t’ fore-end is a dinner lost at t’ back-end.’ Few of those living now would credit with what hard fare their grandfathers had often to be content, and yet the physique of the men which those times produced was probably not inferior, in point of endurance and capacity for work, to that at the present time.

Most of us, I dare say, remember the schoolgirl’s reply when asked to define scandal, namely, ‘When no one does nothing to nobody, and some one else goes and tells’; and although we cannot perhaps surpass even in Yorkshire that happy explanation of the term, yet we do own to certain sayings with reference to the unruly member, some of which may not be unworthy of being placed on record. There is one, for instance, which savours somewhat of the schoolgirl’s definition just mentioned, and there are probably many similar ones; it runs thus: ‘Them ’at says they deean’t leyke saayin’ nowt aboot nowt ti neeabody, meeastlins pass tahm by saayin’ summat aboot summat ti somebody.’

Again, the following rhyme aptly hits off what, it is to be feared, is a not altogether uncommon failing in Yorkshire as elsewhere:—

Them ’at says they weean’t, an’ diz it still,
Dizn’t deea it when they saay they will.

We all know what to expect from a ‘slaap un’; he or she can never be depended on for anything. It was said of a female whose tongue could not be trusted, or, as we say in the East Riding, whom we could not ‘talk after’: ‘Ah reckon nowt 216o’ what sha says.... Praise frev a slaap tongue is nae better wo’th ’an rain i’ haay tahm.’

That the idler is ever ready to make excuses for his idleness, and that half the ‘loafers’ who infest the countryside are as capable of doing a day’s work as any one else in the community, we are well aware. We know, too, how any slight ailment is by many used as a plea for having an ‘off-day’; it is to such ‘ne’er-do-weels’ as these that the saying applies: ‘Yan’s nivver ower waak to wark when yan’s yabble ti bunch an au’d hat ower t’ green.’

It is remarkable how few of the well-known English proverbs are in common use among our country folk in the form in which they have been handed down to us. They are for the most part either supplanted by corresponding ones of more or less local growth or by extemporized expressions which do duty for the same and are of scarcely less force. Thus, for example, it was said of one who had been addicted to intemperate habits, and had at length given them up, but, alas! only to fall immediately into the wily snares of horse-racing and betting: ‘Ah deean’t think ’at he’s mended hissen mich: they saay ’at he’s signed t’ pledge, bud started ti hoss-race; t’ rabbit dizn’t fare na betther ’at ’scapes fra t’ fox an’ meets wi’ t’ rezzil.’

The well-worn saying that ‘prevention is better than cure,’ is one which none of us will care to gainsay, and we are for the most part minded so to word the truism; the ancient statement is, however, apt to take a different turn when uttered by Yorkshire lips. On one occasion a Yorkshireman217 remarked to another countryman, with reference to a certain fire in a house in the neighbourhood, ‘He sleck’d t’ fire oot afoor mich damage wer deean’; whereto the reply came, ‘’T may be clivver ti stop a bull, bud it’s wiser ti loup t’ yat.’

An instance is recorded, and we fear it is by no means a solitary one, of a certain would-be fine lady in one of our Yorkshire villages who dressed herself up in a manner singularly unbecoming for one in her station in life, and withal gave herself highly ridiculous airs. This kind of parade, as may be supposed, gave no little offence in certain quarters, while others of her sex, though not able or willing to adorn their persons to the same absurd degree of finery, were in no wise inferior in real worth to this flaunty and gaily bedecked female. As ‘my lady’ sailed down the ‘town street’ on one occasion, a critical observer of her ways was heard to remark, ‘Sha gans wiv her heead up as thoff yan wer nowt bud muck; bud Ah’ll tell ya what, Ah’s as good as sha is, if Ah’s nut sa weel putten on—black fleeace or white fleeace, t’ mutton’s t’ seeam.’ It would be difficult to say whether such a one were the more deserving of all the severe things that were heaped upon her or another of whom we have heard—Bessie by name. Her ‘pleeanin’’ ways were thus described: ‘It’s awlus ower fine or ower wet for oor Bessie, bud sum folks is that grum’ly, that they awlus ’ev a steean i’ ther shoon.’

The ordinary infirmities of the flesh are no doubt the inheritance of the Yorkshireman equally with the rest of mankind; we can claim for him no immunity218 from these. He is ‘hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means,’ even as others. Fools are perhaps rather less frequently met with in this than in some other counties, and if there is one bump more clearly developed upon the Yorkshireman’s cranium than another, it is that of caution. Those who happen to be deficient in that particular quality come in for no unfrequent reproofs and warnings from their more ‘gaumish’ fellows. Thus to one who was always being taken in by people of whom he knew nothing, this piece of advice was given: ‘Afoor yan claps a stthrange dog uppo t’ heead, yan s’u’d awlus leeak ’at it teeal;’ while of another, whose propensity to spend money was in excess of that usually found among those who dwell between the Humber and the Tees, it was said, ‘Aw deear, what a feeal he’s been! bud Ah’ve telled him mair ’an yance ’at money ta’en oot o’ t’ pocket’s mair ’an hauf spent.’ Again, we have a Yorkshireman’s equivalent of the brief injunction, ‘look before you leap,’ expressed as follows: ‘Nivver loup a stell widoot ya knaw what sooart of a footho’d you’ll leet on.’

To the same effect as the foregoing is a small bit of admonition that comes down to us from the days of the old tinder-box; and for lack of its due observance, many a small trouble has been experienced. The word of warning shapes itself thus: ‘Afoor yan flints tundther, knaw wheear t’ rush-leet is.’ A few old formulas of this kind may even still occasionally be heard. It was not long ago that I was told of one from the borders of Durham and Yorkshire which219 struck me as having an antiquated flavour, but yet, withal, one of a picturesque kind. The reason for its use was to reprove a child for displaying a certain greediness at table. It would sound strangely in modern ears to hear it said to a child in such a case: ‘Thoo’s ’greed wi’ sham an’ gi’en mense a grot’ (you have made an agreement with shame, and given decent behaviour a groat).

There is no little truth as well as force in the old expression which says, ‘Them ’at crack o’ thersens awlus to’n’ (turn) ‘oot blawn eggs’; and those who have risen in the world, especially if it be by questionable means, may well take a lesson from the saying, ‘Him ’at’s gitten ti t’ top o’ t’ stee, dhrops farest when he falls.’

In Yorkshire, as elsewhere, those who thus ‘crack o’ thersens,’ besides being unpopular with their fellows, are, generally speaking, more easily daunted than those who are not given to blow their own trumpets.

That was a truly good specimen of our dialectical usages which had reference to one who was in the habit of sounding his own praises in no measured terms. ‘Whya,’ said a countryman, who took a fairly accurate measure of this vain boaster’s ways, ‘Ah deean’t knaw; he’ll mebbe nut deea sa mich when all cums ti all; Ah’ve heeard folk saay ’at a bragger taks a lang stthrahd when t’ teeap’ (the ram) ‘grunds it heeaf’ (stamps the ground with its hoof).

The most trifling and homely incidents frequently give occasion to a Yorkshireman for bringing out some of his flashes of wit and raciness of expression. I remember not long ago hearing of a native of the220 North Riding who, one day in the fore-part of ‘sheep-clipping time,’ accompanied an old shepherd in order to have some sheep washed. They had to wait near the appointed place until another flock had gone through the well-known process of cleansing, and as they were whiling away the time, the vicar’s mother and sister drove by. Seeing what was going on, they pulled up and entered into conversation with the old shepherd, who, like every Yorkshireman, was a bit of a character. ‘We do so like the smell of sheep,’ they said; to which the old man replied, ‘Yis, mum, an’ seea deea Ah; bud Ah leykes t’ teeast on ’em betther!’

In the few examples I have here given, it will perhaps be seen how that the Yorkshireman has a way of expressing himself which seems to be peculiarly his own, and how his utterances generally strike a stranger by their originality and quaintness. Refreshing is it to hear these when spoken with all the naturalness and force with which some of the older folk tongue them. They come upon us like whiffs of sea air laden with ozone, which put new life into us and make us walk with a lighter step.

I will bring my short chapter to a close by a characteristic little story which forcibly illustrates how strong the Yorkshireman’s ruling passion—I mean, of course, his love of horseflesh—is in death.

I was told quite recently of a farmer who, at the time of the transaction to be related, was laid up with a dangerous illness; indeed, it proved to be his last. At this time he was possessed of a thoroughbred mare, which he was anxious to sell. A dealer in the221 neighbourhood had had his eye on the mare, and wanted at once to buy it. Accordingly he called on the farmer, and was shown into his bedroom. The bargain was not struck during the visit, though the difference between the two was only a matter of a sovereign or so.

A few days, however, after this interview, the dealer again presented himself at the house, not knowing that in the meantime the farmer had died. On entering the yard, the horse-dealer inquired of the man in the stables, how the master was. ‘Oh! he’s deead,’ said the man; ‘he deed last Tho’sda, bud afoor he deed he said ’at thoo was ti ’ev t’ meer!’



The folk-speech of our county abounds in idioms, and possesses many forms of curious phraseology.

It is these and other peculiarities which add much to its forcefulness, and form one of its main features.

It will be the object of this short chapter to explain some of these usages and idioms.

In writing such a chapter there is one difficulty presents itself—where to commence. There is too much material. As a starting-point, let us take the following remark, which was made to me the other day by an old dame:—

One word with reference to ‘’em.’ Writers on223 Yorkshire mark ‘them,’ so written, with an elision point (’em).

Is this correct? I offer an opinion for what it is worth. The vocabulary of our people dates back to a very remote period; the same may be said of many of the rules which govern their speech. May not this ‘em’ be a case in point; and instead of being a contraction of ‘them,’ only the plural form ‘hem,’ which they have retained along with many other old-time words?

Wicliff, in the parable of the Prodigal Son, translates as follows:—‘And the younger of hem;’ and a few lines below, we find, ‘and he departed’ (divided) ‘to hem.’ Although our people have not retained in their vocabulary the word ‘departed,’ they have held on to another equally archaic, i.e. parting, ‘partinge,’ to divide. I leave this for others better able than I to decide.

In the old dame’s statement it was said that the lads would not mend their ways. ‘To mend our ways’ is equivalent to saying, ‘improve,’ ‘to grow better’; and to be ‘onny bit leyke’=being reasonable.

In the sentence ‘Yon’s nowt ti mahn,’ the word ‘yon’ signifies ‘that or those over there.’ ‘Yon chap’ is ‘that man over there’; or ‘yon coos,’ ‘those cows over there.’ ‘That chap’ points out a man near at hand; ‘yon chap,’ one who is a greater or less distance removed from the speakers. Hence, ‘Yon is nothing to mine’ tells that the thing spoken of was some distance away. ‘To,’ in the statement ‘to mine,’ is equivalent to ‘compared with,’ i.e. ‘That (one) is nothing when compared with mine.’


‘To’ also=‘for,’ e.g. ‘good ti nowt,’ ‘good for nothing.’ Again, ‘to’=‘this.’ And although to some it sounds odd to hear a farmer say, ‘Wa s’all ’ev a good crop ti year,’ ‘we shall have a good crop to’ (this) ‘year,’ it only sounds peculiar because it is unfamiliar. The same individual who would smile at such usage, would perhaps a moment afterwards ask, ‘what have we to dinner to-day?’ i.e. ‘What have we for dinner this day?’ The usage of the negative in the double, treble, or quadruple form is not infrequent. ‘Ah nivver at neea tahm sed nowt aboot nowt ti neeabody neeaways; Ah’d nivver neea call teea,’ literally, reads thus: ‘I never at no time said nothing about nothing to nobody no way; I had never no reason to;’ or, ‘I never said a word to any one; I had no reason to.’ ‘Ah’d nivver neea call teea.’ ‘Call’=‘reason.’ ‘Ah’ll gi’e him a good calling when he cums in; bud he wants his jacket lacing weel t’ maist ov owt.’ ‘To call’ here=‘to scold.’

‘Sha called ma leyke all that; aye! ivverything ’at sha c’u’d lig her tung teea.’ In this instance, ‘called’ means more than a scolding; it means, ‘to defame,’ ‘to have said of the person shameful things,’ ‘to illify64,’ ‘to speak evil of.’ ‘To lace any one’s jacket,’ is ‘to administer a sound thrashing’; and to say ‘ivverything ’at one can lay the tongue to,’ is to heap upon a person all the opprobrious epithets we can remember or invent. We should not say to a child, ‘What is your name?’ Possibly did we do so, we should be met with a blank stare of amaze225ment. The correct form would be, ‘What do they call you?’ and you would have an answer at once.

We should not say ‘Shout to John,’ but ‘Call of John’; or ‘Thoo’ll ’a’e ti shoot on him looder na that, if thoo aims ti mak him hear,’ i.e. ‘you will have to shout to him louder than that, if you intend to make him hear.’ This word ‘call’ caused considerable bewilderment to one who had to make a complaint to a mother of her son. Being a stranger, the mother replied to him in her best English, but although she managed to divest her speech of much of its usual vocabulary, idiom and the peculiar use of certain words were not so easily laid on one side. She began, ‘It’s ti little ewse, bud Ah’ll call on him, an’ Ah’ll call him well when he cums; bud it’s ti no good my calling him when he does cum, foor Ah’ve called him many a tahm afoor.’

Now, why the good lady should promise to call for him when he had come, and to assure the gentleman it was of no use calling him when he arrived, because she had done so many a time before, didn’t leave things as clear as they might have been. What she really meant to say was, ‘I will shout for him, and give him a scolding when he comes; but really scolding is of little use, as I have done so many a time before.’

A little way back the word ‘aim’ was used—‘if thoo aims ti mak him hear.’

‘Aim’=‘to intend,’ ‘to hope,’ ‘to think,’ ‘to go.’

The word ‘good’=‘easy,’ also ‘considerable.’

‘Good’ also=‘well.’

‘To lap up a thing’ is ‘to conclude,’ ‘finish,’ ‘overcome.’

‘To gi’e ower’=‘to cease.’

‘To be taken’ or ‘having to appear before one’s betters’=‘appearing before the justices.’

‘Bunch’ and ‘punch’ are two words over which mistakes are often made. ‘Bunch’ is to kick with the foot or knee, ‘punch’ is to hit with the hand.


The very common occurrence of changing the past participle passive into the infinitive active, with ‘be,’ is somewhat curious. Instead of saying, ‘it will have to be seen to,’ we should say, ‘it’ll be ti leeak teea’; or, ‘the dog is dead, it will have to be buried,’ would become, ‘t’ dog’s deead, it’ll be ti sahd by.’ ‘To sahd by’ is ‘to bury,’ and ‘to put out of the road’ is ‘to kill.’ ‘Wa’ve ’ed ti put t’ au’d meer oot o’ t’ road.’

As the following bit of information introduces many of our idioms, I will give it as uttered.

‘Thoo maunt let on aboot it, bud oor Tom’s keeping company wi’ Hannah, Mary’s lass; an’ Ah’ll tell tha what, she diz git hersen up when they gan oot. Ah nivver thowt foor oor Tom ti keep company wi’ her; sha’s far an’ awaay t’ best leeaking ov onny on ’em. Aye! byv a lang waay; bud he’s gitten weel in wi’ t’ au’d woman, an’ he can gan an’ hing his hat up onny tahm he ’ez a mahnd teea. Ah’ve gi’en him an inklin’ ’at he mun allus mak hissen mensful, an’ ti think on nivver ti let wit owt aboot Nancy. They ’ed a few wo’ds t’other daay aboot her; it war all alang of summat ’at Jack let slip; an’, mah wo’d, bud Tom did ramp an’ rahve when he gat ti knaw. Sha sed ’at sha wadn’t be played fast an’ loose wi’; bud Ah228 tell’t him ti feeace it oot, an’ nut git oot o’ heart, an’ fall oot t’ ane wi’ t’ ither ower a larl matter leyke that. Bud he sed ’at sha war grieved an’ vexed an’ putten aboot; an’ moreover ’an that, Ah tell’d him nut ti tak t’ hig, bud ti tak neea ‘count on what fau’k sed, bud ti deea his best ti hit it off, an’ gi’e ower acting leyke ez if he’d gitten a slaate off, an’ nut ti fetch things up, or else sha’d be gi’ing him t’ cau’d shou’der, an’ mebbe gi’ing him t’ sack if he gat her back up; onny road, tha’ve gitten things straighten’d up a bit noo, seea lang ez it lasts.’

To the above list may be added a few others which are equally common:—

‘He’ll be dropping in for ’t yet; bud Ah’ve tell’d him ower an’ up agaan, bud it’s teea neea good.’ ‘To drop in’ has several meanings: (1) To look in—‘Ah’ll drop in an’ see tha tineet;’ (2) punishment—‘Tho’ll drop in for ’t when ta gans yam,’ i.e. you will either be thrashed, scolded, or punished in some form when you go home. ‘Ower an’ up agaan’ is232 a redundancy for ‘many a time’; ‘to neea good,’ of no use, useless. ‘It’s teea neea good gahin’, ’coz he’s nut at yam’=it is useless going, because he is not at home.

‘If it fairs up thoo maay pop ower ti Jane, bud thoo’ll ’a’e ti mahnd thisen an’ see ’at t’ cau’d dizn’t sattle o’ thi chist; thoo’s a larl piece better ’an what thoo ’ez been, an’ ther’s nowt aboot that; but thoo’ll ‘ ti hap thisen up, thoo seeams a bit closed up ez it is; an’ Ah seear thoo diz leeak a bad leeak, bud thoo’ll cum on neycely if thoo nobbut taks care.’

‘Sha’s cuming on neycely noo, sha’s gitten a to’n foor t’ better, bud Ah thowt it war gahin ti be all owered wiv her yance ower.’

‘Ah war hard set ti git it deean byv t’ tahm.’


‘He sidled aboot t’ Squire whahl he gat his rent sattled.’

‘He’s awlus skewing aboot t’ doctor’s; Ah aim ’at he’s efter yan o’ t’ lasses.’

‘If thoo’s gahin ti be agate, Ah’ll get agate, an’ set agate Matther.’

To hang in the bell ropes’ is either the time occurring between the first publishing of the banns, or that during which a wedding may be postponed.

To let oneself down’=to perform some action which lowers us in the estimation of others.

‘He’s gitten neea heart i’ t’ job, nivver neeabody ’ez when tha’re rahding t’ deead hoss.’

‘It’s a fine daay, ther’s nowt aboot that; bud Ah’s ’fraid it’s nowt bud a weather breeder.’

‘To look hard at anything’ is to do so earnestly.

‘Noo leeak hard at it, that’s “C,” nut “O”; noo leeak hard, an’ bear it i’ mahnd,’ said an old country schoolmaster.


Ho’d on a bit, thoo’s nut gahin’ ti rahd rough-shod ower me.’ ‘Ho’d on a bit,’ spoken in an ordinary tone, means simply ‘wait,’ ‘stay a moment.’ But in case of an argument, its utterance conveys the information that the tongue of one of the disputants is wagging a little too freely, or it may imply, ‘cease speaking altogether.’ E.g. I heard a man say the other day to a fellow workman: ‘Thoo ho’d on a bit, wa’ve ’ed eneaf o’ thi blather,’ i.e. ‘you cease speaking (hold your noise), we have had enough of your silly talk.’ The tone of the ‘thoo’ gave such an emphasis, that there could be no mistaking the command which it implied. On the other hand, ‘Here, Ah saay, ho’d on a bit,’ carries no greater weight than ‘That will do for the present.’

‘To ride rough-shod over any one’=utterly ignoring or treating with contempt their desires and wishes.

‘Wa’ve been tul him, an’ wa’ve tell’t him ez plaan ez wa c’u’d what wa wanted an’ what wa meant ti ’ev, an’ wa didn’t minsh matters nowther; an’ when wa’d deean, he just to’n’d roond, an’ tell’d uz ’at wa mud jump up all t’ lot on uz for owt ’at he cared; he s’u’d gan his awn gate, neea matter what wa sed or did. Ah tell ya what, chaps—it seeams ti me ez if he meant ti rahd rough-shod ower t’ lot on uz.’


‘Ah deean’t reckon mich on him—he diz ivverything by fits an’ starts, an’ ya caan’t lay onny store byv owt he sez he’s at t’ beck an’ call ov ivverybody; an’ he’s fo’st this road an’ then that, whahl yan caan’t pleeace neea dependence on owt ’at he owther sez or diz.’

The following are also commonly heard:—

To conclude. It was said of one, who was somewhat inclined to be a fop,

‘He puts on airs, scrapes his tongue, skews aboot, an’ fancies hissel’ that mich, whahl he’s mair leyke yan ’a237t’s nicked i’ t’ heead, an’ clean daft, ’an owt else; he maay aim ’at he’s up ti Dick, bud Ah aim ’at he’s nut wo’th his sau’t, an’ Ah’s reet.’

I am certain of one thing—a Yorkshireman, no matter what his position may be, never quite leaves his Yorkshire behind him. I was standing one day waiting for the steamer which was to bring me once again to old England, when a gentleman quite close to me said to his lady companion, ‘It’s a beautiful sight, is the sea67.’ I turned to him, and raising my hat, remarked, ‘Ah’s a Yorkshireman an’ all.’ That was enough, we were friends the whole of the voyage. No, we Yorkshire people cannot, if we would, leave our county behind us. And thank the gods for that.

When cultured speech in tones refined
Lead us to dream all others blind,
‘Tis well that we should bear in mind,
Though we may leave all else behind,
Our idiom goes with us.



The North Riding is very prolific in similes and quaint sayings. I have by me a collection of some hundreds, varying in degree of point and humour, but all worthy of being preserved. Many of them take us back to the time of our grandfathers, speaking of things and pointing to customs of other days. Still, they hang on the lips of the older people now; but to those who know nothing of their past, their sayings seem pointless and out of place. Nevertheless, ‘Ez useless ez damp tunder’ (tinder) would be as forceful in their day as our saying, ‘As useless as a damp match.’ In the days when many a pulpit was supplied with an hourglass—like a huge egg-boiler—to let the preacher know when to wind up his ‘thirdly,’ the old saying applied to those who were somewhat importunate, ‘They hint ez plaan ez t’ hoorglass,’ and ‘Sha’s leyke t’ hoorglass—sha uses t’ same thing ower an’ up agaan,’ or ‘Sha’s ez careful ez a sandglass,’ which never wastes a grain, were in their day as pointed as any in use at the present time. A few remarks to elucidate the meaning of those in the following list which may be somewhat obscure to any lacking knowledge on certain points, will be found on page 243.


Those marked thus ([+]) are in daily use throughout the riding. Thus (*), explanatory remarks will be found at the end.
1. Ez wise ez t’ ullot.
[+] 2. Ez hungry ez a dog.
[+] 3. Ez patient ez a cat.
[+] 4. Ez whisht ez a cat.
[+] 5. Ez still ez a moose.
* 6. Ez friendly ez a bram’l bush.
*[+] 7. Ez walsh ez pump-watter.
8. Ez poor ez pauper soup.
*[+] 9. Ez thick ez inkle-weavers.
[+] 10. Ez reglar ez clockwark.
[+] 11. Ez sartin ez t’ cess getherer.
12. Ez scarce ez guineas.
13. Ez noisy ez a tinker.
* 14. Ez common ez a deear-snek. Any one handles it.
[+] 15. Ez strang ez a steeple.
[+] 16. Ez hoarse ez a raven.
[+] 17. Ez soft ez pap, i.e. child’s food.
[+] 18. Ez stiff ez buckram.
[+] 19. Ez deead ez a mauky ratten.
20. Ez sour ez a sloe.
[+] 21. Ez deead ez a hammer.
[+] 22. Ez deeaf ez a post.
[+] 23. Ez fit ez a fiddle.
24. Ez graspin’ ez a toll-bar.
25. Ez tall ez a mill chim’ly.
[+] 26. Ez brant ez a hoos end.
[+] 27. Ez red ez a cherry.
[+] 28. Ez tough ez leather.
29. Ez seeaf ez a pig ring.
* 30. Ez soft-hearted ez a rezzil.
* 31. Ez slape ez a greeasy powl.
[+] 32. Ez rotten ez touch-wood.
33. Ez cruel ez a spider.
[+] 34. Ez red ez rud.
[+] 35. Ez lish ez a squirrel. Lish=active.
[+] 36. Ez friendly ez yan’s shadder.
[+] 37. Ez hardy ez ling.
[+] 38. Ez impudent ez a cock sparrer.
[+] 39. Ez boddensome ez debt.
[+] 40. Ez bliew ez a whetstone.
[+] 41. Ez saut ez sea watter.
[+] 42. Ez strang ez an onion.
[+] 43. Ez common ez weeds.
[+] 44. Ez sweet ez t’ floors i’ May.
[+] 45. Ez sweet ez a posey.
[+] 46. Ez sour ez a crab-apple.
*[+] 47. Ez femmur ez a musweb.
[+] 48. Ez cracked ez a brokken pot. 240
[+] 49. Ez polite ez t’ divil.
[+] 50. Ez pricky ez a pricky-back otch’n.
51. Ez soft ez a geease-down pillow.
[+] 52. Ez common ez brack’ns.
53. Ez cheap ez promises.
[+] 54. Ez cau’d ez Kessamas.
[+] 55. Ez thrang ez bees iv a sugar cask.
[+] 56. Ez busy ez bees on t’ moor.
[+] 57. Ez straight ez a bulrush. Also ‘as tall as,’ &c.
[+] 58. Ez cheeap ez muck.
[+] 59. Ez soft ez muck. Also ‘Ez soft ez a wesh-leather.’
[+] 60. Ez common ez muck.
[+] 61. Ez laam ez a three-legg’d dog.
[+] 62. Ez fast ez a rivet.
[+] 63. Ez lazy ez a stee. A ladder generally leans against a wall.
[+] 64. Ez whisht ez yan’s shadder. As quiet as one’s shadow.
[+] 65. Ez true ez a die.
[+] 66. Ez mild ez a May morn.
[+]* 67. Ez tight ez a damp cleeas-line.
68. Ez slow ez a stutterer. Also ‘Ez slow ez a snahl.’
[+] 69. Ez wick ez a lop-flea.
[+]* 70. Ez fond ez a yat.
[+] 71. Ez kittle ez a moose-trap.
[+] 72. Ez wet ez a dishclout.
[+] 73. Ez tired ez a dog.
[+] 74. Ez savage ez a wasp.
[+] 75. Ez black ez midneet.
[+] 76. Ez black ez sin.
[+] 77. Ez hard ez a steean.
[+] 78. Ez soond ez a bell.
[+] 79. Ez creeak’d ez a dog’s hind leg.
[+] 80. Ez wet ez sump.
[+] 81. Ez wet ez thack.
[+] 82. Ez mucky ez a pig-sty.
[+] 83. Ez waak ez a kitten.
[+] 84. Ez oppen ez a skep.
[+] 85. Ez bold ez brass.
[+] 86. Ez lively ez a cricket.
[+] 87. Ez green ez grass.
[+] 88. Ez soft ez putty.
[+] 89. Ez deead ez a teead skin.
[+]* 90. Ez plaan ez a pike-staff.
[+]* 91. Ez plaan ez a yat-stoup.
[+] 92. Ez full ez an egg.
[+] 93. Ez dusty ez a flour pooak.
[+] 94. Ez white ez flour.
[+] 95. Ez mucky ez a duck pond.
[+] 96. Ez larl ez a flea-bite.
[+] 97. Ez still ez a finger-post.
241[+] 98. Ez lonely ez a mile-steean.
[+] 99. Ez slape ez an eel.
[+]* 100. Ez good-natur’d ez a pump.
[+] 101. Ez pure ez spring-watter.
[+] 102. Ez reight ez a trivet.
[+] 103. Ez thin ez a bubble skin.
[+] 104. Ez sticky ez glue.
[+]* 105. Ez meean ez bo’d-lahm (birdlime).
[+] 106. Ez hard ez a nail.
[+] 107. Ez cau’d ez ice.
[+]* 108. Ez deep ez a well.
[+] 109. Ez strang ez a hoss.
[+] 110. Ez wet ez a mill-wheel.
[+] 111. Ez fond ez a goose nick’t i’ t’ heead.
[+] 112. Ez lang ez a parson’s coat.
* 113. Ez sartin ez t’ thorn-bush.
* 114. Ez waffly ez a mill-sail.
* 115. Ez soft ez butter.
116. Ez empty ez a blawn egg.
[+] 117. Ez rank ez nettles.
[+] 118. Ez blinnd ez a bat i’ daayleet.
[+] 119. Ez damp ez a cellar, or ‘t’ graav.’
[+] 120. Ez breet ez a new-made pin, or ‘ez sunleet.’
[+] 121. Ez fond ez a brush.
[+] 122. Ez greedy ez a rake.
[+] 123. Ez dhry ez a sarmon.
124. Ez tho’sty68 ez a sponge.
[+] 125. Ez solemn ez a coo.
[+] 126. Ez breet ez a bald heead.
[+] 127. Ez bare ez a bald heead.
[+] 128. Ez roond ez a bullet.
[+] 129. Ez straight ez trewth (truth).
[+] 130. Ez mad ez a bull at a yat.
[+] 131. Ez phrood ez a banty cock.
[+] 132. Ez flat ez an iron.
[+] 133. Ez poor ez moorland.
[+] 134. Ez hard ez t’ to’npike.
[+] 135. Ez nak’t ez a graav-steean.
[+]* 136. Ez strang ez a teeagle chaan.
[+]* 137. Ez tough ez a swipple.
[+] 138. Ez strang ez an oak.
[+]* 139. Ez warm ez a sheep-net.
[+]* 140. Ez catching ez t’ scab.
[+]* 141. Ez bonny ez a sheep-cade. In ridicule.
[+] 142. Ez drunk ez a fiddler.
* 143. Ez thrang ez a cobbler’s Monday.
144. Ez meean ez a cuckoo. The cuckoo lays its eggs in other birds’ nests. 242
[+] 145. Ez welcome ez t’ floors i’ May.
146. Ez larl wanted ez rain i’ hay-tahm.
[+] 147. Ez hungry ez a dog.
148. Ez glib ez a leear’s tongue.
[+] 149. Ez wo’thless ez an au’d shoe.
150. Ez larl value ez an au’d hat.
[+] 151. Ez tough ez pin-wire.
* 152. Ez neyce ez an otter[69].
[+]* 153. Ez greedy ez an otter69.
154. Ez fat ez a tailor’s goose. (The ‘goose’ is a tailor’s iron.)
[+]* 155. Ez sweet ez a kern.
[+]* 156. Ez greedy ez a fox iv a hen-roost.
[+]* 157. Ez meean ez a cat wiv a moose.
[+] 158. Ez leyke ez tweea peas.
[+] 159. Ez bitter ez gall.
[+] 160. Ez big ez bull beef.
[+] 161. Ez leet ez a midge.
[+] 162. Ez limp ez a dishclout.
[+]* 163. Ez scraped ez a bath-brick.
* 164. Ez badly used ez a peggy-tub boddum.
[+]* 165. Ez gam ez a cockroach.
[+] 166. Ez wet ez new pent (paint).
[+] 167. Ez sick ez a dog.
[+] 168. Ez flat ez a pancake.
* 169. Ez deead ez a red lobster.
[+] 170. Ez au’d ez my grandfather hat.
[+] 171. Ez merry ez a May-pole dance.
[+] 172. Ez white ez a sheet.
[+] 173. Ez catching ez t’ mezzles (measles).
[+] 174. Ez bad tempered ez a nettle.
[+] 175. Awlus t’ saam way leyke a bottle-jack (ironical, as a bottle-jack turns both ways).
[+] 176. Ez smooth ez a cat’s back.
[+] 177. Ez rosy ez an apple.
[+] 178. Ez rotten ez (a bad) to’nip (turnip).
[+] 179. Ez bent ez a sickle.
[+] 180. Ez red ez raw beef, or ‘ez a brick.’10004
[+] 181. Ez thrang ez a woman’s tongue.
[+] 182. Ez brazend ez a sunflower.
[+] 183. Ez fresh ez new pent.
[+] 184. Ez breet ez a seeing-glass.
[+] 185. Ez wick ez an eel.
[+] 186. Ez slim ez a barber’s powl.


No. 6. As friendly as a bramble bush. The way in which the bramble catches hold and clings to one is well known to all those who have had to force a passage where they grow.

7. As walsh as pump-water, or containing as little sustenance.

9. As thick as inkle-weavers. In the weaving of inkle, a kind of tape, the weavers had to sit quite close together.

14. As common as a door-sneck. This implies that a sneck is liable to be pressed or used by any one; the simile is one of an opprobrious nature.

30. As soft-hearted as a weasel, implies absolute cruelty, the weasel lacking the smallest spark of generosity in its nature.

31. As slape as a greasy pole. It is common at village feasts to erect a pole daubed thickly with grease, upon the top of which a ham, a leg of mutton, or a kettle is fixed; he who can climb to the top, which is a most difficult task, claims the prize.

47. As femmur as a musweb. ‘Femmur’ is slight, light, slender. ‘Musweb,’ a spider’s web.

49. As polite as the devil. His Satanic majesty is said to be willing to shake hands with any one.

67. As tight as a damp clothes-line. A clothes-line, when left out in wet weather, becomes very tightly stretched between its two hooks.

70. As fond as a gate. The folly of a gate is admitted on all hands; does it not without any reason bang itself against the gate-post?

90. As plain as a pike-staff; and 91, As plain as a gate-post, denote both plainness of appearance, and a thing not difficult to understand. A pike-staff was just a bare pole, and a gate-post is usually lacking of all ornamentation; and both are fairly conspicuous objects.

100. As good-natured as a pump. A pump never grumbles, no matter how often or by whom it is handled.

105. As mean as birdlime. It deceives those who rest upon it.

108. As deep as a well. ‘Deep’ is used in the sense of ‘to hide from,’ ‘to be difficult to get at the bottom of.’ In a modified sense, ‘cunning.’


113. Ez sartin ez t’ thorn-bush. It was the custom for the parson to collect the tithe by placing a branch of thorn in every tenth stook, he choosing the stooks, and sending his cart along for them.

114. As waffly as a mill-sail. ‘Waffly’ here implies ‘unstable’; the mill-sail is turned about by every wind which blows.

136. As strong as a teagle chain. These chains are used to drag very heavy timber.

137. As tough as a swipple. The swipple is the short bar of the flail, used to thresh corn with—by hand—and was always made of the toughest wood.

139. As warm as a sheep-net. Used derisively; there is no shelter or warmth in a sheep-net.

140. As catching as the scab. The scab is a very infectious disease which sheep are liable to.

141. As bonny as a sheep-cade. The cade is a disgusting looking sheep-louse; hence the simile is used ironically.

143. As busy as a cobbler’s Monday. It is generally supposed that a cobbler has to rest over Monday to work off his week’s-end debauch; hence the simile is one of ridicule.

152. As nice as an otter. ‘Nice,’ in this case, means dainty, particular, eating as it does only the very best part of the fish it kills, leaving the rest untouched on the bank.

153. See 152.

155. As sweet as a churn. A churn, of all things, must be sweet and clean; hence anything which may be truly said to be as sweet as a churn, must excel in cleanliness.

156. As greedy as a fox in a hen-roost. The fox, having gained an entrance, not only kills the bird he intends to carry away for food, but any he can lay hold of; then, picking out the best, leaves the rest.

157. Ez meean ez a cat wiv a moose. ‘Mean’ is used in the sense of cruel. The way a cat plays with its victim before killing it, is the very essence of cruelty.

163. A bath-brick must be scraped each time it is used. Hence a person who has slipped down an incline, and so become bruised, will use the simile.


164. As badly used as a peggy-tub bottom. Surely whilst in use nothing receives more thumps than the bottom of the peggy-tub.

165. As game as a cockroach. No insect perhaps is so pugnacious as the common roach or black clock. The encounters which take place on our hearths after we have retired to rest are many and deadly.

169. As dead as a red lobster. As the lobster must be boiled for some time before assuming the red colour, we may with some certainty conclude the crustacean has ceased to exist ere it dons its red jacket.

If many of the sayings which fall from the lips of our country folk were only dressed in classic language, they would rank amongst the wisest saws ever uttered.

Take a few illustrations picked from a considerable number which I have jotted down as they have been uttered—I may say the circumstances which called each forth were as varied as they well could be. Some, I have little doubt, were impromptu, but in the main they belong to another age. It will perhaps add interest if the illustrations are given as uttered, followed by a literal translation, adding explanatory remarks when needful.

A raffle tung an’ a race-hoss gan t’ faster t’ leeter wight tha hug. A foolish tongue and a race-horse go the faster the lighter weight they carry; there will be more foolish talk, the lighter the weight of brains carried.

Them ’at grumm’ls sae mich aboot what tha ’evn’t gitten, are maistly oot o’ love wi’ t’ things ’at tha ’ev. Those who grumble so much about what they do not possess, are mostly out of love with the things they have.

Them ’at nivver diz nowt thersens, awlus ’magines ’at ther’s nowt i’ t’ wo’lld ’at’s hard ti deea. Those who never do nothing (anything) themselves, always imagine that there is nothing in the world which is hard to do.


Him ’at’s gitten his heead screwed on t’ reet road i’ larl matters, weean’t be leykly ti shut yah e’e when he’s owt gert on hand. He who has his head screwed on the right way in little matters, will not be likely to close one eye when he has anything great on the way.

Impatience is t’ hoss fau’k saddle and gallop on ti meet their troubles. Impatience is the horse people saddle and gallop on to meet their troubles.

It’s easier wark feighting sin ’an nursin’ ‘t. It is easier work fighting sin than nursing it.

Religion is offens mair laamed byv those whau attend tul ’t, ’an them ’at feight shy on ’t. Religion is often more injured by those who profess, than by those who are careless. There is another: ‘No sinners are so intolerant as those just turned saints.’

Yan awlus ’ez ti paay a seet mair foor repentance ’an yan c’u’d ‘ bowt a vast o’ common sense wi’. One always has to pay a great deal more for repentance than one could have bought a great amount of common sense with.

If wa wad lig i’ peace an’ rest,
Wa mun see an’ hear an’ saay what’s t’ best.
If we would lie in peace and rest,
We must see and hear and say what’s the best.
‘T’ll save ya neea larl trouble,
If when talking ya tak care
Ov whaum ya speeak, ti whaum ya speeak,
An’ hoo, an’ when, an’ wheer.
It will save you no small trouble,
If when talking you take care
Of whom you speak, to whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where.

Closed lips an’ oppen een save yan fra monny a fratch. Closed lips and open eyes save one from many a quarrel (trouble).

Advising yan ’at’s iv a passion’s dafter ’an scrattin’ a tup head. Advising one that is in a passion is sillier than scratching a tup’s head, i.e. giving advice to one who is247 in a passion, is equal in folly to that of scratching a tup on the head, as there is no surer way of inducing it to attack you than by following such a course.

Him ’at’s meead up his mahnd ’at he caan’t deea a thing, maistly maks up his mahnd afoorhand ’at he weean’t try. He that has made up his mind that he cannot accomplish an undertaking, mostly makes up his mind beforehand that he will not try.

Maist fau’k can see t’ wrang they’ve deean, bud nut t’ wrang they’re deeaing. Most people can see the wrong they have done, but not the wrong they are doing.

Varra off’ns when a chap sez ’at he’s deeaing nowt, he’s deeaing summat he s’u’dn’t; an’ when he aims ti mak ya think ’at he’s deeaing summat ’at he s’u’d, he’s off’ns deeaing nowt. Very often when a person says that he is doing nothing, he is doing something that he should not; and when he tries to make you believe he is doing something that he should, he is often idling his time away.

Daftness nivver builds owght wo’th leaving up. Daftness never builds anything worth leaving up. ‘Leaving up’ means ‘allowing it to stand.’ The saying might be put this way: folly never accomplishes anything worthy of being handed on to posterity.

Fame is a lump ov nowt putten insahd ov a bubble, which bo’sts, an’ it’s all owered wiv it. Fame is a lump of nothing put inside a bubble, which bursts, and then it is all over with it. To ‘be overed with a thing,’ is for it to be absolutely annihilated.

Good luck gi’es ti sum mair ’an what tha owt ti ’ev, bud nivver mair ’an what tha want. Good luck gives to some more than what they ought to have, but never more than what they want.

Cussing an’ low-lived talk ther’s nivver neea call for; ther’s nowt can hap it up, an’ ther’s nowt gitten byv it. Cursing and low-lived talk there is never no need for; there is nothing can cover it up, and there is nothing got by it.

Him ’at diz ez he owt ti deea when young, ’ll be yabble ti deea ez he wants ti deea when his working days is owered. He who does as he ought to do when young, will be able to do as he248 wants to do when his working days are over, i.e. he who diligently works when young, will be enabled to take his ease when old age overtakes him.

Them ’at weds wheer they deean’t love, maistly love wheer they deean’t wed.

It’s a poor hedge ’at hezn’t a bit of shelter.

Be friendly wi’ all, bud familiar wi’ few.

It saves neea end o’ loss if ya sleck t’ fire wi’ yah bucket o’ watter. Luke t’ weeds afoor tha seed; an’ let t’ tap-reeat o’ folly gan ez deep ez it leykes. It saves no end of harm if you put out the fire with one bucket of water. Pull up the weeds before they seed; and allow the tap-root of folly to go as deep as it may. A fire cannot have done much damage if it can be quenched with one bucket of water. ‘Luke’ is ‘to pull up.’ Many methods are adopted to prevent the tap-root from growing deep into the ground; should such precautions not be taken, the root descends to where the ground is cold, and no fruit is borne. Hence the reason for desiring the ‘tap-root of folly’ to be allowed to grow deep into the ground.

Good behav’o’r nivver needs a drain-pipe; also, good behav’o’r nivver needs pruning.

He’s nobbut hauf rocked ’at believes ivverything, bud he’s cleean oot ov his heead ’at believes nowt. He is only a silly fellow who gives credence to everything he hears, but he is a hopeless idiot who believes in nothing.

Laziness ruins mair lasses ’an love, fancying thersens mair an’ laziness; an’ swallering ivverything ’at a chap sez tiv ’em, mair ’an baith putten tigither. Laziness ruins more girls than love, vanity more than laziness; and believing all that men flatteringly say, more than both put together.

Him ’at ’ez larl an’ could mannish wi’ less, is better off ’an him ’at ’ez mich an’ caan’t mak it fet. He that has little and could manage with less, is better off—richer—than he who has much and cannot make it serve.

Nivver judge a blade byv t’ heft. Never judge a blade or knife by the handle; or, never judge a person’s character by his clothes.


Ya’ll ’a’e t’ crack t’ shells afoor ya can coont t’ kon’ls. You will have to crack the shells before you can count the kernels; or, you must do your work before you can count your wages.

Sho’t ez yan’s tahm is, it’s lang eneeaf foor sum ti ruin ther characters, ther constitutions, an’ gan thruff all ’at tha ’ed at startin’. Short as one’s life is, it is long enough for some to ruin their characters, their constitutions, and ’gan thruff,’ i.e. spend, all they had to commence with.

T’ furrows o’ repentance are ploughed i’ youth, and sow’d wi’ t’ seeds o’ pleasure, bud t’ harvest ’ez ti be reaped wiv a blunt sickle when yan’s back is bent an’ yan’s gitten past wark. The furrows of repentance are ploughed during youth, and sowed with the seeds of pleasure, but the harvest has to be cut with a blunt sickle and gathered in when old age has made it impossible to repair the errors of youth.

Fooak ’at feight ower t’ reet road ti heaven, off’ns finnd oot ’at t’ far end ’at they’ve deean t’ maist o’ ther jo’ney i’ t’ hedge boddums. People who quarrel over creeds and forms discover, when life is drawing to a close, that often they have foolishly left the narrow but sure path, to stumble and struggle amongst the thorns and briars which overhang the ditch by the wayside.

T’ loodist shooters i’ t’ fair off’ns ’ez bud larl o’ ther stalls. The loudest criers in the fair often have the least on their stalls; i.e. those who make the most noise in the world generally display the least common sense.

Muschief is a fruit ’at nobbut needs a sho’t summer ti repen ’t, i.e. Mischief speedily comes to a head.

Ti stop lennin’, start borrerin’, i.e. To prevent borrowers coming to you, try to borrow from them.

It’s better ’at fau’k s’u’d laugh at ya foor knowing larl aboot owt, ’an ya s’u’d loss yer brass byv pretending ti knaw owermich. It is better that people should laugh at your knowing little about anything, than you should lose your money by pretending to know too much.

When hooap dees, fear’s born. When hope dies, fear is born.


Yan’s nivver afeeard o’ stepping oot o’ t’ waay ti deea a good to’n, if yan’s on t’ reet waay foor deeaing on ’t. One is never afraid of stepping out of the way to do a kindness, if one is in the right way for doing it; i.e. we are never unwilling to step out of our way to do a kindness, if we are sufficiently Christian to do what is right.

Since quite a boy I have jotted down any apt saying which I have heard. Many such, however, are so common, that they daily pass the lips of our country folk. These characteristic Yorkshire sayings, as already shown, are worthy of greater consideration than they have hitherto obtained. Why, I once heard an old Basedale man give a temperance lecture in a few words; he put the whole thing into a nutshell. What he said was terse, brief, full of sound common sense, and decidedly smart. We took it all away with us. And just because it was what it was, we never forgot it—we never wished to forget it—whilst often we have no desire to remember the one-sided, long-winded, intemperate drivel we have to listen to nowadays. Said he, ‘Drink, if nobbut weel followed up, awlus diz yan o’ tweea things. If ya ’a’e gitten plenty o’ brass, it’ll kill ya; if nut, it’ll beggar ya’; i.e. drink, if only well followed up, always does one of two things. If you have plenty of money, it will kill you; if not, it will beggar you.

‘Some fau’k knaw better ’an ti swing on ther awn yat,’ was said of one, who was an inveterate borrower of certain articles, which it was supposed he well could afford to buy for himself.

‘Sha nivver will larn ’at yan s’u’dn’t hug tweea eggs i’ yah han’,’ was said of one who generally spoilt251 what she was doing by having too many irons in the fire at one time.

‘Neeabody tries if a trap’s kittle wi’ ther finger.’ The application is obvious.

To one who was in the habit of returning at a late hour from the weekly market, and sometimes not quite sober, it was remarked, ‘Late yam fra t’ market off’n spoils a good bargain,’ implying that that which had been gained by the day’s bargaining had been foolishly spent in the public-house.

‘He’s yan o’ them ’at nivver hauf diz owt, bud then Ah’ve notished ’at them ’at leeavs t’ hoos deear oppen, maistly foorgit ti steck t’ yat.’

‘Mair kindness, less lip,
Mair corn, less whip,’

might well be hung up in every stable to-day, for certainly if our poor dumb servants were treated a little more kindly, they would need less shouting and bawling at, and when properly fed, the whip becomes but an ornament.

‘Onny shufflin’ taal diz ti shak off a needy relation, bud it dizn’t mak ’t reet foor ’em ti squander brass ti greease thersens wi’,’ said an old body who had asked assistance from a well-to-do sister, but who had been sent empty away with a most frivolous excuse. It seems her sister had shortly afterwards given a handsome donation at the laying of a foundation-stone upon which her name had been carved. ‘Shufflin’ taal’ is equal to ’half a lie,’ or, to put it in a milder form, ‘a poor excuse.’ ‘To shak off’ is ’to refuse’; and ’to grease yersen’ is ’to please252 oneself,’ ‘to satisfy one’s vanity.’ The saying might be put this way: ‘By the rich, any poor excuse is considered good enough to refuse help to a needy relation, but it is never just, whilst such are in want, to spend money in tickling their own vanity.’

‘T’ week ’ez tweea Mundaays foor t’ hoss ’at ligs ower Sundaay,’ implies that a Sunday’s rest gives greater energy.

‘Nivver tackle what ya caan’t deea, bud allus deea what ya tackle,’ is certainly an aphorism we should all do well to mark; the caution and advice which it contains, if acted upon, spells success in golden characters. ‘Do not undertake anything beyond either your capabilities or resources, but whatever you once set your hand to, carry it through.’

At a funeral feast where one individual was rather too ready in handing the cake and wine round, one old body was overheard to say, ‘He mebbe wadn’t ‘ been seea riddy wi’ t’ plate an’ bottle ’ed he been iv his awn hoos, bud it maistly happens ’at them ’at’s seea free wiv uther fau’k’s hay, are varra skinny wi’ ther awn corn.’ That many people are exceedingly generous in dispensing the charity of others, and very careful in parting with anything of their own, is a fact too patent to dispute.

‘T’ chap ’at fishes for his breccus off’ns ’ez ti wait foor his dinner,’ and ‘A blinnd chap owt nivver ti lake wiv a crab whahl it’s boil’d,’ point their own moral.

At Great Ayton two neighbours were discussing one who had not long been a resident. ‘Sha’s gitten a pianer noo, an’ it’s nobbut t’ other daay ’at sha bowt hersen new shades’ (blinds) ‘foor ivvery windther253 i’ t’ hoos. Wheer sha gits t’ brass ti pay foor all t’ new-fengl’d things ’at cum up, Ah deean’t knaw, bud sha queerly cam, an’ sha’ll queerly gan; an’ Ah’ll tell tha what, a hoos gitten tigither by habs an’ nabs, an’ yan’s sticks paid foor afoor they’re fetched in, is comfortabler ’an yan filled wi’ flee-by-neet stuff;’ i.e. furniture, &c., got together at odd times and in odd ways, and paid for at the time, affords more comfort than possessing a houseful of things which possibly will have to be removed during the night to escape the landlord.

‘T’ yard’s weel swept wiv a lent bizzum;’ or, one does not fail to get the most out of any article which another has lent us. The following doggerel gives a phase of human nature common to all mankind:—

Yan nivver thinks ’at t’ egg’s new laid
Yan’s nahbor kindly lent yan,
An’ t’ cream fra borr’ed milk is thin—
Deean’t len’, if you’d content yan.

‘Sha allus drives ivverything whahl t’ last bat. Ya caan’t insense it intiv her ’at them ’at git ther traps tigither iv a hugger-mugger, allus foorgits t’ main thing ’at tha’ll want.’ This is a truism the world over. If we leave our packing to the last moment, we shall probably discover the very thing we mostly need has been left behind. Equally apt was the saying of one discussing a doubtful proceeding of some comrade: ‘He’ll deea ’t whahl they catch him. It’s a mistak at onny tahm ti sneeaf t’ cann’l ti cleease ti t’ wick.’ It is a mistake to snuff the candle too close to the wick, for in so doing you may extinguish the light; i.e. it is unwise to tempt Providence.


‘They’ve baith pulled yah road; he’s raxed an’ wrought, an’ sha’s scratted an’ tew’d; what yan thowt t’ other did, whahl i’ t’ end tha want foor nowt. Bud a breet shool an’ a well-worn thimm’l allus mak a menseful hoos,’ ‘Raxed’ and ‘wrought’ are synonymous of working hard, and to ‘scrat and tew’ is to be careful and ever toiling. ‘What one thought the other did’ only strengthens the opening statement that ‘they both pulled one way.’ To ‘want for nothing’ is to possess all one needs; and ‘a bright shovel and a well-worn thimble’ clearly show that neither are allowed a lengthy rest.

‘It taks mair ti keep a pack o’ hounds ’an t’ damage t’ fox diz,’ can be, and is, applied so variously that explanation is needless.

Deean’t be ti pawky.
Think on, thoo mun knaw
If thoo starts wiv a chirp
Thoo mud end wiv a craw,
Bud if thoo’s seea feealish
Ez ti be pawky an’ pert,
Maist leyke thoo’ll start wiv a craw
An’ end up wiv a chirp.

The Yorkshireman is not one who believes in luck. Hard work, toil from early morn till night, is the daily lot of thousands. ‘Luck!’ said one; ‘ther is neea sike thing ez luck; what cums ti yan, ’ez ti be fetched. Good luck’s t’ best gitten at wiv a wet sark,’ i.e. with a shirt wet with perspiration through working hard. But hard work, if not applied in a proper and sensible manner, will result in failure: brute force is not everything. ‘T’ thickness gans for255 nowt if t’ roape isn’t lang eneeaf;’ i.e. the strength of a rope goes for nothing if it is too short.

Can better advice be given than is couched in the old saying of ‘Deean’t saay nowt on t’ deearstan at’ll rax ya ti preeave ower t’ thresho’d’? It is only one stride from the doorstep over the threshold, therefore it will be wise at all times to say nothing which will cause you infinite trouble to prove immediately afterwards.

The old saying, ‘Buckles borrow, brussen tag-holes beg,’ clearly points that our fore-elders had a pretty correct notion of human nature in their day. The short saying embodies much. If the status of those who needed assistance was such that they could afford to wear nice buckles on their shoes, such obtained help under the head of borrowing; but of those whose lace-holes were burst, and buckles altogether wanting, it was said they begged. Appearance goes a long way towards giving a name to our actions.

Again, ‘Pull t’ bobbin wi’ joy, bud knock wi’ sorrow,’ and ‘Ill news is shooted ti t’ reeaks, bud good news is whispered ti snahls70,’ both tell the same story. In olden days a bobbin, attached by a string to the sneck within, hung outside every door. The saying urges us to haste with all speed to pull the bobbin and enter if we have good news, but with sorrow we are to be careful as to how we make it known. Again, an evil report, it would seem, has ever been urged on its hurtful career. The rook is a bird which is not only noisy, but flies far afield, whilst, as256 every one knows, the snail is silent and slow; but the truth of the old saying that ‘Evil news is shouted to the rooks, whilst good tidings is only whispered to the snails,’ is, we fear, as true to-day as when first uttered ages ago.

I will close this chapter with a few truisms, which fail to be hidden in the doggerel:—


‘Twar a varra neyce wo’lld ’at wa live in,
An’ bonny it still mud be maad,
If prahd an’ au’d Harry wad give in,
An’ pafty fooak putten i’ t’ shaad.
If t’ pawky war nobbut all maastthered,
An’ swaimish fooak nut ower green,
Sum neeams wadn’t then be seea plaastered,
An’ things wad be mair what tha seeam.
If scann’l war shun’d leyke a hag-wo’m,
An’ fooak awlus thowt, ‘foor tha spak,
Wa s’u’d aim ti deea all a good to’n,
Whahl ill-will wad tak off iv a crack.
If ti illify, spite an’ sike uthers
C’u’d be deng’d cleean off t’ feeace o’ t’ yeth,
Wa sud live mair leyke sisters an’ bruthers,
An’ ‘ev mair ov innocent mirth.



The North Riding is peculiarly rich in children’s lore. I remember when a lad it was considered unlucky to hold a third place whilst crossing a stream. To overcome the difficulty, two would walk abreast, rather than cross last as third boy. A boy was not considered a true grammarian71 until he had been subjected to the orthodox rule of bumping; and any boy appearing in a new garment had to submit to ’nips for new,’ each one giving him a nip to ‘handsel’ the new garment. I remember, too, it was considered unlucky to write one’s name in a new book with a borrowed pen. And whilst any one had hold of wood, and cried ‘Queenie,’ or wet his finger, calling out ‘I’m wet,’ such for the time being was secure from receiving the last tig (bat or touch) on parting for the night—a most desirable point of vantage to gain in those days. But, be it remembered, this last tig had to be given on the skin, not on the jacket,258 or the boy would call out, ‘I wasn’t born with my clothes on.’

To possess a white ally-taw was considered most lucky, a considerable number of marbles always being offered in exchange, though it was only dire poverty which would render such a transaction possible. One hears the same words and terms used now which thirty years ago came so glibly from our own lips, and how long before that, goodness knows; but old men tell us that they played the same games with the same terms and laws which govern them now. I remember seeing the look of astonishment which came into a South-country man’s face as some boys rushed out of school to their usual ground, shouting at the top of their voices, ‘Bags Ah fuggy, bags Ah seggy, thoddy thoddy’; and from another, ‘Fowrt! fowrt! fowrt!’ whilst a small scrap of a mortal yelled at the top of his voice, ‘An’ Ah bags laggy, Ah bags laggy.’ Then it was demanded, ‘What’s t’ steeak?’ ‘Tweea a go,’ was the response, after which the game commenced, only to be followed by such expressions as—‘Backs neea flies;’ ‘Ah bags brush;’ ‘Ah sed neea brush;’ ‘Noo, then, neea fullocking;’ ‘Here, thoo’ll ’a’e ti gan ower agaan, thoo ramm’d.’ And then up crept a bully of a boy, who screamed ‘Brulley,’ snatching every taw out of the ring and running off with them. And really, after all, one need not be very much surprised if a southern visitor does fail to understand what the boys are talking about. But then our lads would be equally at sea, and find it just as difficult to understand such a sentence as the following:—‘Oi’ll ketch yer259 one on yer blooming bouko, if yer deoun’t ’old yer bally reow.’ One is north, the other south, that is all—at least, nearly all.

For what untold ages our children’s methods of counting-out have existed, it would be difficult to say. Some owe their birth to the times of the Reformation, when with a truly Christian spirit all things Romish were consistently or otherwise jeered at72; others to still earlier days, and a few to times remote. Take as an example the following:—‘Ena, tena, tethra, pethra, pimps; sarfra, larfra, ofra, dofra, dix; ena dix, tena dix, tethra dix, pethra dix, bumpit; ena bumpit, tena bumpit, tethra bumpit, pethra bumpit, sigit—you’re out.’ Again it is repeated till another is out, and so on until only two remain, and then the last one is counted out.

The above is not very common, but still it lives; it is perhaps one of the oldest methods which has survived. Doubtless, during the centuries through which it has lived, as might be expected, many of the words have lost their original sound. It would seem to date from those days when a mixed race had for some time lived peaceably together, if ever such a thing did happen. The children know it, and that is all. Let us take the first ten words; I will leave my readers to form their own conclusions.



The Children’s
Welsh. Anglo-
Old High
1. Ena ... ... Ein ... ...
2. Tena(1) ... Tu ... ... ...
3. Tethra Tair ... ... ... ...
4. Pethra Pedwar ... ... ... ...
5. Pimps Pump ... Finfe Funf ...
6. Sarfra ... ... ... ... Saihs
7. Larfra ... ... ... ... ...
8. Ofra ... ... Ohto ... ...
9. Dofra ... ... ... ... ...
10. Dix Deg ... ... ... ...
1: Probably this is the old form of two ones, for twice, hence tuena or tena.

The comparative study of children’s lore proves, perhaps more conclusively than that of anything else, how local circumstances in all things compel both alteration and modification. Our American cousins have retained with commendable accuracy most of the lore belonging to the old country; but as in some cases the nasal twang has altered the sound of words, so local and national peculiarities have influenced and modified them in others; it must, however, be admitted not to any vital extent. As an example of what I mean, take the following.

There is a very common girls’ game not only in the North Riding, but in most parts of England, called ‘Jennie o’ Jones.’ It is a singing game. One verse runs:—

Red is for the soldiers,
For soldiers, for soldiers;
Red is for the soldiers,
And that will never do.


Now, the American soldiers are not dressed in red coats, but some years ago their firemen were; this fact enabled the American girls (God bless ’em!) to shape the song so as to meet their case. So, without any other alteration worth noticing, they sing and act the song through just the same as our English bairns, until they come to this verse, and then, from one end of America to the other, where the Anglo-Saxon race predominates, they sing—

Red is for the firemen,
For firemen, for firemen;
Red is for the firemen,
And that will never do.

But to return to our counting-out games, some of which, by-the-way, originally were curses and anathemas, but as now sung by our children the original is lost in a meaningless jargon, often being devoid of rhyme, but always possessing rhythm. Many such are undoubtedly little else than so much gibberish, but in a few cases the rhythm is hoary with age, and possibly in the long past was listened to with awe and trembling. A very old and widely spread counting-out rhyme runs as follows:—

Eary, ory, hickory, on,
Philson, Valson, Dickson, John,
Squeaby, Squaby, Irishman,
Stiggerum, staggerum, buck73.

The above is the North Riding version.


The American children sing:—

One-ery, two-ery, ickery, Ann,
Fillisey, fallisey, Nicholas, Jan;
Quiver, quaver, English Knave-a74,
Stringleum, strangleum, Jericho Buck.

One other:—

Ena, mena, mina, mo,
Catch a beggar by the toe;
If he squeals, let him go,
Ena, mena, mina, mo.

Again notice the difference local circumstances give. The American children sing:—

Ana, mana, mina, mo,
Catch a nigger by the toe;
When he hollers, let him go,
Ana, mana, mina, mo.

Of children’s games no further notice can be taken, interesting though they be. To nursery stories, however, a short space must be devoted.

It is difficult now to discover in many of them any trace of religion, stories of the gods, or witchcraft, but the roots from which many of them spring were in existence thousands of years ago, and flourished in far-off lands. The similarity these stories bear to the myths of other countries greatly help in tracing that connecting link which shows the relationship of one race to another, when nearly all other landmarks and finger-posts have vanished75.

Admitting the difficulty of assigning to every story its myth-root, it is easy enough in most cases to see the moral.


The Little Crooked Old Woman and the Pig.

A little crooked woman had a little crooked broom,
She found a crooked sixpence when sweeping her little crooked room.
She set her off to market, which was a crooked mile,
Along a crooked pathway with a little crooked style;
With her little crooked sixpence a little pig she bought,
And with a band tied to its crooked leg, her homeward way she sought76.

All went well until she came to the bridge quite near to her own little cottage, but this the pig refused to cross. At that moment a stick came by, and the little old woman called out, ‘Stick, stick, beat the pig; for the pig won’t go over the bridge, and I shall never get home to get my old man his supper ready.’ The stick declined to help her, leaning itself against the bridge end. Then came by a dog. To it she cried, ‘Dog, dog, bite the stick; for the stick won’t beat the pig, the pig won’t go over the bridge, and I shall never get home to get my old man his supper ready.’ But the dog refused to do any such thing, sitting down near by the stick. Just then a bull came along. ‘Bull, bull,’ she shouted, ’toss the dog; for the dog won’t bite the stick, and the stick won’t beat the pig, and the pig won’t go over the bridge, and I shall never get home to get my old man his supper ready.’ But the bull refused to give her any help, placing himself near to the dog. From a butcher’s boy passing at the moment, she begged assistance, urging him to kill the bull, telling him how the bull, dog, and stick had all refused to help her to induce the pig to cross the bridge, winding up with the264 sad assurance, that ’she would never get home to get her old man his supper ready’; but the lad only laughed at her, he taking his stand by the side of the bull, waiting to see how she would manage. Next came along a horse, which she besought to kick the boy, as the boy would not kill the bull, and the bull would not toss the dog, &c.; but still she fared no better, the horse standing by the side of the boy. Next a fire sprang up in the hedge bottom; this she implored to burn the horse, as the horse would not kick the boy, and the boy would not kill the bull, &c. The fire, like the rest, refused all help, quietly burning where it was. Then she begged of the stream to sleck the fire, as the fire would not burn the horse, &c.; but the water ran peacefully on, heeding not her prayers. Then she heard in the distance the sound of a mighty wind; to this she prayed, ‘O wind, dry up the brook; the brook won’t sleck the fire, the fire won’t burn the horse, the horse won’t kick the boy, the boy won’t kill the bull, the bull won’t toss the dog, the dog won’t bite the stick, the stick won’t beat the pig, the pig won’t go over the bridge, and I shall never get home to get my old man his supper ready.’ Then came a voice amongst the trembling leaves as the coming wind sighed through them, ‘I will dry up the brook.’ Then said the brook, ‘Before I’ll be dried up I’ll quench the fire.’ The fire at once cried out, ‘Before I’ll be quenched I’ll burn the horse.’ The horse neighed, ‘I’ll kick the boy before I’ll be burnt.’ The boy declared, ‘Before I’ll be kicked I’ll kill the bull.’ The bull said, ‘Before I’ll be killed I’ll toss the dog.’ The dog declared, before265 it would be tossed it would bite the stick. The stick at once offered to beat the pig, at which resolution on the stick’s part the pig said, ‘Before I’ll be beaten I’ll go over the bridge’; and so it did, and the old woman got home and made her old man his supper.

It was not until the old lady besought the aid of Woden, that her petition was granted. Little doubt can exist that, as told in the north, the approaching storm-wind represents that god77.

The next story, under various garbs, is told to the little folks in nearly every corner of the earth. The connexions between the various forms and alterations (which different local peculiarities have demanded) are not difficult to trace, as the connecting links are all there. Possibly its root originated in the far East. Though our version comes from the Scandinavian race, they learnt it from some other nation, probably Germany.

North Riding Version of the Boy and his Wages.

A boy once had a very cruel step-mother; so cruel was she, that the lad determined to run away. In the end he did so, and hired himself to a farmer. Now when a year had passed, the kind farmer gave the lad for his wages an ass which dropped gold. Off home went the boy, driving his ass in front of him. On coming to a wayside inn, the landlord asked him why he did not ride such a fine-looking ass. The lad in reply foolishly told Boniface that his ass was much too valuable a one to ride; adding, ‘Would you ride an ass that dropped gold?’ To this the man asked him to make it drop gold where it stood. The boy wisely266 explained that it was only when nature’s call had to be obeyed that it did so, and quite beyond his power to command it. Whilst the boy was having refreshment, the ass was put in the stable, the landlord keeping his eye on it; before the lad had eaten and rested, evidence was given that he had spoken nothing but the truth. It happened the landlord had a very fine ass of his own; this he fetched from the field, and whilst the lad slept he groomed it, trimmed its ears and tail, and blacked its hoofs, till in the end it exactly resembled the gold-dropping one. This he took away and hid, putting his own ass in its place. The boy never noticed it was a changeling which he was driving home. On his arrival he told his step-mother what a treasure he had brought her. Hearing such good news, she received him kindly, giving him a supper of fried eggs and bacon. For three days he was, as she told him, treated like a prince; but the third morning, instead of his breakfast, she gave him a worse thrashing than ever, and turned him to the door, calling him all the names she could lay her tongue to. He returned to his master, who kindly received him, and on the completion of his second year’s labour, gave him for his wages a hamper, which every day, on the command being given to fill itself, would be found packed with choicest food, sufficient to feed a large household. Again he stopped at the inn on his way home; calling for a glass of beer, he ordered the hamper to fill. On beholding such a wonderful hamper, the landlord determined to steal that also, so whilst the lad slept, he took it away, replacing it with one of his own exactly similar. To the lad’s discomfiture, the fraud was discovered the moment he returned home. Once again he was severely beaten and turned adrift. Again his kind master took him in, and at the end of his third year gave him a bag containing a thick stick, which on the command being given, ‘Come out, stick, and bend yourself,’ would immediately leap out and unmercifully thrash the individual who at the time was holding the bag. On his way home, the landlord spied him approaching, and with smiles and kind words asked him in. ‘And, pray, what does your267 bag contain?’ asked he, as soon as the lad was seated. ‘The most wonderful thing you ever saw,’ said he; ‘but let me have a good dinner, and then I will show you.’ The landlord, thinking to have another good haul, served him with the best of everything, going even so far as to give him a glass of wine. All impatience, he waited until the repast was finished. ‘Now,’ said the youth, smacking his lips, as he swallowed the last bite, ‘stand in the middle of the room and hold the bag in your hand, and I’ll promise you the biggest surprise you ever had in your life. That bag is just wonderful.’ Before the lad had finished speaking, the landlord had taken his place in the middle of the floor, holding the bag in his hand. ‘Now open it,’ said the boy—which Boniface did. ‘Why,’ said he, in a tone of great disappointment, ‘it is only a stick.’ ‘Yes,’ replied the boy, ‘but it is a wonderful stick. Now just watch what it can do;’ and then he shouted, ‘Come out, stick, and bend yourself.’ Immediately the stick jumped out of the bag, and bent itself about the back of the landlord until he howled with pain. Do what he would, go where he might, the stick leapt after and beat him, till at last, almost dead, he cried out, ‘Put it in the bag again; I will return thee thy ass and hamper,’ which he did. On nearing home, the lad saw his cruel step-mother waiting for him with a thick stick in her hand. ‘Wait a while,’ he called, ‘until you see what I have brought you in my bag.’ Thinking it would be wiser to wait, she laid down her stick, and let him enter. ‘Now, before I show to you what I have in my bag, give me a good tea; you can thrash me afterwards quite as well as now,’ said he. After his tea, he asked the cruel old dame to take hold of the bag and open it. This she readily did, little dreaming of what was to follow. Again he shouted, ‘Come out, stick, and bend yourself’; and for once the old hag knew what a stick laid across the back meant. She begged, she implored, she promised she would be good and kind to him, if he would only call off the stick. At last, when he considered she had been sufficiently punished, he ordered the stick back into the bag. And from that day she behaved herself in a decent manner.


As has been said, there are many forms of this story. This one differs slightly from that told in the West Riding, and considerably from that of other countries, but one and all contain the same mythological essentials.

The kind master is the all-ruling God. The ass is typical of spring, yielding that which gives all good things. And the hamper undoubtedly represents the earth, which is full of all things necessary for our happiness and existence. But there comes a time when the gods, displeased with our ungratefulness or other sins, permit evil spirits to either steal or withhold the good blessings from us; then follows a chastising of the evil spirits, who are driven away, and the earth becomes once again plentiful.

The gold-dropping ass, and in some collateral form the hamper, bag, and stick, are old friends in Eastern tales, which were told when the world was very young. Possibly their radicals, if ever discovered, will be found in some early religious creed.

Perhaps some student will work out the meaning and application of the following; it is beyond me. An old servant of ours was taught it by her grandmother:—

There was a man who lived in Leeds,
He set his garden full of seeds,
And when the seeds began to grow,
It was like a garden full of snow;
But when the snow began to melt,
It was like a ship without a belt;
And when the ship began to sail,
It was like a bird without a tail;
And when the bird began to fly,
It was like an eagle in the sky;
And when the sky began to roar,
It was like a lion at my door;
And when my door began to crack,
It was like a penknife at my back;
And when my back began to bleed,
I was dead, dead, dead indeed.

I remember, when this doggerel was repeated, we all sat round the kitchen fire, the maid sitting by the table with her hand near the lighted candle; towards the last few lines her voice would drop, until, on repeating the last line, it almost became a whisper. With ears strained, and eyes nearly out of our heads, we awaited the dramatic dénouement, which most of us well knew; but in those days the excitement never waned, always the same intensity of feeling was duly worked up, as she repeated in a hoarse whisper, ‘dead, dead, dead indeed,’ extinguishing the light, as she uttered the last syllable with a fearful shriek, whilst we all yelled in one mighty chorus. Houses in those days were built, not held together by the tacks in the carpets and the paper on the wall; such a yell as we gave would have shaken the ornaments from off every bracket nailed to the walls of a whole row of modern blown-together domiciles.

The Story of the Poor Old Cobbler and the Wicked Knight.

There was once a poor old cobbler had twelve children, all girls. He was quite broken down with the hard work of finding food and clothes for them. One night, when he was working very late, he suddenly heard a laugh, and on looking up, saw the queerest little man his eyes had ever270 beheld sitting by the stove door. ‘And who may you be?’ inquired the cobbler, resting from his work. But the queer little man did nothing but laugh and shake his head. After a while, however, he said, ‘I have a bit of news for you.’ ‘Good, I hope,’ said the cobbler, waxing a thread. ‘You won’t think so; there is another daughter going to be added to your little family,’ chuckled the old chap. On hearing this, the poor old cobbler fainted; the shock was too much for him. He had hoped it would be a boy, who would in time grow up and help him; but a girl! it was too much. However, when he came to himself, the baby was born, and sure enough the queer little old man had been right. It was a sweet babe, and when three years old the wee thing showed promise of growing up to be a most beautiful maiden. One day, whilst the little lass was playing about the shop door, a knight rode by; seeing the child, he was struck with her marvellous beauty. Never before had he seen such beauty and shapeliness of limb in one so young. As he rode along, he consulted his book of fate, for he was a wicked wizard knight, and discovered the child was fated to be the bride of his own son. This he determined should not be. Turning his horse about, he returned to the cobbler’s shop, and after some conversation offered him a sum of money, and promised to take the child along with him, adopt her, and leave her all his wealth. To this the poor old man agreed, and away rode the knight with the lovely child in his arms. Now, he dare not kill the child himself, because the book of fate told him if any one did so before she had been kissed by the man she would wed, the same should die that day. So he determined her death should be an accident. Riding to the banks of the Ouse, he jumped his horse off the bank, leaving hold of the little lass as he did so. As they sank beneath the flood, she was washed away, and the wicked wizard left her to her fate. Her clothes, however, buoyed her up, and as she floated along, she heard a voice call her by name, and a queer little old man, who was fishing, threw his line over her, and dragged her to shore. Taking her to a cottage near by, he gave271 her in charge of the good wife and her husband, begging them to take great care of her until he came that way again; placing a large sum of money on the table to pay for her keep, he departed on his way. So she lived with these kind people, until she was eighteen. At this time her many charms of form and face had become the talk amongst the courtiers at York. To such an extent was her wondrous beauty famed abroad, that she was even toasted in the castle. A certain wizard knight, hearing her so extolled, rode out one day to where she lived. Seeing her standing by the door, he passed on, and again consulted his book of fate, and discovered she was the very maiden he had looked upon as drowned years ago. Turning back, he offered the good woman a large sum of money if she would permit the maiden to carry a note to his brother who lived at Scarborough Castle. The dame said it was too far for the maiden to walk; however, just then a queer little old man drove by with an ass yoked to a cart, and offered to give the maiden a lift most of the way, so she was permitted to go. When the queer little old man and the maiden rested for the night, he stole into her bedroom, and removed the note, which she had pinned within her chemise for security; so gently was this accomplished, that she never awoke. He broke the seal and read, ‘Let the bearer see my son, command him to kiss her, and then cast her into a dungeon, and let her starve to death.’ ‘I knew,’ muttered the old man. Returning to the sleeping maiden, he gently pinned within her chemise another note, with just the same seal on, and written in exactly the same writing. But written in this note was a command that the brother should at once marry his nephew to the bearer. In the morning, when the girl arose, she found the ass, cart, and little old man had left very early; however, she was quite near to Scarborough, for never had an ass trotted like the queer little old man’s had done. On arriving at the castle, she was speedily married to the wizard knight’s son, and they were as happy as they could be. Two months afterwards, the father-in-law came to stay at the castle. No sooner did he behold the bride,272 than he saw that he had been baulked again, but he held his peace. Early next day he met his daughter-in-law in a wood: she had been seeing her husband off on a hawking expedition. The wicked knight asked her to walk with him along the shore, and when they came to a lonely place, he told her she must prepare to die. Plunging his sword into the sand, he scratched a mark on the beach, telling her that when its shadow reached that mark, he would draw it from the sand and run it through her heart. So eloquently did she plead, and her beauty was so great, that he relented so far as to offer her her freedom if she would swear to go away and never see his son again, until she wore upon her finger the ring which he held in his hand. She swore she would do as he wished if he would only spare her life. He then by magic art threw the ring into the very middle of the sea, where it sank.

Broken-hearted, she left her cruel father-in-law, and wandered far away, feeling that she would never see her husband again. For more than a year she travelled from place to place. At last the poor young wife was engaged as cook by a great baron’s lady. Some time afterwards her father-in-law and her husband came to stay at the castle. The very day they arrived, the queer little old man and his cart drew up at the servants’ door, offering fish for sale. The cook purchased a large turbot, and on opening it, she found inside it the very ring which her wicked father-in-law had thrown into the middle of the sea. She cooked the dinner so well, that the guests begged to see the cook; to this end she dressed herself in her best gown, put the ring on her finger, and appeared before them. The wicked knight recognized her at once, and rushed forward to slay her with his uplifted sword. But the delighted husband folded her in his arms, so that his father must have slain both had he dared to strike. Freeing herself from her husband’s loving embrace, she held up her hand. The knight saw the ring. He then knew she was guarded beyond the reach of any machinations of his; so he gave them his blessing, and they all lived happily ever afterwards.


Although in another form the same story is told by Grimm, and is known to-day in every country in Europe, originally it was two separate stories, which have grown into each other. The first part is closely related to a Swedish and Norwegian story, whilst the second is from a different root, which is common to many others. One having a strong resemblance is that of ‘Mageloné,’ and of mythological signification. Regarding the story itself, I dare not venture an opinion. But the guardian spirit, in the form of the little old man, comes out much more strongly in the North Riding version than in that of any other. Again, the act of throwing the ring into the sea, which was followed by total darkness being cast over two lives, may be typical of the sun78 sinking into the middle of the universe. And the fish bringing it to light may be symbolical of its rising again; anyway, the act brought light, life, and hope for the future. I leave it with you—I have only suggested, not laid my ideas before you as the opinion of one able to give an opinion on a question of this kind.

The story of the ‘Golden Ball’ and others are common with us; but they must be passed by, as space only remains for one other.

The Cruel Step-mother and her Little Daughter.

Once upon a time, years and years ago, when animals possessed the power of speech, a cruel woman lived with a son of her own, and a little step-daughter of her husban274d’s whom she hated—but then she was a wicked step-mother. This poor little girl never knew what it was to have a kind word spoken to her, though she tried in all things to win her step-mother’s love, but it was a hopeless task. One day she was sent to the neighbouring village for some candles, her step-mother giving her a silver piece, telling her to be sure and bring the change back. On returning home, she had a stile to climb, and it was such an awkward stile. There was no other way but to push the candles under the lowest bar, and then climb over; this she attempted to do, but when on the topmost rail, a black dog snatched up the candles and ran off. In great trouble she returned to the grocer’s, and with some of the remaining money bought another pound of candles; but this time, when she came to the stile, a white dog ran away with them. Again she went to the grocer’s, and found she had just sufficient money left to purchase a third pound. This time she was wiser, and balanced the candles on the topmost rail; but just as she did so, a great black bird swooped down and flew away with them. On her return home she told her cruel step-mother all that had happened. Instead of scolding and beating her, she told the child to come and rest her head on her knee whilst she combed her hair; and the cruel woman’s heart was filled with envy and hatred when she saw the wealth of golden hair which fell about the child, hiding her from view. ‘Your head tires my knee,’ said she; ‘fetch in the stick-block, and rest your head upon it whilst I comb out the cotters79.’ There really wasn’t a cotter in her hair, it was only a wicked excuse. Whilst the child was gone for the wooden block, she took a sharp axe from its nail and hid it under her apron. ‘Put your head on the block, my dear,’ said she—oh, so kindly—and the little child, never dreaming what her cruel step-mother contemplated, laid her head upon the block. Then the cruel woman brought out the bright sharp axe, and with one blow severed the head from the body. This wicked step-mother then tore the child’s heart from her275 little breast, put it in a pan, and set it upon the fire to boil, whilst she buried the body. On the father’s return home, she said that his daughter was chopping sticks. She then offered the father some of the broth she had made from his own dear child’s heart. He tasted it, but said he did not like the flavour, and would not drink any more; her own son refused even to taste it. Next evening, when the father asked for his little daughter, the woman lied again. She made the excuse that she had sent her with the carrier to stay with her grandmother, a great way off, declaring that she would not return for a whole year.

In a short time, on the very spot where she had buried the child, there sprang up a most wonderful rose-tree, which bore one large bud; this presently bloomed into a lovely white rose, when lo! from its petals, there flew forth a little bird as white as the purest snow. The bird did not stay in the garden, but flew into the town, and alighting on the window-sill of a toy-maker, at once commenced to sing more sweetly than he had ever heard a bird sing before. So charmed was he that he begged of it to sing again. ‘I will,’ said the bird, ‘if you will give me the best toy sword you have,’ which he gladly promised to do. So the bird sang again, and flew away with the sword to the door of a watchmaker. Here again it sang: this time it received a gold watch and chain. With this and the sword it flew to where some stone-masons were working; to them it promised to repeat its song if they would tie to its neck a large round stone which they had just finished making. This they readily did, and away it flew, alighting on the chimney of its former home. After resting awhile, it rattled the stone against the chimney side, which sounded in the house like thunder. ‘It thunders down the chimney,’ said the mother; so the little boy thrust his head under the chimney, to hear better. No sooner had he done so, than the bird let the sword drop, the leather belt falling round his neck. ‘See,’ cried the lad, ‘what the thunder has sent me,’ jumping about with joy. Again the bird rattled the stone against the brickwork. ‘It thunders276 again,’ said the father, thrusting his head into the chimney, when round his neck fell a gold chain with a beautiful watch attached. ‘And see what the thunder has sent me,’ said the father, removing the chain from his neck, and admiring his present. A third time the stone was shaken against the chimney side. Pushing the other two aside, the cruel step-mother cried, ‘It is my turn this time.’ So saying, she thrust her head up the chimney, when the bird let the stone ball drop, which falling on her head crushed her skull, and she fell back dead on to the kitchen floor. Such was the sad end of the cruel step-mother.

The variety of forms which this story has taken, and its wide distribution over perhaps the greatest area of any of our early-life stories, gives it a prominence and distinction second to none. In many of the stories of other places, the stone ball is described as a millstone. Possibly this is nearest to the original, as in many early fables the millstone figures as thunder. But to the eminently practical mind of the Yorkshire folk, it has been discarded, owing possibly to the unlikelihood of finding a chimney big enough to admit of its being dropped down. If its mythological root is somewhat obscure, its close relationship to other stories hoary with age is as clear as the noonday sun.

Passing on to other branches of childhood’s lore, we call to mind the many charms of our youthful days. Were we stung with a nettle, we at once searched for a dock-leaf, and rubbing the part stung, repeated with all due solemnity:—

Docken in drahve t’ nettle oot,
Just leyke an au’d dishcloot;



In docken, oot nettle,
Deean’t let t’ warm blood sattle.

The snail-charm is as follows:—

Sneeal[80], sneeal, shut oot yer horn,
Or Ah’ll kill yer feyther an’ muther ti morn;


Snahl80, snahl, cum oot o’ yer shell,
Or Ah’ll bray yer flat wiv a wooden mell.

The crow-charm, as sung by the bairns, is:—

Craw, craw, flee oot o’ seet,
Or else Ah’ll eat yer liver an’ leet.

The rain charm is:—

Raan, raan, go away,
Cum agaan anuther daay;


Raan, raan faster,
T’ bull’s in t’ pastur.

It is curious how spitting has come to play such a prominent part as it has. In certain games of catching, a boy may be quite securely caught, so far as actual grip is concerned; but until he has been hit three times on the back, and the operation of spitting over his head duly carried out, the capture is not fully concluded. Again, when two boys quarrel, one will be asked if he dare give the other ‘his buff.’ This is a slight blow, struck on any part of the opponent’s person. Virtually, it is a challenge. Up to this point, however, the actual fight may or may not come off. The opponents, if left to themselves, are still open to arrange matters amicably. But if some boy hold his finger under the chin of one of them,278 and ask him ‘if he dare spit over,’ and some lad make the same demand of the other, and both spit over, then utter disgrace and obloquy would for ever cling to the boy who, after the performance of such a sacred rite, dare refuse to do battle.

What boy does not yet fully believe that a horsehair, either pushed up the cane or held in the hand, will split it, so as to render it useless as a means of correction? And which of us in our younger days did not accept in full faith the belief that horse-hairs steeped in water turned to eels. Why, I can well remember the time that every man jack of us, when we passed Sharrow Cross, always touched the old stone and wished, and many a pin have I dropped into St. Helen’s Well and done the same.

Rob a Robin,
Go a-sobbing,

so we used to say, and for that reason we never stole their eggs—that is, we did not actually take them out of the nest with our fingers. No, to save ourselves from sobbing, we poked one out with a stick, and then picked it up—under such conditions, we found it lying outside. Don’t smile, please. Grown-up people nowadays round the corners of their consciences in quite as barefaced a manner, and with fewer qualms.

Other children’s lore must with reluctance be omitted. May what has been written be acceptable to them.




[Published at Bedale, 1800-1815.]

When Ah war a wee lahtle tottering bairn,
An’ ‘ed nobbut just gitten sho’t frocks,
When ti gan81 Ah at fo’st war beginnin’ ti larn,
O’ mah bru82 Ah gat monny hard knocks;
Foor sae waak an’ sae silly an’ helpless war Ah,
Ah war awlus a tumm’ling doon then,
Whahl mah muther wad twattle ma gently, an’ cry,
‘Honey, Jenny, tak care o’ thisen.’
Bud when Ah grew bigger an’ gat ti be strang,
‘At Ah cannily toddled aboot
Byv mysen wheer Ah leyked, then Ah awlus mud gan
Wivoot being tell’d aboot owt.
When hooivver Ah cam ti be sixteen year au’d,
An’ rattl’d an’ ramp’d amang t’ men,
Mah mother wad call o’ ma in, an’ wad scaud,
An’ cry—‘Huzzy! tak care o’ thisen.’
Ah’ve a sweetheart cums noo upo’ Seterdaay neets,
An’ he sweears ’at he’ll mak ma his weyfe;
Mah mam graws seea stingy, sha scauds an’ sha fleets,
An’ twitters ma oot o’ mah leyfe.
Bud sha may leeak soor, an’ consate hersen wise,
An’ preeach ageean leyking young men—
Sen Ah’s a woman, her clack Ah’ll dispise,
An’ Ah s’ marry! tak care o’ mysen!


[Date about 1800-15. Published at Bedale.]

Good morrow, Johnny, hoo d’ye deea?
If ya’re ganning mah road, Ah’ll gan wi’ ya.
Hoo cau’d this mornin’ t’ wind diz blaw—
Ah think wa seean s’all ’a’e sum snaw.
Aye, Simon, seea wa s’all ere lang.
Ah ’s Bedale wards; Ah wish ya’d gan,
Foor Ah’ve a dowter leeatly deead—
Ah’s boon ti git her coffin meead.
Heigh! Johnny! deead? Wha, seear, thoo’s wrang,
Foor sha war wiv uz e’er seea lang.
An’ oft wiv her i’ yonder booer
Ah’ve joked and laugh’d full monny an hoor.
Bud fo’st, good Johnny, tell ma this,
What maad her dee? what’s been amiss?
Ti tell tha, Simon, noo Ah’s boon.
Thoo sees, Ah sent her ti yon toon
Ti skeeal, an’ next ti larn a traad
Byv which sha war ti arn her breead.
Bud when sha fo’st cam yam ti me,
Sha ’ed neea petticoats, ya see.
Ah fan sha’d larl on bud her smock,
An’ ower that a tawdry frock.
Sike wark ez that, it raised my passion,
An’ then sha telt ma it war t’ feshion.

Her hat sa fine to’n’d up afoor,
It made her leeak just leyke—Oh lor!
Wha, Johnny, stop, thoo’s oot o’ breeath.
Bud hoo cam sha ti git her death?
Whya, ho’d a bit, an’ thoo s’all heear.
I’ t’ next pleeace, mun, her breasts war bare;
Her naaked airms, teea, sha mun show,
E’en when t’ cau’d bitter wind did blaw.
Her clock’d hose, ez ower t’ street
Sha tripp’d, sha show’d, a sham’ful seet.
An’ when Ah spak aboot it, then
(Ya see, Ah’s awlus by mysen)
Her muther maistly leean’d her waay—
It matter’d nowt what Ah’d ti seeay.
Ah tell’d mah deeam hoo it wad be,
An’ seea sha caan’t lig t’ blaam o’ me:
Sez Ah, ‘Afoor sha’s twice ten au’d,
Sha’s seear ti git her deeath o’ cau’d.’

Ah’s seear it’s all t’ gert fau’ks’ pursuit
Ti ’ev, like Eve, a birthday suit.
Thoo’s reet good, Johnny; reet, Ah saay.
That Ah’ve obsarved afoor ti-daay;
Foor t’ maist o’ wimmin nooadaays
Nobbut put on ther goon an’ staays.
An’ noo i’ t’ toon, ez each yan passes,
Ya caan’t ken deeams fra sarvint lasses.

Aye, Simon, thoo sez reet, Ah sweear;
Bud noo, ez Bedale’s drawing near,
Deean’t let on wiv owt Ah’ve sed
Aboot mah dowter ligging deead.

Neea, that Ah weean’t; but whahl Ah’ve breeath,
Ah’ll nobbut saay ’sha starved ti deeath.’

Note. Much of the above has had to be suppressed.


T’ Lass fra Lunnon.

Yan nivver ’ed seean sike a yan
Foor dhriss an’ feathers spik an’ span;
Sha war maistly t’ match foor onny man,
War t’ lass fra Lunnon.
Sha c’u’d raffle on, an’ tell a taal
‘At put i’ t’ shaad Jonah an’ t’ whaal;
Bud sha wadn’t hug a hauf-filled paal,
That lass fra Lunnon.
Sha c’u’d slather oot a bit o’ Frinch,
An’ sit an’ swing her legs on t’ binch;
Sha warn’t partic’ler tiv a pinch,
Warn’t t’ lass fra Lunnon.
Sha c’u’d sing yan comic songs byv t’ year—
Sike songs yan dizn’t offens hear—
Bud sha wadn’t scrub a kitchen fleear,
That lass fra Lunnon.
A bisittle sha’d larnt ti rahd;
When dancing, wha, sha seeamed ti glahd;
A chap sha wad ’ev byv her sahd,
Wad t’ lass fra Lunnon.
Her waist war nobbut bud a span;
Sha c’u’d ommaist cum roond onny man,
Bud sha wadn’t cleean a pot or pan,
That lass fra Lunnon.
Sha c’u’d plaay t’ pianner, sing an’ all;
Sha’d read all t’ luv taals gert an’ small;
Sha war sharp eneeaf foor yan an’ all,
War t’ lass fra Lunnon.
A leet daay’s wark sha wadn’t start,
Ti muck hersen sha ’edn’t heart,
An’ sha c’u’dn’t bake a leeaf or tart,
That lass fra Lunnon.
Sha’d lig back iv a basket cheear,
An’ fairly cap yan wiv her hair—
Ah’ve seen mah missus stan’ an’ stare
At t’ lass fra Lunnon.
Sha wad laak at crickets leyke a lad,
An’ carry on leyke yan ’at’s mad,
Bud sha wadn’t mend a thing sha ’ed,
That lass fra Lunnon.
Ah’ve seean her smeeak a larl cigar,
An’ sha didn’t seeam a bit the war,
Bud then sha war a mo’tal star,
War t’ lass fra Lunnon.
Her shoon war oppen doon ti t’ teeas,
Her hat stuck on all macks o’ waays,
Bud sha wadn’t wesh her mucky cleeas,
That lass fra Lunnon.
Sha’d row on t’ pond just leyke a chap,
An’ iv a net sha’d tak a nap—
Sha didn’t seeam ti mahnd a rap,
That lass fra Lunnon.
Foor fun an’ gam sha seeam’d fair rife,
Bud wark sha wadn’t thruff her leyfe—
Sha’d nivver mak a poor man’s weyfe,
Wad t’ lass fra Lunnon.


Deean’t aim ti stop a bull by t’ e’e,
Deean’t gan far up a rotten stee,
Deean’t ho’d i’ t’ han’ a bumm’l bee—
Tha’re kittlish things ti deea.
Deean’t tak a straange dog byv its taal,
Deean’t mak yer naabor’s pigs ti squeeal,
Deean’t call yer maaster’s lad a feeal—
Tha’re kittlish things ti deea.
Deean’t aim ti alter wimmin’s waays,
Deean’t conterdict what t’ maaster saays,
Deean’t hark him back tiv uther daays—
Tha’re kittlish things ti deea.
Deean’t saay ti t’ muther t’ babby’s plaan,
Deean’t tell a chap his lass is t’ saam,
An’ nivver saay ’at t’ weyfe’s ti blaam—
Tha’re kittlish things ti deea.
Deean’t drahve a lent hoss ower fast,
An’ when ya’ve wo’ds, deean’t try foor t’ last
Wi t’ weyfe, or else sha’ll ommaist brast—
Tha’re kittlish things ti deea.
Deean’t gicken when yer betters slip,
Deean’t be ti pawky wi’ yer lip,
An’ frev anuther’s glass deean’t sip—
Tha’re kittlish things ti deea.



A Blighted Young Man.

Noo stan’s afoor ya a blighted young man
Wheeas leyfe is fast slithering awaay;
Ah’s dowly an’ dwining, an’, deea what Ah mud,
Ah caan’t lig mah troubles awaay.
Yance Ah war happy, leetsome, an’ gaay;
Bud Ah gat wed, an’, varra sad ti saay,
Ah seean fan t’ mistak oot, an’ noo ivvery daay
Ah wish Ah war a sing’l young man.
Ah offens calls ti mahnd noo when Ah war a lad
T’ fussack Ah rade on ti skeeal;
Ah nivver thowt i’ them daays ’at woman sae coy
C’u’d ivver mak a man sike a feeal.
Aa, bud Ah’s dowly an’ stalled o’ mah leyfe,
Ther’s nowt noo bud waiting for t’ end,
Ah ’livvers up my wages Ah arns ivvery week,
An’ fow’pence sha gi’es me ti spend.
Ah weshes all t’ taters, Ah maks all wer beds,
Ah fetches all t’ coals in, an’ t’ hearth Ah cleans up;
Ah peeals ivvery onion, an’ monny a tear Ah sheds
Ez Ah sups fra leyfe’s bitter cup.
Ah diz all t’ possing, Ah hings oot all t’ cleeas,
Ah hugs in all t’ watter, an’, ez ya maay suppose,
Ah meng’ls, Ah irons, Ah diz all ’at Ah can,
Bud Ah’s nowt na mair ner a poor wedded man.
When Ah went a-courting, sha seeam’d ti be
Ez meek an’ ez mild ez meek an’ mild can be;
Bud ther’s tweea sahds tiv a woman—deea what ya can,
T’ Missus will be t’ maastther of a poor married man.


T’ meean war leeaking doon on t’ yeth
Leyke a silver ball yah neet,
An’ stars war twinkling ivver seea,
Whahl t’ sky war all aleet
Wi’ t’ gems ov Heaven up aboon.
Seea gran’ tha leak’d ti t’ e’e,
Yan felt fair capp’d ti think doon there
‘At owt bud luv c’u’d be;
Foor t’ beetles hum’d ez round tha swirl’d,
An’ t’ crake call’d foor its maate,
An’ t’ bleeat o’ monny lambs yan heeard,
An’ t’ moths can oot ti late
Ther suppers fra some neetly bloom,
An’ t’ wo’lld war fair ti see,
Whahl sumhoo yan felt bet ti knaw
Hoo owt bud luv c’u’d be.
A twittering noos an’ thens yan heeard
Fra t’ larl bo’ds i’ ther nist,
Ez croodled under t’ muther wing
Tha teeak ther neetly rist.
T’ noisy creeaks ’ed geean ti reeast,
Ther war nowt yan c’u’d see
Ti mak it hard upon this yeth
Foor owt bud luv ti be.
Bud whahl yan tried ti mak it oot,
A flittermoose fligg’d by,
An’ t’ ullot’s shadow darken’d t’ grund,
An t’ neet-jar gav its cry,
An t’ fox yapp’d wiv its neease ti t’ grund,
Whahl t’ rezzel slank alang,
An’ t’ rabbit’s squeeal tell’d plaan eneeaf
O’ parlous deed amang
T’ weeak critters, whahl yan ’s forced ti awn
It’s seeam amang wersels—
I’ t’ heart, wheer nowt bud luv s’u’d be,
Unkindness offen dwells.

Yan better wed when t’ glamour’s on
Ez wait whahl t’ heart graws cau’d;
It’s better deean i’ t’ spring o’ leyfe
Ez when yan’s grawing au’d.
Yan better wed foor luv ez brass,
Just when oor een is breet;
Yan better wed when toilsome wark
Upon yan’s rig ligs leet.
Yan better fetch wer baans all up,
Whahl ivvery gam tha plaay;
Baith them an’ uz can laak ti t’ end—
It’s better mich that waay.
Yan owt ti be just gahin’ doon t’ hill
Ez tha tak frev uz t’ pleeaf,
An’ if thruff leyfe yan’s deean yan’s best,
Yan’s awlus deean eneeaf.

Nivver belder at yer bairns,
Whisht wo’ds is awlus t’ best;
An’ nivver let a tear-drop damp
Ther een when gahin ti rist.
Deean’t let ’em doot yer larlest wo’d,
Bud let ’em ho’d ti be
Nowt else bud t’ trewth iv all ya saay,
An’ let ’em awlus see
‘At ivverything ya daily deea
Thersels mud pattern tak—
I’ deeaing this, ya’re deeaing mich
Bonny bairns ti mak.



From the Author’s series of Yorkshire Sketches.

‘What is ’t, mun?’

‘It’s t’ b’loon.’

‘Is ’t t’ thing ’at tha gan up inti t’ sky wiv?’


‘Hoo deea tha mannish ’t?’

‘Naay, that licks ma; bud it gans up leyke all that.’

‘What’s ho’ding ’t up noo?’

‘Ah deean’t reetlings knaw. Ah ax’d t’ chap ’at awns ’t, an’ he tell’d ma ’at it war thrussen up wi’ gas.’

‘Aye, an’ what did thoo saay ti that?’

‘Whya, Ah tell’d him ’at Ah’d cutten my back teeth.’

‘An’ what did he saay then?’

‘Nowt; he nobbut ax’d ma if Ah’d leyke ti gan up wiv him, an’ Ah tell’d him ’at he wadn’t catch me sailing thruff t’ cloods sitting on t’ top ov a gert blether, an’ he did nowt bud laugh at ma.’

‘Ah didn’t knaw ’at tha sat on t’ top; Ah awlus thowt ’at tha gat insahd t’ b’loon. Bud Ah deean’t see hoo tha’d git inteea ’t. Ah’s t’ maist capped ti knaw what ho’ds ’t up.’

‘Aye, bud what diz ta mak on ’t gahin up byv itsen, when tha let it off?’

‘Ah deean’t knaw, that’s a capper. An’ thoo sez ’at it gans up leyke all that?’

‘Seea fau’k saay. Think on, Ah’ve nivver seen yan git awaay wiv itsen.’

‘Ah saay, efter tha’ve gitten ’t up, hoo deea tha mannish ti fetch ’t doon agaan?’

‘Ah nivver thowt o’ that. Ah wunner hoo tha deea deea ’t. Bud Ah s’u’d think ’at tha mebbe fling a roap oot an’ swarm doon ’t.’

‘Mebbe, bud Ah’s leathered ti knaw what ho’ds ’t up.’

‘Whya, Ah s’u’d think ’at ther’s mebbe a chap insahd ho’ding it up wiv a powl’ (pole).


‘Aye, mebbe seea; Ah nivver thowt o’ that. What’s that thing; is ’t a bee-skep?’

‘It leeaks despert leyke yan.’

‘It’s a varra gert un. Mah wo’d, what a swarm it wad ho’d.’

‘Sitha, mun! if tha ar’n’t tying t’ bee-skep ti t’ b’loon; an’ ther’s a lass gitting insahd.’

‘Ther is, hooivver. Ah nivver seed sike a thing i’ mah leyfe; it waggles aboot sairly.’

‘Leeaks, ta! Ther’s a chap gitting in noo; depend on ’t, tha’re foor off.’

‘Tha’re larl better ’an tweea feeals. Ah wadn’t leeave t’ grund tied tiv a thing leyke that; neea, nut foor a ransom.’

‘Whativver are tha efter noo?’

‘Ah caan’t mak oot.’

‘Bless mah leyfe, tha’re lowsing t’ thing.’

‘Tha are, hooivver. Tha’re gahin’ ti let it off.’

‘Ther’s na doot aboot it.’

‘Well, ov all t’ crack-brained undertakkings ’at ivver Ah’ve clap’d mah een on, this carrying on licks au’d Mother Shipton.’

‘T’ Queen owtn’t ti ’low this.’

‘Sitha, tha’re gahin’ up.’

‘Sha owtn’t. It’s nut reet, a-gahin’ on leyke this; neeabody ’ez onny reet ti start foor heaven, owther insahd or ootsahd a b’loon, wivoot tha’ve deed fo’st. It’s warse ’an t’ tooer o’ Babel.’

‘It seeams ti gan stiddy, Ah will saay that.’

‘That’s nowt; tha’re nut i’ t’ reet on ’t.’

‘Tha’ll ’ev a gran view, onny road.’

‘Thoo dizn’t meean ti saay, John, ’at thoo’d leyke ti gan, diz ta?’

‘Whya, mebbe Ah wad! sha’s a neycish leeaking lass.’

‘Whya, then, Ah’ll tell tha what, if ivver Ah catch thee gahin’ inti t’ cloods, dengling belaw a b’loon iv a bee-skep wiv a straange lass, thoo’d better stop up wiv her altigither, foor thoo’ll ’a’e larl peace if thoo ivver darr’s ti cum doon agaan. Beear i’ mahnd, noo, when thoo leeaves ma for t’ cloods, it’ll ’a’e ti be ez an angel, or thoo’ll rue ’t.’


Mrs. Waddleton travels by train for the first time to see her daughter, residing at Whitby, to whom she gives a full description of her journey.

Whya, noo, Ah’ll tell tha all aboot it reet away fra t’ starting. Thoo knaws Ah went ti what they call t’ station, an’ Ah seed a young chap stannin’ at t’ back ov a thing leyke a ratten trap, an’ Ah sez tiv him, ‘Noo, then, what’s thoo been efter ti git thisen stuckken theer foor?’ An’ he sez, ‘Naay, nowt; Ah’s nobbut here ti sell t’ tickets, that’s all.’ ‘Oh, whya,’ sez Ah, ‘if that’s all, let’s be ’evving ho’d o’ yan.’ An’ he sez ti me, ‘All reet, wheear are ya gahin’?’ ‘Stop a bit,’ sez Ah; ’that’s neea business o’ thahn.’ ‘Whya,’ sez he, ‘Ah caan’t gi’e ya a ticket if ya deean’t tell uz wheear ya gahin’ tul.’ ‘Well,’ sez Ah, ‘Ah s’all deea nowt o’ t’ sort; an’ if Ah’ve onny mair o’ thi impidence, Ah’ll tak tha byv t’ hair o’ thi heead an’ Ah’ll pull tha thruff t’ larl hoal—that’s what Ah’ll deea.’ An’ then a young lady cam up, an’ sha sez, ‘If Ah war yow, Ah’d tell t’ young chap wheear ya’re gahin’ tul, an’ it’ll mense things up a bit, an’ ya’ll git yer ticket an’ git awaay neycely.’ ‘All reet,’ sez Ah. ‘Noo, then, cu’ thi waays back, impidence; Ah’s gahin’ ti Whidby ti see my dowter. Sha lives on t’ cliff, an’ sha’s gitten a pianner, an’ bowt a pig, an’—— ’ ‘Naay, what!’ sez he; ‘Ah deean’t want ti knaw all t’ family history, hooivver.’ ‘Well,’ sez Ah, ’thoo seeam’d that ’quisitive aboot it, ’at Ah thowt Ah’d best tell tha t’ lot whahl Ah war at it.’ ‘Whya, noo then,’ sez he, ’theear’s yer ticket, an’ it’s yan an’ fow’pence.’ ‘Whya,’ sez Ah, ’thoo needn’t be seea chuff aboot it; theer’s thi yan an’ fow’pence.’ ‘That’s reet,’ sez he; ‘an’ ya mun tak care on ’t.’ ‘Thoo gert dunder-nowle!’ sez Ah; ‘Ah’s nut gahin’ ti fling ’t awaay when Ah git ootsahd. Ah s’all tak care on ’t ti t’ end o’ mah daays.’ ‘Naay,’ sez he, ‘bud ya weean’t.’ ‘What foor?’ sez Ah. ‘‘Coz theer’s a chap ’at t’ tother end ’ll want it.’ ‘Oh, is theer?’ sez Ah; ‘whya, then, he weean’t git it.’ ‘He’ll tak it fra ya,’ sez he. ‘Nut if he’s leyke what thoo is,’ sez Ah, ‘or hauf a dozen on ’em.’ An’ then Ah went ootsahd, on ti what tha291 call t’ platform. ‘Noo, then,’ sez Ah, ‘is this t’ traan thing?’ An’ a porter chap sez, ‘Aye, that’s it.’ ‘Oh! an’ wheer’s t’ hoss?’ sez Ah. ‘What hoss?’ sez he. ‘Whya, t’ hoss ’at’s gahin’ ti drag t’ thing ti Whidby?’ ‘Bud,’ sez he, ‘it dizn’t gan wiv a hoss.’ ‘Then what diz it gan wiv?’ sez Ah. ‘Whya, that thing ’at’s at t’ front end on ’t.’ ‘Hoo can a thing leyke yon knaw t’ road ti Whidby? Ger away wi’ tha.’ ‘Oh,’ sez he, ‘ya’re gahin’ ti Whidby, are ya?’ ‘Ah is,’ sez Ah; an’ wi’ that he gat at t’ back o’ mah, an’ afore Ah knew wheer Ah war, Ah war hauf lifted an’ hauf thrussen inti ti carridge. An’ ther war nowt bud a young chap sitting up i’ t’ far corner; an’ Ah sez tiv him, ‘Ah, saay, ’ev yow ivver been iv a train afoor?’ ‘Aye, monny a tahm,’ sez he. ‘Is this all reet?’ sez Ah. ‘Aye, it’s reet eneeaf,’ sez he. An’ seea Ah sat ma doon. Ah thowt it ’ud be seea neyce ti leeak oot o’ t’ winder an’ see Tom Robison’s coddy fooals an’ John Williams’s pigs, bud it’s ez trew ez Ah’s sitting byv thi fire-sahd, t’ fo’st thing ’at Ah seed war a chetch run reet across a field, an’ t’ next minit ther war tweea coos, three pigs, a man, an’ a haystack flew past that quick, whahl ya c’u’dn’t keep yer e’es on ’em at all, an’ then ivverything went ez pick dark ez neet. ‘Noo, then,’ Ah shooted, ‘what’s up noo?’ ‘Naay, nowt,’ sez he; ‘wa’ve nobbut gane insahd ov a funnel, that’s all.’ ‘Insahd ov a funnel!’ sez Ah; ’then s’all wa be dragged oot o’ t’ narrer end on ’t?’ ‘Noo, it’s all reet,’ sez he. ‘Ah deean’t knaw sae mich aboot its being all reet,’ sez Ah. ‘Ah’ve neea reet ti be locked up i’ t’ dark wiv a young chap ’at Ah’ve nivver seen afoor.’ ‘Whya, noo, sit ya still,’ sez he; ‘Ah isn’t gahin’ ti mell on ya.’ ‘Thoo’d better nut,’ sez Ah, ‘or else tho’ll git thi hair combed foor nowt.’ An’ then wa flew inti dayleet, afoor Ah knew wheer Ah war. Efter a bit wa began ti slack up a piece. ‘Noo, then,’ sez Ah, ‘what’s up noo?’ ‘Nowt,’ sez he; ‘wa’ve nobbut gitten ti Whidby, that’s all.’ ‘Oh! well,’ sez Ah, ‘if that’s all, that’s wheear Ah want ti be.’ An’ Ah oppen’d t’ deear an’ stepped oot, an’ afoor Ah knew wheer Ah war, Ah war laid flat o’ mah back on t’ platform. When Ah’d gitten mysen upended agaan, Ah seed a chap at t’ far end o’ t’ station clicking ther tickets292 frev ’em leyke all that, an’ Ah thowt ti mysen, ‘Thoo’ll finnd thisen wrang when Ah cum up.’ Hooivver, he nobbut tried ti git hauf o’ mahn, an’ seea it didn’t matter; bud Ah’ve ta’en ’em in, foor all that. Ah wadn’t ’a’e deean ’t if they’d nobbut behaved thersens, bud tha didn’t, chucking yan in an’ potching yan oot. What diz ta saay, thoo wants ti knaw hoo Ah’ve mannished ti tak ’em in? Whya, noo, Ah’ll tell tha—Ah’ve bowt a return ticket, an’ Ah isn’t gahin’ back. Tha caan’t git t’ best o’ me.


Ov all the straange plaaces ’at ivver wur knawn,
Wensleydale bangs ’em all, ez noo s’all be shown,
Fur naams ’a’e been gi’en ti women an’ men—
Yow’d wunner hooivver tha gat ’em, an’ when.
‘Drummer Tom’ is t’ naame ’at’s sattled o’ yan,
An’ ‘Sheggy’ is t’ naame o’ ‘Mary Toms’’ son;
Ther’s ‘Bell Taylor Johnny’ ‘at lives up at Gayle,
An’ ‘Brissy’ ‘s a man bred an’ born iv oor dale.
‘Cobbler Jack’ drahves a bus fra Leyburn ti Hawes,
An’ ‘Wingy’ uz sartinly been i’ the wars;
Ah caan’t tell hoo ‘Hiapath’ cam byv his naame,
An’ ti call a man ‘Shinnock’ is sewerly a shaame.
‘Ball Joan’ is a chap ya’d awn ti be tall;
His weyfe, ‘Lile Bella,’ is sartinly small;
Her brother-i’-law is called ‘Peggy Tom,’
An’ ‘Pop’ ‘s a chap Ah knaw nut wheer from.
‘Tom Kiss’ is a tailor, a scheealmaister ‘Paul,’
Whahl ‘Jeff Boat,’ a cobbler, wurks hard wiv his awl;
‘Jim Nip’ is a good un wi’ pickaxe or speead,
An’ ‘Shetty’ maks brass i’ t’ grossery traade.
‘Spinner Niddy’ an’ ‘Chapir’ wurk up at t’ au’d mill,
‘Arry Ann’ uz a doctor is faam’d fur her skill,
‘Sailor Jack’ Ah wad sweear nivver hann’l’d an oar,
Bud ‘Planks,’ the young joiner, ’ll mak ya a doour.
‘Dicky Flesk’ is a grosser, an’ ‘One Boy’ maks shoes,
An’ ‘Snegram’ ‘s a naame ’at Ah wadn’t choose;
‘Sophy John’ keeps a lodging-hoos noo at t’ Toon foot,
An’ tweea uther chaps are called ‘Puin’ an’ ‘Put.’
My frien’s ’at are left Ah’ll clap iv a lump,
Fur wa’ve ‘Gaggon’ an’ ‘Crackon’ an’ ‘Bridney’ an’ ‘Stump.’

The above would be written about twenty-five years ago. The verses were given to me by my old schoolfellow, T. Fairbank King, Esq., West Witton. The two following verses are the sole remains of a much older rhyme, probably about 1800, and may have suggested the idea to the author of the above, whose name is unknown.

Ther’s ‘Jack’s lass wi’ cauves’ an’ ‘Sally wi’ Shanks’;
Ther’s ‘Miss Nancy Prim,’ an’ young ‘Tommy Pranks,’
An’ ‘Mucky stee Tom,’ an’ ‘Hopplin’ Bill’;
Ther’s ‘Mary wi’ t’ scar’ an’ ‘Au’d Muther Dill’;
Ther’s ‘Tommy wi’ t’ warts,’ an’ ‘Sticker Bull Coo,’
An’ ‘Sniftering Tom lass,’ an’ ‘Ugger-a-boo’;
Ther’s ‘Snouty’ an’ ‘Corker,’ an’ ‘Annie fra Gayle,’
Wheeas legs caan’t be matched iv all Wensleydale.

The symmetry of Annie’s legs must have been quite phenomenal, as my informant gravely told me that ‘A chap cam all t’ waay fra Lunnon ti tak t’ pattern on ’em fer a statta’ (i.e. statue) ‘he war makking fur sumbody.’

Nicknames are quite common in Yorkshire. Take the following (some I do not know the surnames of, though well knowing the persons):—Jamma, Muca294duck, Midge, Boxer, T’ au’d bo’d, Blash, Tarra, Au’d Willie, Bunks Canary, Black Jack, Coy Duck, Calcraft, Fishy, Tankard, Trucky, Radden, Shut, Moudy, Tramp, Slackbags, Jump a Bush, Dog Tom, &c.


Ther war a chap fra Lunnon cam—
Fau’k said he war a swell.
He mebbe war; yah thing Ah knaw,
He did his varra best ti draw
T’ soft oot o’ yan.
He cam ti me yah daay an’ sez,
‘Oi sai, old chep, look h’yar,
Oi’ve lorst my bally self, yew kneow,
End jest which wai I orter gou
To me aint cleah.
‘Deoun’t cher kneow, ’pon my word!
A fellah feels a fool;
Oi sai, look h’yar, I want to kneow,
Old cheppy, the best wai to gou
To—er—the hall?
‘Oi kneow yew Johnnies kneow a lot,
Beout land end worms end grubs;
Yew’re beastly clevvah, deoun’t cher kneow?
But deoun’t yew find it bally sleow,
This sort of life?’
‘Noo, then,’ Ah sez, ‘ho’d on a bit,
Deean’t ramm’l on seea fast;
Thoo sez thoo’s lost, an’ wants ti knaw
T’ gainest road foor thoo ti goa
Ti git ti t’ hall.
‘Noo, if thoo aims that road ti gan,
Just to’n thisen aboot,
Thruff t’ staggarth tak an’ to’n ti t’ reet,
Mak foor t’ larl yat thoo’ll finnd i’ seet,
Nigh hand t’ faud-yard.
‘Thoo maun’t gan thruff ’t, bud to’n agaan,
Keep t’ muckheap weel ti t’ reet,
Tak t’ pastur path, deean’t laak wi’ t’ steg,
Foor he’s neean ower neyce wheea’s awe t’ leg—
He’d neb thi breeaks.
‘Ah mak na doot aboot this tahm
Thoo’ll sairly daffled be,
Bud theer ’s a lad theer flaying creeaks;
Thoo’d best ass him, an’ when thoo speeaks,
Talk plaan.’
‘Thenks, awf’ly, but deoun’t cher kneow,
Deah cheppie, ’pon my word,
Oi deoun’t quite ketch what yew do sai,
The fect is, Oi hev lorst my wai—
Yew understend?’
‘Ah understand tha hard eneeaf,
Bud leeaks ta, mun, Ah s’u’dn’t,
Bud a frien’ o’ mahn fra Lunnon cums,
An’ just leyke thee, he ’aws an’ ‘ums,
Whahl Ah caan’t bahd.
‘Noo, if thoo aims Ah ’s gahin’ ti try
Ti scrape mah tongue, thoo’s wrang;
Thoo cums an’ slaps yan on yan’s back,
An’ eggs yan on ti talk, ti mak
Nowt else bud gam.
‘Ah’ve tell’d tha t’ road ez plaan ez nowt,
An’ Ah’ll tell tha summat else—
Deean’t aim at t’ reeaks an’ shut a craw,
Deean’t slavver fau’k thoo dizn’t know;
Noo off thoo gans.’



Being fond o’ sweets ov ivvery kahnd,
Nut lang sen, mun, Ah ’ed a mahnd
Ti help mysen tiv a lahtle teeaste
O’ summat neyce i’ puffy peeaste.
Thieves, thoff, awlus ’ev a fear,
Seea Ah lissen’d, an’ Ah fan t’ road clear;
Seea being a sharpish soart o’ feller,
Ah teeak mysen reet doon i’ t’ celler,
An’ theear on shelves afoor my een
War pies an’ tarts fit foor a queen.
Ho’d on a bit! what’s this Ah see?
A pankin full o’ rich jelly.
Ah war fairly capp’d at fo’st ti see
Seea gert a bowl full ov jelly;
But theear it war, ez plaan ez daay,
An’ tempting teea. Ah’ve heeard fau’k saay
When t’ divil maks ya try yer luck,
He awlus leeaves ya stuck i’ t’ muck.
He ’ez a waay, he ’ez, by gock!
O’ makking plother leeak leyke rock.
Whether ’t be wenches, drink, or money,
T’ divil daubs ’em all wi’ honey,
Or summat else ’at catches t’ e’e.
Noo Ah war ’ticed wi’ that jelly,
Seea wi’ mah whittle a shive o’ keeak
‘At ’ed been cutten, Ah did teeak.
Theer’s a saying, mun, which rhymes wi’ rhahm,
It’s ’yah good thing tak at a tahm’;
Bud t’ lump o’ keeak Ah felt wad be
Nowt mich bidoot Ah ’ed t’ jelly.
Seea Ah laid a lump on t’ top o’ t’ keeak,
An’ sed, by gum! hoo neyce ya leeak!
Mah mooth war wattering foor a teeast,
An’ Ah just war gahin’ ti start mah feeast,
When Ah thowt Ah heeard sumbody cumin’—
Mah fo’st thowt war ov up an’ runnin’.
Inti mah gob Ah cramm’d all t’ lot,
Then nut a minit did Ah stop;
Up t’ cellar steps Ah quickly flang,
Thruff t’ kitchen deear went wiv a bang,
Whahl t’ garden roond Ah madly rushed,
An’ plants an’ shrubs Ah sairly crushed
Wi’ baith mah stamping feet;
Foor t’ stuff ’at Ah’d thowt foor ti eat,
Oha! war nut it a sell!
Tak mah wo’d for ’t, Ah scarce da’st tell.
Ti think o’ t’ trouble ’at Ah teeak
Ti git that jelly an’ that keeak,
An’ efter all mah langing hoap,
Ti finnd Ah’d gitten nowt bud soap.
Ya tumm’l teea ’t; Ah needn’t saay,
Sum stuff they’d made foor t’ weshing daay.


A Sketch. One of the ‘Waddleton’ series, by the Author.

Mrs. Waddleton goes to Stockton Races, and her friend Mrs. Bubbles is told all about it.

Sit tha doon, Mary, an’ Ah’ll tell tha all aboot it reet awaay fra t’ starting. It war leyke this, thoo knaws. Ah sed tiv oor John yah daay when he cam in; Ah sez tiv him, ‘Noo, then!’ an’ he sez ti ma, ‘Noo, then!’ An’ Ah sed, ‘Whya, noo, Ah’ll tell tha what; what diz ta think if wa gan ti Stockton Races?’ An’ he sez, ‘Wha, Ah s’u’d think ’at wa war daft—that’s what Ah s’u’d think.’ Ah seed ’at he war t’ wrang sahd oot, an’ seea Ah sed nowt neea mair just then. Bud bliss yer leyfe, Ah ’evn’t been wed tiv a man fahve an’ twenty year nut ti knaw t’ reet end o’ yan, ez a body might saay; seea Ah let things bahd whahl he cam intiv his supper, an’ Ah’ gat him a neyce bit o’ liver an’ bacon riddy. Ah seed him298 soffen t’ minit ’at he clapp’d his een on ’t. Bud, what! ya can ommaist awlus tattle onny man thruff his stomach. Ah waited a larl bit, whahl he’d gitten a mouth or tweea full, an’ then Ah sat ma doon on t’ cheer-airm, an’ started ti git ower him wi’ mah au’d cunnin’ waays, leyke what Ah used ti deea i’ daays geean by. Ah put mah airm roond his neck, an’ sed, ‘Noo, that’s a bit o’ neyce, isn’t it?’ An’ he sez, ‘Aye, lass.’ An’ Ah sed, ‘Aye, it is; ther’s neeabody else wad ’a’e bothered to ’a’e gitten tha sike a neyce bit o’ supper riddy.’ An’ then Ah ran mah fingers thruff his hair. ‘Neea,’ sez he, ’ther’s nut.’ An’ then efter a bit, he sez, ‘Ah’ll tell tha what, lass; if thoo wants ti gan ti t’ races, whya, what, Ah s’all ’a’e ti tak tha.’ ‘Nut if ya doan’t want ti go, mah luv,’ sez Ah. Bud Ah maad up mah mahnd ’at he s’u’dn’t back oot on ’t then. ‘Bud Ah’ll tell tha what,’ sez Ah, ‘if thoo wants ti gan, Ah’ll gan wi’ tha.’ Thoo knaws it’s best foor t’ men ti deea ez t’ weyfe wants ’em at t’ fo’st, acoz thoo knaws wa awlus deea git wer awn way owther thruff t’ yat or ower t’ hedge. Bud ez he’d sattled ti gan, theer war nowt neea mair ti saay aboot it. An’ seea when t’ morning cam, wa gat up a bit seeaner, an’ set off foor Guisborough Station—ma, Sairy Jane, an’ Jimmey, an’ oor John, wi’ t’ ten pund ’at mah aunt Martha ’ed left uz ti buy a bit o’ betterly furniter wi’.

Weel, thoo knaws, when wa gat ti t’ station, oho—oo! Ah think ’at Ah nivver war i’ sike a hubbleshoe i’ all mah leyfe. Ah sed ti Sairy Jane, ‘Noo, thoo mun tak ho’d, an’ keep ho’d o’ thi feyther’s coat-taal; an’ thoo, Jimmey, lig ho’d o’ mah sket, an’ see ’at nowther on ya leeaves go whahl wa’re all safely inti t’ carridge.’ Wa ’ed nobbut been studden that waay hauf a minit, when oor Sairy Jane let oot t’ gertest skrike ’at Ah’ve ivver heeard; an’ when Ah leeaked roond, if sha warn’t i’ the cruel clutch ov a bobby. ‘Noo, then,’ sez Ah, ‘what’s up wi’ t’ lass?’

‘Ah’ve catched her i’ t’ act,’ sez he.

‘I’ t’ act o’ what?’ sez Ah.

‘O’ picking this chap’s pocket,’ sez he.

‘Thoo gert dunderknowle!’ sez Ah. ‘Thoo’s deean nowt o’ t’ sooart; that’s her feyther, an’ sha’s nobbut ho’ding on299 tiv his coaat-taals, seea ez sha dizn’t git hersen lost amang all this thrang. Leeave lowse, an’ let her gan, an’ mak a shift ti leet o’ sumbody ’at’s up ti neea good; or else thoo’ll finnd thysen i’ t’ wrang box, Ah can tell tha.’ An’ wi’ that, Ah marched all t’ three on ’em inti t’ traan, which ’ed just puff’d itsen inti t’ station. Sitting reet i’ t’ front o’ ma, war a young chap wiv a rug ower his knees, potching three cards aboot maist miracklous leyke.

‘What are ya trying foor ti deea?’ sez Ah.

‘Whya, it’s a trick,’ sez he.

‘Whya,’ sez Ah, ‘Ah deean’t see mich ov a trick i’ owt ’at ya’ve deean up ti noo; onny bit baan could hann’l three cards i’ that road. What is ’t ya’re efter?’

‘Whya,’ sez he, ‘it’s a trick ’at Ah seed a chap deeaing yesterdaa, bud Ah’s nut weel up in ’t yet. Ah’s trying ti thraw ’em doon seea ez ya weean’t ken wheer t’ pictur-card tumm’ls.’

‘Oha, that’s it, is’t?’ sez Ah. An’ then Ah sez, ‘Ah’ll tell tha what, thoo’ll ’a’e ti lig ’em doon vastly different ti what thoo ’ez deean up ti noo, afoor thoo’ll mannish ti deea ’t, foor Ah’ve seen wheer it’s tumm’l’d ivvery tahm.’

‘Maist leykely,’ sez he; ‘bud ya knaw it’s ez Ah sed—Ah’s nut t’ maaster on’t yet.’

‘Neea,’ sez Ah, ‘Ah seear thoo isn’t.’

‘Whya, noo,’ sez he, chucking ’em doon agaan, ‘which on ’em’s t’ pictur-card this tahm?’

‘T’ far ended!’ sez Ah. An’ Ah lifted it up, an’ o’ course it war, ’coz Ah’d seen it tumm’l theer.

‘Aye, ya’ve mannished it this tahm,’ sez he.

‘Aye, an’ ivvery uther tahm!’ sez Ah, ‘if ta caan’t deea ’t neea better ’an that!’

‘Whya, noo then,’ sez he, chucking ’em doon agaan. ‘Deean’t touch ’em, bud tell uz which on ’em is ’t this tahm?’

‘T’ middle yan!’ sez Ah, ez bou’d ez brass.

‘Whya!’ sez he, ‘mebbe it is. Ah deean’t knaw neea mair ’an what ya deea, but Ah’s yan o’ them ’at backs mah fancy, an’ Ah’ll bet yer a suverin ’at it’s nut it.’

‘Young man!’ sez Ah, solembly, ‘diz yowr muther knaw ’at300 ya cum’d awaay wiv a suverin, foor ya’re gahin’ on iv a straange leykely way foor lossing on ’t.’

‘Nivver ya mahnd,’ sez he; ‘Ah’ll bet a suverin ’at it’s nut it. Ah’ve gitten mah idea, an’ ya’ve gitten yowrs—will ya bet?’

‘Well!’ sez Ah, ‘Ah deean’t ho’d wi’ betting, an’ Ah nivver at neea tahm did; bud if so be ez hoo an au’d boddy leyke mysen can larn ya hoo easy a suverin can be slithered awaay by backing up sike consate ez ’ez gitten ho’d o’ ya, whya, here gans.’ An’ Ah pulled mah pess83 oot, teeak t’ on’y suverin ’at Ah ’ed, and handed it tiv a chap ez war sitting byv his sahd; t’ young chap handed him yan an’ all, an’ then Ah lifted t’ card up, an’—oho—— o! Ah nivver war seea capped iv all mah leyfe—it warn’t it. Ah trimm’l’d an’ dithered fra t’ top ti t’ boddum o’ ma; Ah felt just ez if mah back war stuffed wiv aspen leeaves.

‘John!’ Ah gasped, ‘it’s a swinn’l, it’s a swinn’l; keep thi han’ i’ thi pocket, or thoo’ll be lossing t’ ten pund ’at mah aunt Martha left uz ti buy a bit o’ betterly furniter wi’. An’ deean’t let on ’at thoo ’ez ten pund aboot tha,’ sez Ah, foorgitting ’at Ah war letting ivvery yan on ’em i’ t’ carridge knaw ’at he’d gitten seea mich on him. Hooivver, Ah hedn’t neea tahm ti saay owt else, foor just then wa gat ti Stockton, an’ Ah think ther war a warse hubbleshoe on i’ Stockton Station ’an what ther war i’ Guisborough. ‘Noo, then!’ sez Ah tiv a gert fat woman ’at cam thrussin’ up agaan ma, ‘deean’t ya cum shuvvin’ ma aboot i’ that road.’ ‘Noo, then, Victoria!’ sez sha, ‘what’s t’ matter wi’ thoo?’ ‘Ah’s nut Victoria!’ sez Ah; an’ leeak ya, Ah deean’t think sha thowt ’at Ah war. Just ez Ah sed that, ther war anuther woman stood hersen reet on t’ top o’ mah pet bunion. ‘Oh deeary ma, missus!’ Ah skriked oot, ‘Ah cannut bahd this, hooivver, ya’re laaming ma sadly; deea tak yer foot off.’ ‘Noo, then,’ sez she, ’t’ station isn’t yowrs!’ ‘Neea,’ sez Ah, ‘bud t’ bunion is.’ An’ wi’ that Ah tell’d John an’ t’ childer ti follow cleease at t’ back o’ ma, an’ Ah boudly pushed mah waay oot o’ t’ station. Neea seeaner ’ed wa gitten ootsahd, ’an Ah seed clagg’d on a wall a gert big bill, w301i’ theease we’ds printed on ’t, ‘BEWARE O’ PICKPOCKETS.’ An’ what d’ye think? Ah felt i’ mah pocket, an’ mah pess, eight-an’-six, an’ mah railway ticket ’ed all geean, geean ez cleean ez a whistle. Ah didn’t tell John; Ah just sed, ‘Thoo mun keep thi han’ i’ thi pocket, or else sumbody ’ll be takking t’ ten pund fra tha, if thoo dizn’t mahnd.’ He sez ti ma, ‘Tha weean’t git nowt oot o’ mah pockets, if tha deea shuv ther han’s in.’ Ah sez, ‘Thoo dizn’t meean ti saay ’at tha’ve gitten ’t fra tha alriddy, diz ta?’ ‘Neea,’ sez he, ‘Ah ’evn’t gitten t’ brass i’ mah pocket—Ah’ve putten ’t i’ mah hat.’ An’ then Ah notished ’at he ’ed his hancutcher tied ower his hat an’ unner his chin, leeaking foor all t’ wo’lld leyke yan ’at war iv an extremity wi’ t’ teeth wark; bud Ah thowt it war t’ capitalist idea ’at onnyboddy could ’a’e thowt on. Ah didn’t saay seea tiv him, acoz if yer praise t’ men tha seean git past thersens—bud ya knaw that bidoot ma telling ya. Hooivver, Ah did wish ’at Ah’d putten mah pess i’ mah bonnet, an’ then Ah s’u’dn’t ’a’e lost it an’ all ’at war iv it. ‘It’ll be t’ best,’ Ah sez, ‘foor uz ti finnd wa waays ti t’ course, git summat ti eat, see a race, buy t’ furniter, an’ gan yam ageean.’ Noo, hoo can Ah picter ti tha a race-course? If yer can ’magine all t’ rackapelts an’ raggamuffins gedered tigither i’ yah crood, shooting men an’ screeaming women, wi’ rows o’ carridges filled wi’ lords an’ ladies stuffing thersens wi’ pies an’ pop, ya can ’ev summat ov a idea what a race-course is leyke. Whahl wa war stannin’ fair capped wi’ t’ carryings on, whau s’u’d cum up bud t’ varra seeam young chap ’at Ah’d lost t’ pund teea i’ t’ carridge. ‘Ah’s glad ’at Ah’ve tumm’l’d across ya ageean,’ sez he. ‘Mebbe ya may be,’ sez Ah. ‘Ya see, ya wan t’ pund an’ Ah lost it, an’ that maks all t’ difference i’ being glad ti see onnybody.’ ‘Aye, bud that’s nut it; Ah’ve gitten a gert frien’ o’ yer muther’s wi’ ma,’ sez he. ‘Oh, indeed,’ sez Ah. ‘An’ whau may that be?’ ‘This is the gentleman,’ sez he; ‘let ma mak him knawn ti ya. This is Lord Swin’lton, whau knew yer muther varra weel.’ ‘Ah didn’t knaw ’at mah muther ivver war acquainted wiv a lord,’ sez Ah, leeaking t’ chap ower; bud ther war neea doot aboot his being a lord—Ah seed302 that t’ minit Ah clapped mah een on him. Oh yes, he war all there—ulster, eye-glass, di’mon’ pin, an’ ivverything. Ther’s no mistakking a lord when ya see yan, tha’re good eneeaf ti challenge. ‘This is yer husband?’ sez his lordship, leeaking at John. ‘Got t’ feeace-ache?’ sez he. ‘Noa, mah lord,’ sez Ah, ‘it’s nut t’ feeace-ache ’at he’s suffering fra. It’s leyke this, doan’t yer see, mah lord: mah aunt Martha left us ten pund ti buy a bit o’ betterly furniter wi’, an’ seea ez neeabody ’ll finnd oot wheer it is, he’s tied it up iv his hat, foor safety leyke, ez a body might saay, ez ya may term it so ti speeak.’

‘An’ a varra good plan an’ all,’ sez he.

Just at that minit t’ young chap whau Ah’d lost t’ pund teea teeak a fit, an’ fell wiv his han’s roond oor John’s neck, an’ doon tha baith went tigither, an’ ez tha tumm’l’d on ti t’ grand, Lord Swin’lton swiped oor John’s hat off wiv his stick, an’ next minit Sairey Jane beald oot, ‘Oha, muther! Lord Swin’lton’s off wi’ mah feyther’s hat, an’ it’s gitten t’ ten pund in ’t.’ Ah didn’t stop ti think, thoo knaws, bud just off efter him ez hard ez ivver Ah could gan. Ah heard a man saay ’at he’d nivver seen a woman leg it leyke what Ah did. Ah s’u’d ’a’e catch’d him an’ all, bud just when Ah war gahin’ ti click ho’d ov his coat taals, Ah catched mah foot iv a tent-roap, an’ afoor Ah knew wheer Ah war, Ah war laid wi’ mah heead iv a box o’ cokernuts. ‘Noo, then,’ shooted t’ man ’at awn’d ’em, ‘cum oot o’ that. Deean’t ya cum cracking mah cokernuts, an’ sucking t’ milk oot; ther’s neea free sucks here.’ Ah gat up, an’ Ah let that man ’ev t’ length o’ mah tunge—Lord Swin’lton ’ed ta’en hissel off by that tahm. Ther war nowt else for ’t bud ti git wersens heeam ez best wa could. An’ when Ah’d putten Sairey Jane an’ Jimmy ti bed, Ah sed tiv oor John, Ah sez, ‘Noo, John, Ah deean’t want ti upbraad tha—it’s been a sad daay foor uz—bud efter all’s sed an’ deean, thoo owt ti be asham’d o’ thisel foor ivver letting a woman ’tice tha inti takking her ti sikan a blackguardy pleeace ez Stockton Races.

Note.—Wensleydale and Swaledale readers will303 find it both interesting and instructive to compare the above sketch, which is given in the Clevelandic speech, with the folk-speech as spoken in their own dale, which to a slight degree in pronunciation tends toward that of Lancashire in one direction and to that of Cumberland and Westmoreland in the other. The two latter, however, on all counts, bear a closer relationship to our North Riding speech than either that of the West Riding or South Lancashire.

It must always be borne in mind that the dialect along the north-east coast of Yorkshire approaches nearer to its original source than that of any other, and especially so may this be said of Cleveland.


[Date about 1800.]

A hunderd years hence
What a chaange ’ll be maade
I’ politics, morals, religion an’ traade.
I’ statesmen whau wrang’l
Or rahd upo’ t’ fence
Maist things ’ll be diff’rent
A hunderd years hence.
T’ heeads ov oor lasses
Sike changes ’ll show;
It’s nut ov ther mahnds
‘At wa aim ti speeak noo,
Bud ov three-bishel bonnets,
Ther gypsies an’ flats,
Ther scoops, navarinoes,
Ti snug lahtle hats
Wi’ furs an’ wi’ ribbons,
Wi’ feathers an’ flooers,
Sum feshioned byv artists
An’ sum plucked fra t’ booers.
Bud heeads ’ll be chaang’d teea,
Far larnt an’ i’ sense,
Afoor wa’ ‘ev coonted
A hunderd years hence.
Oor laws ’ll be then
Nivver maade, mun, by feeals,
An’ prisons Ah aim
‘Ll be to’n’d inti skeeals;
Foor t’ pleasurs o’ vice
Are a feealish pretence,
Bud Ah doot if tha’ll awn it
A hunderd years hence.
Noo vice ’ll be kenn’d,
When at last fau’k awakken,
Ti be t’ warst kind o’ daftness,
Or else Ah ’s mistakken.
T’ lawyers an’ t’ doctors
And t’ parsons wi’ sense
Will ’ev altered ther waays
A hunderd years hence.
An’ you an’ me, reader,
Wheer s’all wa be fund?—
It’s wer souls ’at Ah meean,
Nut wer bodies i’ t’ grund.
S’all wa be wheer it’s joy,
Or i’ sorrow intense?
Wa s’all all on uz knaw
A hunderd years hence.



By D. Lewis.

[Date about 1800-15. Published at Bedale.]

A sweeper’s lad war late o’ t’ neet,
His slaape-shod shoon ’ed leeam’d his feet;
He call’d ti see a good au’d deeam
‘At monny a tahm ’ed trigg’d his wame84
(Foor he war then fahve mile fra yam).
He ax’d i’ t’ lair85 ti let him sleep,
An’ he’d t’ next daay the’r chim’lies sweep.
Tha supper’d him weel wi’ country fare,
Then show’d him tul his hoal i’ t’ lair.
He crept intul his streahy86 bed,
His pooak o’ seeat87 beneath his heead;
He war content, ner cared a pin,
An’ his good frien’ then lock’d him in.
T’ lair fra t’ hoos a larl piece stood,
Atween ’em grew a lahtle wood.
Aboot midneet, ur nigher morn,
Tweea rogues brak in ti steeal ther corn.
‘Eving a leet i’ lantern dark,
Tha seean ti winder fell ti wark;
An’ wishing tha’d a lad ti fill,
Young brush (wheea yet ’ed ligg’d quite still),
Thinkin’ ‘at t’ men belang’d ti t’ hoos,
An’ that he noo mud be ov ewse,
Jump’d doon directly on ti t’ fleear,
An’ t’ thieves then baith ran oot o’ t’ deear,
An’ stopp’d at nowther thin na thick—
Fully tha aim’d it war Au’d Nick.
T’ sweeper lad then ran reet seean
Ti t’ hoos, an’ tell’d ’em what war deean.
Maister an’ men then quickly raase,
An’ ran ti t’ lair wi’ hauf ther clais88;
Tweea hosses, secks, an’ leet tha fand,
Which ’ed been left by t’ thievish band.
Theease all roond t’ countrysahd tha cry’d,
Bud nut an awner e’er apply’d,
Foor neean dast t’ hosses awn na t’ secks,
Tha war seea freeten’d o’ ther necks.
Yah hoss an’ seck war judged ez t’ sweeper’s share,
Acoz he’d kept baith t’ farmer’s corn an’ lair.

The following note is appended to the original:—‘This tale is founded on fact, and happened at Leeming Lane a few years ago.’

The student will find the above and four following pieces interesting, as showing the alteration in the pronunciation of certain words which has locally taken place during the last eighty years in the Bedale district.


A Dialogue by W. Hird.

[Date 1800-15. Published at Bedale.]

Joan! Ah noo ’ev thowt seea mich about it,
Ah seearly nivver mair s’all doot it;
At moorn an’ neet, an’ neet an’ moorn,
Ah sumtahms wish Ah’d ne’er been born.
Whya, Darby, prethee, let ma see,
Ah whoap it’s nowt ’at’s bad o’ me. 307
Thee, Joan! neea, marry, neea sike thing.
Think bad o’ thee! ’twad be a sin.
Ah think, indeed, Ah war a feeal
Ti send oor Nell ti t’ Boordin’-skeeal.
Sike mauky feeals ez them, Ah think,
‘Ev filled her heead wi’ prahd an’ stink,
Foor, sin’ sha went, sha’s grown seea fine,
Sha caan’t deea nowt wi’oot her wine,
When t’ dinner’s owered, an’ sha’s seea neyce,
Sha weean’t eat puddin’ meead o’ rice,
Thoff when at skeeal an’ put ti t’ pinch,
Fra sike good stuff sha’d nivver flinch.
An’ all her notions are seea raased,
It’s fit ti to’n her feyther crazed,
Fer leyke a toon wench, Ah declare,
Sha walks abroad wi’ breasts all bare—
To show her shoon, an’ hosen clocked,
Sha lifts her sket whahl Ah’s fair shocked;
Nut ’at Ah care aboot t’ fond lass,
Neea mair ’an this—it taks mah brass,
An’ wiv her fine lang labbering tail,
Sha’ll git her fathther inti jail.
Whya, Darby, bud thoo knaws ther ’s t’ Squire,
An’ he, mayhap, will Nell admire,
An’ efter all ther noise an’ strife,
Thoo knaws t’ young Squire he wants a weyfe.
Then let ’s be seear ti mak her smairt,
An’ teeach her hoo ti plaay her pairt;
Sha seean ’ll mak him towards her leean,
An’ then thoo knaws ’at t’ wark is deean.
Ez fer her breasts an’ bare at t’ airms,
It’s feshion noo ti show yan’s chairms.
Men leyke ti knaw, Ah’ve heeard it sed,
What’s real an’ fause afoor they wed;
Hoose’er, Ah’ll try an’ deea mah best,
An’ leeave ti thee ti mannish t’ rest.
Bud, then, suppooase oor plot s’u’d fail,
An’ me foor debt be sent ti jail,
Poor Nell wad nivver be a weyfe,
An’ ‘ev ti laabur all her leyfe;
Foor efter sha’s seea browten up,
Hoo can sha ivver bahd ti stoop
Ti gan ti sarvice, ur ti spin,
Or ivver ti deea onnything?
Whya, Darby, leeave it all ti me,
Ah’ll mannish ’t weel, an’ that thoo’ll see;
Ah’ll be her pilot all mah leyfe,
An’ mak her sum rich farmer’s weyfe.
Then ez tha gan ti chetch, doon t’ toon,
Ah’s seear thoo’ll saay, ‘Weel deean, oor Joan.’


An Eclogue.


[Date about 1800.]

Weel met, good Robin. Seed ya my au’d meer?
Ah’ve laated her an hoor i’ t’ looaning here,
Bud hoosumivver, spite ov all mah care,
Ah caan’t spy her, nowther heead na hair.
Whah, Geoorgy, Ah’ve ti tell ya dowly news,
Sike ez varra leyke ’ll mak ya muse.
Ah just this minit left yer poor au’d tike,
Deead ez a steean, i’ Johnny Dobson’s dyke. 309
Wheer! What’s that, Robin? Tell uz ower agaan.
Thoo’s jokin’—ur ya’ve mebbe been mistaan.
Neea, marry, Geoorgy; Ah’s seear Ah caan’t be wrang.
Ya knaw Ah’ve kenn’d au’d Deeasy noo seea lang.
Her breead-ratch’d feeace, an’ tweea white hinder legs
Preeav’d it war her, as seear ez eggs is eggs.
Poor thing! What, deead then? ’ed sha ligg’d theer lang?
Wheeraboot is sha? Robin, will ta gan?
Ah care nut, Geoorgy; Ah ’a’en’t mich ti deea—
A good hoor’s laabor, or mayhappen tweea;
Bud ez Ah nivver leyke ti hing behinnd
When Ah[89] can deea a kahndness tiv a frinnd,
An Ah89 can help ya wi’ mah hand or teeam
Ah’ll help ti skin her, ur t’ fetch her heeam.
Thank ya, good Robin. Ah caan’t think, belike,
Hoo t’ poor au’d creature tumm’l’d inti t’ dyke.
Ya mahnd, sha’d fun hersel just boon ti dee,
An’ seea laid doon byv t’ sahd (ez ’t seeams ti me),
An’ when sha felt, mun, t’ paans o’ deeath wi’in,
Sha stakker’d, tumm’l’d, fick’d, then toupled in.
Maist leykly—bud—what, war sha deead ootreet
When fo’st thoo fand her, when ta gat t’ fo’st seet? 310
Ya s’ hear, ez Ah war gahin doon t’ looan, Ah spy’d
A scoore or mair o’ creeaks byv t’ gutter sahd,
All seea thrang, hoppin’ in an’ hoppin’ oot,
Ah wunder’d what i’ t’ wo’lld tha war aboot.
Ah leeaks, an’ then Ah sees t’ au’d yode90 leead,
Gaspin’ an’ pantin’ sair, an’ ommaist deead.
An’ ez tha pick’d it een, an’ pick’d ageean,
It just could lift it leg, an’ give a greean;
Bud when Ah fand au’d Deeasy war ther prey,
Ah wav’d mah hat, an’ shoo’d ’em all awaay.
Poor Deeas’! Ya mahnd, sha ’s noo worn fairly oot,
Sha’s lang been quite hardset ti traail aboot—
Bud yonder, Geoorgy, leeak ya, wheer sha’s leead,
An’ tweea ’r three nanpies chatt’rin’ ower her heead.
Hey, marry! This Ah nivver wished ti see;
Sha’s been seea good—seea trew a frinnd ti me.
An’ ‘ez ta cum’d ti this, mah poor au’d meer?
Thoo’s been a trusty sarvant monny a yeear;
An’ better treeatment thoo ’s desarv’d fra me,
‘An thus neglected iv a dyke ti dee.
Monny a good day’s wark wa’ve wrowt tigither,
An’ bodden monny a blast o’ wind an’ weather;
Monny a lang dree mahle, ower moss an’ moor,
An’ monny a hill an’ deeal wa’ve toddled ower.
Bud noo, wae’st91 me! thoo’ll nivver trot neea mair,
Ti nowther kirk, na market, spoort, na fair;
An’ noo foor t’ futur’, thoff Ah’s au’d an’ leeam,
Ah s’all be forced ti walk, ur stay at heeam.
Neea mair thoo’ll bring ma cooals fra Blakey-Broo,
Ur sticks fra t’ wood—Ah s’ ‘a’e ti drag ’em noo.
Ma poor au’d Deeas’! afoor Ah dig thi greeave,
Thi weel-worn shoon Ah will foor keepseeaks seeave;
Thi hide, poor lass! Ah’ll ’ev it tann’d wi care,
‘T’ll mak a cover ti mah au’d airm-cheer,
An’ pairt an appron foor mah weyfe ti weear
When cardin’ woul ur weshin’ t’ parlour fleear.
Deep i’ t’ cau’d yeth Ah will thi carcase pleeace,
‘At thi poor beeans maay lig an’ rist i’ peeace;
Deep i’ t’ cau’d yeth, ’at t’ dogs mayn’t scrat tha oot,
An’ rahve thi flesh an’ trail thi beeans aboot.
Thoo ’s been seea faithful foor seea lang ti me,
Thoo s’annot at thi deeath neglected be.
Seldom a Christian ’at yan noo can finnd,
Wad be mair trusty ur mair trew a frinnd.


An Eclogue.

[Date 1810.]

A wanton wether had disclaimed its bonds
‘At kept him cleease wivin Au’d Willie’s grunds,
Brakt thruff t’ hedge an’ wander’d far astraay,
He kenn’d nut whither, alang t’ au’d to’npik waay.
Ez Willie wrowt wi’ neea larl care
T’ fence wi’ stake an’ thorns t’ gap ti repair,
His neighbour Roger, heeam fra t’ fair reto’n’d,
Then cam i’ seet, i’ rahding graith92 weel don’d93,
Wheea seean ez Willy, fast drawing nigh he spies,
Thus tiv his frinnd fra t’ back o’ t’ hedge he cries.
Noo, then; what, Roger! ‘ ya been ti t’ fair?
Hoo gans things? Maad ya onny bargaans theer?
Ah knaw nut, Willy, things deean’t leeak ower weel;
Coorn sattles fast, thoff beeas ’ll fetch a deeal.
Ti sell t’ au’d intak barley, Ah desaund94,
Bud c’u’dn’t git a bid ti suit mah mahnd95.
What wi’ rack rents, an’ sike a want o’ traad,
Ah knawn’t hoo yan’s ti git yan’s landloord paad;
Mairower an’ that, tha saay i’ t’ spring o’ t’ year
T’ Franch is intarmin’d96 ti ’tack uz here.
Yea, mun! What are tha cummin’ hither foor?
Depend on ’t, they’d far better nivver stor.
True, Willy—nobbut Inglishmen ’ll stand
By yan anuther; o’ ther awn good land
Tha’ll nivver suffer, Ah s’ be bun ti saay,
T’ Franchmen ti tak a sing’l sheep awaay;
Feightin’ foor heeam upo’ ther awn fair field,
All t’ poo’r o’ France c’u’d nivver mak ’em yield.
Whya, seear yan cannot think, when put ti t’ pinch,
‘At onny Inglishmen ’ll iwer flinch.
If t’ Franch deea cum, wha, Roger, Ah’ll be hang’d,
An tha deean’t git thersens reet soondly bang’d,
Ah can’t bud think—thoff Ah may be misteean—
Nut monny on ’em ’ll git back ageean.
Ah think nut, Willy; bud sum fau’k ’ll say
Oor Inglish fleet let t’ Franch ships git awaay
When tha war laid—thoo knaws—i’ Bantry Bay,
‘At tha c’u’d nivver all ’a’e gi’en ’em t’ slip,
Bud t’ Inglish wanted nut ti tak a ship.
Eah! that ’s all lees! 313
Ah dunnot saay it’s trew,
It’s all unknawn ti sike ez me an’ yow.
Hoo deea wa knaw when t’ fleets deea reet ur wrang?
Ah whooap it ’s all on ’t fause97—bud seea talks gan.
Hoosivver, this Ah knaw, ’at when tha pleease,
Oor sailors allus beeat ’em upo’ t’ seeas,
An’ if tha nobbut sharply leeak aboot,
Tha needn’t let a sing’l ship cum oot;
At leeast, tha’ll drub ’em weel, I dunnot fear,
An’ keep ’em fairly off fra landing here.
Ah whooap seea, Roger; bud an’ if tha deea
Cum ower, Ah then s’all sharpen mah au’d leea98.
What thoff Ah can bud ov a lahtle boast,
Ya knaw yan wadn’t ’a’e that lahtle lost.
Ah s’ send oor Molly an’ all t’ bairns awaay,
An’ Ah mysen ’ll byv t’ au’d yamsteead staay.
Ah’ll feight, if need; an’ if Ah fall, wha, then
Ah s’ suffer all t’ warst mishap mysen.
War Ah bud seear my weyfe an’ bairns war seeaf,
Ah then s’u’d be ti dee content eneeaf.
Reet, Willy, mun! What an tha put uz teea ’t,
Ah will mysen put forrad mah best feeat;
What thoff Ah ’s au’d, Ah ’s nut seea easily scar’d—
On his awn middin, an au’d cock feights hard.
Tha saay a Franchman ’s to’n’d a different man,
A braver, better sojer ten ti yan;
Bud let t’ Franch be to’n’d ti what he will,
Tha’ll finnd ’at Inglishmen are Inglish still—
O’ ther awn grund tha’ll nowther flinch na flee,
Tha’ll owther conger, or tha’ll bravely dee.



A Beautiful Boy.

[Date about 1750.]

‘Twar yance on a tahm, aboot six i’ t’ morn,
When fo’st Ah saw leet—Ah meean, Ah war born.
Ther war t’ doctor an’ t’ nuss, an’ a gert monny mair,
Bud neean on ’em ’ed seen sike a babby afoor.
Ah’d t’ neease o’ mah dad, an’ t’ een o’ mah mam,
Seea wi’ sleet alterations Ah varra seean cam
Wivoot onny doot or the sleetest o’ sham
Ti be a maist beautiful boy.
Ti mak ma a beauty, skriked oot Mrs. Sneer,
‘He’ll be t’ taal end o’ nowt, bidoot a sweet leer.’
Seea ti gi’e ma this leer, yan on ’em shoots oot,
‘When he’s tumm’l’d asleep, lig a weight on his snoot.’
Which maad ma ti wink an’ ti blink O!
Whahl t’ ladies kenn’d nut what ti think O!
Bud tha mannish’d ti gi’e ma a squint O!
An’ maad ma a beautiful boy.
Ti finish ma off, Ah needed yah thing.
My gob ower-straight war—Ah meean for ti sing—
Seea ti lug it an’ tug it all t’ lot on ’em tried,
Whahl they stritched mah poor gob ommaist hauf a yard wide,
Shooting, ‘Pull awaay, noo, Mrs. Ryder,
It’s stritching a lahtle bit wider,’
An’ Dolly, wheea stood just ashad her,
Sed, ‘Oh! what a beautiful boy!’
When they’d finish’d ma off, tha sent ma ti skeeal.
T’ lads an’ t’ lasses all gen’d ez Ah sat o’ mah steeal,
An’ when they went yam tha sed ’at tha’d seen
T’ fresh lad at skeeal wi’ sike beautiful een.
‘He can leeak onny road, an’ that’s handy,
His gob ’s reetly shapp’d ti suck candy,
Whahl his legs are what tha call bandy—
Gocks! bud he’s a beautiful boy!’
T’ uther daay Ah war ax’d i’ t’ city ti dine,
When t’ lasses i’ rapters all thowt ma divine;
An’ t’ lot, whahl admiring mah elegant grace,
Let ther dinners aleean ti gaze i’ mah feeace,
Then sigh’d, ‘Ah s’all swound wi’ surprise O!
T’ sunleet caan’t match his dear eyes O!
He’s sike a neyce mooth foor mince-pies O!
Oh! kiss uz, you beautiful boy!’
Ah sed, ‘Lasses, beware o’ love’s piercing darts,
Foor feearful Ah be Ah s’all steeal all yer hearts;
An’ then, mah deear lasses, ya’ll sob an’ ya’ll sigh,
When you think o’ mah charms, whahl ya’ll langwish an’ dee.
Ah can kiss, bud Ah caan’t wed ya all,
Bud Ah wad if Ah mud, gert an’ small;
Ah lang for ti cuddle ya all,
For, ya ken, Ah’s a beautiful boy.’

Mr. Fossick, of Carthorpe, kindly gave me the above (and several others). He tells me it was sung when his grandfather was a boy. As Mr. Fossick was born in the early years of this century, I am not in the least antedating it. Though turned eighty, the last time I saw Mr. Fossick, for two hours he recited poetry without having to halt for a single word. It is in a great measure owing to the wonderful memories possessed by our old people that I have been able to collect the matter for this work.



The Article.

There is no variation in the usage of the indefinite article, save that it still retains its place before participles and the adjectives few, many, and great many.

Ex.—‘He started a calling o’ ma, an’ Ah started a genning at him, an’ then wa set ti wark a lethering yan anuther,’

Educated people do not nowadays say, ‘I sat a sipping of my tea, and a smiling at the kettle a singing on the hob,’ No, it sounds quaint. And to those who know as little of their Shakespeare as they do of their Bibles, such speech is put down to ignorance, or a lack of education, when in point of fact they are listening to an echo of that old-time speech which was in full swing long before their great grandmothers were born, and used by really quite respectable people; e.g.—

In such cases, however, ‘a’ cannot be parsed as an article. Many opinions have been given, but perhaps Cobbett, who holds it to be an abbreviation for ‘at,’ meaning ‘without doubt,’ has gained the most supporters. In the Spectator, No. 86, we find, ‘Socrates’ disciples burst out a laughing,’ and in No. 420, ‘The spirits which set the springs a going.’ Such are by no means archaic forms of speech in the North Riding, ‘bud ez common ez pigs a grunting at yan anuther.’

The definite article, as mentioned elsewhere, is ‘t’.’ To this rule there are very few exceptions. Before certain letters it is almost inaudible; nevertheless, it is always there. It may be said, and with truth, that a perfect mastery of the definite article, both in speaking and hearing it spoken, has advanced those desirous of knowing something of our folk-speech—rather more than half of their journey. I know many people who are fluent speakers of the dialect, but who read it, even when in printed form, with the greatest difficulty; others who can read fairly well, but so far as understanding the dialect when spoken, might as well listen to a batch of Chocktaw Indians, as two or three good old Yorkshire dames when fairly letting out.

A Frenchman once said to me, ‘I could understand you English people, if you did not speak so quickly.’ Aye, just so, and so would many another body from318 other counties understand a great deal of what our country folk say if each word was uttered separately, but with us, as in standard English, very frequently no pause is made between commas; so the difficulty increases tenfold, when a stranger strives to follow a fairly classical dalesman or woman. Take, for instance, a few words which the other day I heard a woman shout across a village street to her daughter. Firstly, as they sounded when uttered, then the same as they would be written, and thirdly, the translation.

As spoken. Teggattenlaadsitwinner.

As written. T’ egg at t’ ‘en laad’s i’ t’ winner99.

Standard English. The egg (that) the hen laid is in the window.


This, with only a few exceptions, follows the ordinary rule of grammar.


The possessive case is noted elsewhere.


The same as in standard English, with this slight deviation: many things which are neuter are spoken of as being of the feminine gender. Ex.—‘Sha’s a fine stack;’ ‘Sha’s a bit rough ti-daay,’ speaking of the sea; ‘Sha’s gitten a fine bole on her,’ speaking of an oak. There can be no rule given for guidance, because in a compound sentence the same noun is319 sometimes both feminine and neuter. A man speaking of his watch said, ‘It’s yan ov t’ best ’at Ah ivver ’ed; sha’s a good un,’ i.e. ‘It is one of the best that I ever had; she is a good one.’


Adjectives which in standard English are compared by the addition of more and most to the positive, generally form their degrees of comparison by the addition of er or r for the comparative, and ist or st for the superlative; e.g.—

Positive. Comparative. Superlative.
True truer truist
Expensive expensiver expensivist.
Dangerous dangerouser dangerousist.
Okkad (awkward) okkader okkadist.
Forrad (forward) forrader fo’derist.

Though it is quite common to hear such expressions as ‘mair okkader’ or ‘t’ maist okkadist,’ and the like, with other adjectives, it is also not uncommon for the adjective to be used as an adverb, as ‘It’s easy deean.’

Personal Pronouns.


Nom. Poss. Obj.
SING. I, thou, he, she, it. SING. I mine me.
Ah, thoo, tha, or ta, he, sha, it, ’t. Ah mahn ma.
PLU. We   you   they   us. PLU. Thou thine thee.
Wa   ya   tha   uz. Thoo thahn thee.


There is no rule to guide the student in the use of thoo, tha, ta. In a general way ta follows an auxiliary verb, and thoo, used in the accusative case, is definite in its application. ‘He’s shooting o’ thoo,’ and ’he’s shooting o’ tha,’ have a well-marked distinction of meaning. ‘He’s shooting o’ thoo’ implies that the person told of the fact is the actual person being shouted of; not only does it point him out from amongst many, but the fact that thoo was used further implies that the shouting had better be attended to at once. ‘He’s shooting o’ tha,’ is merely certain information given, making known to some other person that he was being called for without regard to others.

Relative Pronouns.

Who which that.
Wheea or whau which that or ’at100.

Who and which are declined as follows. That and what as in standard English.

Singular and Plural.

Nom. Who whau, wheea. Which which.
Poss. Whose whaus, wheeas. Whose wheeas, whaus.
Obj. Whom whaum. Which which.

The compound relatives are formed by the addition of ever and soever; ’at forming the compound ’ativver, i.e. whatever.


Possessive Pronouns and the compound personal and possessives are formed as under:—

STAND. ENG. My mine thy thine his her
NTH. RIDING. Mah mahn thah
thahn his her
STAND. ENG. Its our your their own
NTH. RIDING. Its oor or wer yer ther awn
STAND. ENG. Myself thyself himself herself
NTH. RIDING. brace Mahsel thisel hissel hersel
Mahsen thisen hissen hersen
STAND. ENG. Itself ourselves yourselves
NTH. RIDING. brace Itsel oorsels or -sens yersels
Itsen wersels or -sens yersens
STAND. ENG. Theirselves ownselves.
NTH. RIDING. brace Thersels

Demonstrative Pronouns.

This and that are used as follows:—

This refers to an object near at hand, that is rarely used, yon being almost universal, e.g. ‘Yon man ower theer ’ll tell tha.’ Q. ‘Which is Mister Thompson?’ A. ‘Yon chap’s him,’ i.e. ‘That man is Mr. Thompson.’

Indefinite Pronouns.

Any both some other another one none such
Onny beeath sum uther anuther yan neean sich, sike

Yan and yah are noticed elsewhere, also vide Glossary.



Adverbial peculiarities are fully noticed in the Glossary.

The Prepositions and Adverbs mostly in use are:—

Until is never used, whahl always taking its place: no exception to this rule.

It may be noted this peculiarity extends to the south of Northamptonshire.

The Verb.

It will only be possible to note one or two of the more striking peculiarities.


Indicative Mood.

Has two forms of the present tense.


Ah is, or Ah’s. I am, &c. brace   brace Wa’re, we are.
Thoo is, or Thoo’s. are, or Ya’re.
He, Sha, or it is. Thă   Thă’re.

Also the older form is quite common—

Ah be. I am, &c. Wă be brace
Thoo beest or byst. be.
He be. Thă be



Ah war, wur, or wuz. I was, &c. Wa brace
Thoo war, wur, or wast Ya war, wur, or wuz
He war, wur, or wuz. Tha


‘Ev or hev. The aspirate is rarely heard.

Ah ’ev been. I have been, &c. Wa ’ev been
Thoo ’est been. Ya ’ev been.
He’s or he ’ez been. Tha ’ev been


Ah hed or ’ed been, &c.

First Future.

Ah s’all or will be, &c.


Second Future.

Ah s’all or will ’ev been, or Ah s’all ’a’e been.

Imperative Mood.

Let ma be. Let uz be.
Be thoo. Be ya.
Be he, let him, her, or it be. Let ’em be. Be tha.

Subjunctive Mood.



Wa brace
Ya may or can be.




Wa war, brace
Ya war, wur, mud, c’u’d, wad, or s’u’d be loved.
Tha war,


Ah maay or can ’ev brace
Tho maayst or canst ’ev loved.
Tha may or can ’ev


Ah mud, &c. Wa mud, &c.


Infinitive Mood.

Ti be. Ti ’a’e or ’ev been.


Being. Been. ‘Evin’ been.


Ah’ve, Ah ’a’e, or Ah ’ev. I have, Wa’ve, ‘, or ’ev. We have.
Thoo’s or thoo ’ez. Ya’ve, ‘, or ’ev.
He’s or he ’ez. Tha’ve, ‘, or ’ev.


Ah’d, Ah ’ed. I had. Wa’d, wa ’ed.
Thoo’d, thoo ’ed. Ya’d, ya ’ed.
He’d, he ’ed. Tha’d, tha ’ed.


Ah’ve, or Ah ’ev tă’en. I have taken. Wa’ve, or wa ’ev tă’en. We have taken.
Thoo’s tă’en. Ya’ve, or ya ’ev tă’en. You have taken.
He’s tă’en. Tha’ve, or tha ’ev tă’en. They have taken.


Ah ’evn’t, or Ah ’a’en’t ta’en. I have not taken. Wă ’evn’t, or wă ’a’en’t ta’en. We have not taken.
Thoo’s nut, or thoo ’ezn’t ta’en. 102 Yă’ve nut, or yă ’a’en’t ta’en. You have not taken.
He’s nut, or he ’ezn’t ta’en. 102Thă’ve nut, or thă ’a’en’t ta’en. They have not taken.



‘Ev Ah ta’en? Have I taken? ‘Ev wă, or ‘ wă ta’en? Have we taken?
‘Ez tă ta’en? ‘Ev yă, or ‘a‘e yă ta’en?
‘Ez ă103 ta’en? ‘Ev yă, or ‘a‘e thă ta’en?

Imperfect Tense.

Ah’d, or Ah ’ed. I had. Wa’d, or wa ’ed. We had.
Thoo’d, or thoo ’ed. Thou hadst. Ya’d, or ya ’ed. You had.
He’d, or he ’ed. He had. Tha’d, or tha ’ed. They had.

Imperative Mood.

‘A’e or ’ev (have).

Infinitive Mood.

Ti ’ev, or ti ’a’e. To have.


‘Evin’, having. ‘Ed or ’ad, had.


Indicative Mood.

Present Tense.

Ah deea, diz, or duz. I do. brace
Thoo diz or duz. deea or div.
He diz or duz. Thă


Ah deean’t. I do not. Wa deean’t or divn’t104.
Thoo dizn’t or deean’t. Ya deean’t or divn’t.
He dizn’t. Tha deean’t or divn’t.


Ah maay. Wa brace
Thoo maayst. Ya maay.
He maay. Tha

Imperfect Tense—Might.

Ah mud or might. Wa brace
Thoo mud. Ya mud or might.
He mud. Tha
Must. Must not.
Ah brace Wa brace Ah brace maun’t Wa brace maun’t
Thoo mun. Ya mun. Thoo or Ya or
He Tha} He munnot. Tha munnot.


Active Voice.

Indicative Mood.

Present Tense.

Ah gan, or goa. Wa brace
Thoo’s gahin’ or gannin’. Ya gan or goa.
He gans. Tha

Indefinite—I was going.

Ah war, wur, or wuz brace gahin’ Wa war, wur, or wuz brace gahin’
Thoo wast or wart or Ya war, wur, or wuz } or
He war or wuz gannin’. Tha war, wur, or wuz gannin’.


Indefinite Perfect—I have gone.

Ah ’ev or Ah’ve brace gane Wa ’ev or wa’ve brace gane,
Thoo’s or thoo ’ez} gane or or Ya ’ev or ya’ve } gane or or
He’s or he ’ez geean. Tha’ev or tha’ve} geean. geean.

Infinitive Mood.

Present. Progressive.
Ti gan. Ti be gahin’ or gannin’.
To go. To be going.
Perfect. Progressive.
Ti ’ev gane or ti ’a’e geean. Ti ’ev been gahin’.
To have gone. To have been going.

Gahin’ or ganning. Going.

Geean or gane. Gone.

Having geean or gane. Having gone.

Observe is and be generally take the place of are and am. In fact, the latter word is very rarely heard amongst the country people. ‘Are you Tom?’ in the folk-speech, would be, ‘Is ta Tom?’—the answer would not be ‘Ah am!’ but ‘Ah is!’

Q. ‘Is ta gahin’ wiv uz105?’ i.e. ‘Are you going with me?’

A. ‘Neea, Ah’s nut,’ or ‘Neea, Ah isn’t,’ i.e. ‘No, I is not’ (I am not).

Nobbut, as a sign of the conditional mood, is quite as general as if.

Q. ‘Will ta cum?’ Will you come?


A. ‘Nobbut it be owt leyke, an’ nobbut I git deean;’ i. e. ‘If it be anything like’ (as to weather), ‘and if only I finish my work.’

It is not uncommon to hear the future tense used for the present, and in many instances the country people, as it were, confuse the perfect tense and perfect participle. ‘Ah’ve chose t’ whip ’at Ah want.’ ‘I have chosen the whip I want (or like).’

‘’Ez ta broke t’ winder?’ would be asked in a whisper, but ‘Aye, he’s brokken ’t,’ would certainly be the form in which it would be shouted to the other boys. ‘Ah’ve spoke tiv him mair ’an yance,’ would be the form such a declaration would take from one confiding to another the hopelessness of making any further entreaties; but ‘Ah’ve spokken tiv him ower an’ up agaan,’ would be the language used when temper was in the ascendent. Nevertheless, those who would consider vulgar such sentences as have been given, are apt to forget that the accepted rules which govern the speech of to-day are only correct because they are of to-day. The rules which were once accepted may have been laid aside in favour of others; but the country people move slowly—their speech is that of their grandparents, and it is what they have been used to all their lives. They know nothing of the new order of things. And again, they keep very good company.


‘I have already chose my officer.’

Othello, Act i. Sc. 1.

‘Methought this staff, mine office badge in court, was broke in twain.’—Henry VI, Part II, Act i. Sc. 2.


‘By what yourself too late have spoke and done.’

King Lear, Act i. Sc. 4.

‘Why was this forbid?’—Paradise Lost, Bk. ix. 703.

‘Waiting desirous her return, had wove
Of choicest flowers a garland.’
Paradise Lost, Bk. ix. 839.

Steele, in the Spectator (No. 344), has, ‘I have wrote to you three or four times.’ And he is generally acknowledged to have been a fairly good scholar, but then his writings go back a hundred years, and they spoke differently then. Our people speak very much like it now.

The formation of the perfect and of the participle vary considerably from that of ordinary grammar. As a rule the past participle is formed by the addition of en. There are other striking peculiarities in the vowel changes. A list of some of the leading ones is here given.

Present. Perfect. Participles.
Build Belt Belt
Beeat (beat) Bet Betten
Bid Bad Bidden, bodden
Binnd (bind) Bun or bund Bun, bund, or bunden
Bleead (bleed) Bled, blaad Bledden
Break, breek (break) Brak Brokken
Brust (burst) Brast Brussen, brossen
Cast Kest Kessen
Cheease (choose) Choaze Chozzen
Coss (curse) Coss’d Coss’d, cossen
Cost Cost Cossen
Creeap (creep) Crep or crop Croppen
Cum (come) Cam, com Cum’d
Cut (cut) Cut Cutten
331Darr (dare) Dast Darrd
Drahve (drive) Drave Drovven or druvven
Felt (hide) Felt Felted
Feyght (fight) Fowt Fowten
Finnd (find) Fan Fun
Flig (fly) Fligg’d Fligg’d
Fling (fling) Flang Flung
Flit (to change one’s abode) Flitted Flitten
Freeze (freeze) Fraze Frozzen
Gi’e (give) Gav or ga Geen106
Git (get) Gat Gitten, getten, or gotten
Greeap or group (grope) Grape Groupen or groppen
Grund, grahnd (grind) Grund Grun or grunded
Ho’d (hold) Ho’ded Ho’dden
Ho’t (hurt) Ho’t Ho’tten
Kep (catch) Kept Kept, keppen
Lap (wrap) Lapt, lapp’d Lappen or lappen’d
Let (let) Let Letten
Lig (lay) Lig’d, lihd Lihn
Lig (lie) Lig’d Liggen or lig’d
Leet (light) Let Letten
Loose (loose) Lowse Lowsen
Loss (lose) Lost Lossen
Preeave (prove) Preeav’d Provven or pruvven
Put (put) Put Putten
Rahd (ride) Rade Ridden or rodden
Rahse (rise) Roase Risen or rosen
Rahve (tear) Rave Rovven
Set Set Setten
Shak (shake) Shak’t Shak’t or shakken
Shed (shed) Shed Shedden
332Shoe (shoe) Shod Shodden
Shut (shut) or shoot Shut Shutten
Sit (sit) Sat Setten
Slet (slit) Slet Slitten
Smit (infect) Smitted Smittel’d
Snaw (snow) Snew Snawn or snaw’d
Speeak (speak) Spak Spokken
Splet (split) Splet Spletten
Spreead (spread) Sprade Sprodden
Stan (stand) Steead Stooden
Stick (stick) Stack Stucken
Straad (stride) Stroade, straad, or strahd Strodden
Strahve (strive) Strahve or stroave Struvven or strovven
Strike (strike) Strake, strak Strukken
Tak (take) Teeak, teuk Ta’en, takken, or tuckken
Tell Tell’d, tell’t Tell’d, tell’t
Thrahve (thrive) Throv, thrahve Throvven
Thrust (thrust) Thrast, throst Throssen or thrussen
Treead (tread) Trade, tred Trodden
Wet (wet) Wet Wetten
Win (win) Wan Won
Worrk (work) Wrowt, wark’d Wrowt or wrowten
Wreyte (write) Wrate Written


Some of those generally in use will be found contained in the following request:—

‘Tommy’s cum’d, an’ Jimmy an’ all. Noo, if so be as hoo ’at wa caan’t finnd hoos-room for baith on107 ’em, could thoo, wivoot putting thisen aboot, mannish ti tak Jimmy in? Bud, hooivver, thoo knaws if in case ’at thoo caan’t mannish ti deea333 ’t foor all t’ tahm tha’re here, can ta whahl t’ daay efter ti morn? Tha’ve cum’d for ti see Mary. Nowther on ’em’s clapt ees on her sen sha went ti pleeace, an’ seeaner ’an tha s’u’dn’t ’a’e seen her, Ah wad ’a’e geean ti my aunt Martha; bud Ah’d better stop at yam ez gan theer, if so be ’at thoo can mannish ’t onny road. Besides, thoo knaws thi larl Lizzie could cum an’ lig wiv oor Freddy, bidoot thoo ligs her on t’ sōfy. Ah think ’at that wad be t’ better waay; noo, what diz ta saay?’


‘Tommy has come, and Jimmy as well. Now, if we cannot find room for both on them, could you, without inconveniencing yourself, manage to take Jimmy in? Still, if you cannot manage to do so for all the time they are here, can you until the day after to-morrow. They have come to see Mary, neither of them having seen her since she went to place—i.e. situation. And rather than they should have missed seeing her, I would have gone to my aunt Martha; but I had better stay at home than go there, if you can manage it anyway. Besides, your little Lizzie could come and sleep with our Freddy, unless you lay her on the sofa. I think that would be the best; now, what do you say?’

In reading the key over, it will be found, in several instances, that a single word does duty for several. This tendency towards redundancy is very common, e.g. ‘If so be as how ’at wa cannot,’ simply means ‘If we cannot’; and ‘Besides, thoo knaws,’ is ’besides.’ Instead of the last word, ‘besides,’ the usage of ‘An’ moreover ’an that’ is very common.

The rule that prepositions govern the objective case, expressed or understood, the conjunction never, holds good in the folk-speech.


The conjunctions in italics are very rarely used, those in brackets commonly taking their place.

There are many who consider the folk-speech of our country people little better than a mixture of about equal parts of bad grammar and mispronunciation. Such a notion, I feel sure, can only have arisen from either a lack of information or undue haste. From such I would humbly crave a reconsideration of the case.

I can well understand those who know little of the various sources through which the standard English of to-day has come down to us, considering such words as those contained in the following list as being vulgar—backerly, balk, belly-wark, botch, cant, chaamer, clag, cleg, drukken, flacker, flit, fra, lake, lang, leck, lig, lop, lown, luke, mirk, neeaze, owerwelt, raun, roke, rud, scraffle, shive, snite, steg, stob, stower, sump, theeak, thrave, till, &c. Though some words in the list may be new to the reader, they are in common usage amongst our people. And what is much more to their credit, every one of them were doing duty hundreds of years ago. And as in many cases the pronunciation is identical with that of their Danish relations, we have grounds for335 assuming that not only has the word itself been preserved, but the actual sound in which it was formerly uttered, though the spelling often differs greatly in the two countries. Take, as a single example, the North Riding word ’stower’; the Danish word is spelt ’staver,’ but the pronunciation is exactly the same in both countries. Therefore, as Angus says, if the sound rather than the spelling be taken, the similarity of the languages will be found to be much more striking. A few so-called vulgar words and their respectable relations are given in the following list.

Note.—Scandinavian in this list must be taken in its widest sense, as including Old Norse, Frisian, Swedish, and Danish.

North Riding. Scandinavian. Anglo-Saxon. English.
Backerly Bagerlig ... Late
Backstan Bage-sten ... A stone for baking cakes on
Balk Balk Balca Beam
Band Baand (O. N.) ... String
Belly-wark Bælg-værk Bælig-wærc Stomach-ache
Bid Byde Beōdan To invite
Bor Borre ... Seed of the burdock
Blendcorn Blandkorn ... Mixed corn
Botch Bota Botian To mend clumsily
Brave Brav ... Goodly
Brede Bredde Bræd Breadth
336Cant Kante, Kanta ... To tilt on end
Calf Kalve, v. to calve ... Calf
Chaamer Kammer ... Chamber
Clag Klæg Clæg To stick
Clap Klap ... To pat
Cleg Klæge ... Horse-fly
Clovver Klaver Klaver (Dutch) Clover
Clip Klippe ... To clip
Drukken Drukken ... Drunken
Eaves Ovs Efesse The eaves
Fau’k, Folk, Fooak Folk ... People
Felt Fela, fiæle Feolan To hide
Flacker Flagre ... To flutter
Flittermouse Flaggermus ... The bat
Flit Flytte ... To remove to another house
Fore-elders Forældre ... Forefathers
Fra Fra Fra From
Gimmer Gimmer ... Ewe lamb
Glooar Gloe ... To stare
Gob Gab ... Mouth
Havermeal Havre mel ... Oatmeal
Handsel Handsel Handselen First money received
Holm Holm ... Low-lying land
Hoos Hus ... House
Humble-bee Humlebi ... Humble-bee
Kist Kiste Cist A chest
Laat, lait Lait ... To seek
Lake, laak Leka Lacan To play
Lake, laak Leg, lec Lac A game
Lang Læng ... Long
Leck Lække Leccan To leak
Lig Ligge Liggan To lie down
Lop Loppe ... A flea
337Lown Luun ... Calm, still
Luke Luge ... To weed
Middin Modding Midding A dunghill
Mirk Mork Mirc Dark
Neeaze Nyse Niesan To sneeze
Owerwelt Awvælt ... To lie on the back as a sheep
Raun Rawn ... Fish-spawn
Riggintree Rygtræ ... The topmost spar in the roof
Roke Rok ... A misty rain
Rud Rod108 ... Red ochre
Scraffle Scravle ... To walk in a feeble way
Shive Skive ... A slice
Suite Snyde ... To blow the nose
Steg Steggi ... A gander
Stob Stub ... The stump of a tree
Stower Staver ... A stake, a rung
Sump Sump ... Boggy place
Theeak Tække ... Thatch
Thrave Trave ... A number of sheaves of corn
Till Til ... To
Yule keeak Yule kage ... Yule cake

This list might have been greatly extended, but the above suffices for the purpose of proving that many of the words considered vulgar are simply venerable through age. If we inquire a little further, we shall find not only the words, but the form of speech used338 by our people, which so often seems ungrammatical, is actually that of the best writers of bygone ages. The fact is, as has been already stated, our vocabulary and mode of speech is not of to-day, but belongs to the time of long ago.

From Spenser’s Faerie Queen take as examples the following words and grammatical forms, which are quite common with us to-day:—

That seemed both shield and plate it would have rived.
For to avenge that foul, reproachful shame.
To lose long gotten honour with one evil hond.
Much greater grief and shamefuller regret.
In hope her to attain by hook or crook.
To tossen spear and shield.
Me leifer were with point of foeman’s spear be dead.
... how stout Deborah strake.
Inglorious now lies in senseless swownd.
But lapped up her silken leaves most chare.
Fast bounden hand and foot with cords of wire.
But, glancing on the tempered metal, brast.
And ever and anon, when none was ware.
And from her head oft rent her snarled hair.

In Piers Ploughman, 1362, by R. Langton:—

Under a brood bank—By a burn’s side.

Some putten hem to the plough.

The Parsone’s Tale:—

And axeth of the old ways.
... ought to plain.

Wicliff, 1380:—

And he eat honeysoukis.


The Prodigal Sone, 1380:—

Tweie sonnes. And the younger of hem.
A ryng on his hond, and schoon on his feet.
And when he cam.

The Parsone’s Tale

Tyndale, 1534:—

And not long after the younger sonne gaddered all that he had togedder.

And when he cam.

And axed what these things meant.

From the Epistle to the Romans.

Also—Geven, goven, moun, quyt (quit = to repay), stakker trone109 (throne), and scores of others are quite common with us.

The following past tenses are given by Angus as obsolete, and as having been so for long:—fand, flang, slang, stang, wan, wrang, every one of which are in frequent use.

In Wicliff’s edition of the Bible we have:—

‘The keperis weren afeered.’ ‘And brak.’ ‘The wisdom of this world fonned.’ ‘Clensed with besyms.’ ‘Mayster Moses seide if ony man.’ ‘Twey men.’ ‘Ridile as whete,’ ‘Joseph lappide it’ (St. Matthew). ‘Moun comprehende with alle seyntis which is breed’ (Eph.). ‘He concitide’ (St. Luke). ‘And telde him’ (Acts). ‘It schal not rewe Him’ (Hebrews).

Such words, when uttered by our country people, are not vulgar, though they may sound odd, but that is because they are old fashioned and unfamiliar; and if their utterance has no charm for you, then it is music you never heard in your youth, and which your ear can never rightly appreciate. So340 that you may see at a glance to what extent the language has altered, and how the folk-speech has remained almost stationary during the last three or four hundred years, let us compare a few of the commonest North Riding words of to-day with the standard English of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries.

Words of the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries, taken from the best authors. Common North Riding words, 1898. Standard English as pronounced in 1898, or giving the word which has supplanted the older one.
Afeered Afeeard Afraid
Axed Axed Asked
Besyms Bizzums, buzzums Broom
Bounden Bounden Bound
Brak Brak Broke
Brast Brast Burst
Breede Breed Breadth
Burn Burn Stream
Cam Cam Came
Chare Chare Carefully
Concitide Consated Imagined, opinionated
Fain Fain Gladly
Fand Fand Found
Flang Flang Flung
Flig Flig To fly
Fonned Fond Foolish
Gaddered Gaddered Gathered
Geven Geven(1) brace Given
Goven Govven(1)
341Gotten Gotten Got
Lapped Lapped brace Wrapped
Lappide Lapp’t
Laverock Lairock or laverock The lark
Leifer Leif or leifer Soon, willingly
Moniment Moniment Monument
Mown Mun Must
Ony Onny Any
Partinge Parting Division
Plain Pleean Complain
Putten Putten Put
Quyt Quit To repay
Rewe Rewe Repent
Ridile Ruddle or riddle To sift
Shamefuller Shamefuller Very disgraceful
Snarled Snarled Knotted
Stakker Stakker Stagger
Strake Strake Struck
Swownd Swound or soond To faint
Telde Tell’d or tell’t Told
Threpe Threeap Argue, contend
Togedder Togedder Together
Tossen Tossen To throw
Twey Tweea Two
Ware Ware Beware
Wrack Wrack Destruction
By hook or crook By hook or crook By any means
1: ‘Gi’en’ is by far the most general. Still, amongst the older people, one often hears ‘geven’ and ‘govven.’

Need I add more to prove my case? I think not.

Those interested are requested to read the concluding remarks at the end of the Glossary.



Giving only those daily in use at the present time, 1898, together with more than 1000 sentences as examples of the dialect.

For Rare and Obsolete Words, see other Glossaries.

N.B.—Some words as we pass from east to west of the North Riding differ slightly in pronunciation; such, when established over a sufficiently wide area, have been included in the Glossary. It is owing to this that the spelling of the same word varies throughout the work, as in all cases the dialect has been given in accordance with the pronunciation of the locality in which the incident or word uttered occurred. As a single example, take ‘fau’k,’ which is universal along the coast; further inland, in the Great Ayton and Stokesley district ‘fau’k’ and ‘fooak’ are equally common, whilst in Wensleydale and Swaledale ‘fooak’ is only heard.