Dalesman’s Diary: January 2024

A Dalesman’s Diary

January 2024

Rod Dimbleby, chairman of the Yorkshire Dialect Society

If you ocker* or allock** you’re in danger of missing it… by popular demand, a new course is being held which explores and helps to preserve that part of our heritage of which Yorkshire folk are rightly proud: our dialect.

The Yorkshire Dialect Society is hosting the six-week course which starts this month, and places on it are being snapped up.

It follows on from events held last year which proved to be so popular that organiser Rod Dimbleby has been happy to put on the course, which costs £30.

Sessions will be held on the following Saturdays, January 13, 20, 27 and February 10, 17 and 24 at the Conference Suite, St John the Divine, St John’s Street, Rastrick near Brighouse railway station.

Starting time is 10.00am and each session will last two hours, during which all aspects of our dialect will be explored.

Rod is chairman of the Yorkshire Dialect Society, which is not only the UK’s oldest dialect society, but the oldest in the world.

“What is special about Yorkshire includes many features – the landscape, the history, the people and also the language,” says Rod, a former German teacher.

“Too often children were taught in school that Yorkshire dialect words and phrases were just ‘slang’ or slovenly use of language, when, in fact, they may go back in linguistic terms over a thousand years to our Anglo-Norse ancestors.”

“These words are a rich part of our heritage, and we need to treasure and use them.”

To give people the knowledge and confidence to use this vital part of their own heritage, Rod – a skilled dialect speaker and storyteller – is organising a course of classes in which people will be encouraged to speak, read and write Yorkshire dialect.

The aim is to enrich their own vocabulary with often powerful and poetic words and expressions used by their own parents and grandparents, whether on the farm, in the workplace or at home.

Students at the classes will be taught about the history of dialect, and introduced to texts and recordings, as well as being encouraged to listen, speak, read and write in a form of English which has as much relevance for our time as it did in the past, helping to define what it is to be Yorkshire.

*ocker means hesitate
**allock means dawdle

Portrait of Joseph Wright, founder of the Yorkshire Dialect Society

The YDS was founded in 1897 by Joseph Wright, a remarkable man who defied his humble beginnings in Idle, Bradford, to become an Oxford University don who tutored a young J R R Tolkien, and was an inspiration to Virginia Woolf.

Proud of his roots, he was wont to utter: “I’ve been an Idle man all my life, and shall remain an Idle man till I die.”

Born to a quarryman father and a cloth weaver mother, aged just six he was working as a donkey boy in a quarry, before becoming a bobbin doffer at Sir Titus Salt’s mill.

But he was always ambitious, and managed largely to teach himself how to read, write and do arithmetic, as he studied at night school.

By the age of eighteen, through toil and endeavour, he’d earned enough money and gained the qualifications to fund a term of study at the University of Heidelburg.

He followed this up with studies at the Yorkshire College of Science, now the University of Leeds, became a schoolmaster and then gained a PhD.

A passionate linguist, he spoke several foreign languages, and wrote, compiled and edited The English Dialect Dictionary – a six volume anthology of the dialects of most of the country.

From this, the YDS was born and continues to flourish, with members not just across the country, but around the world.

Joseph reading in his study

For further details of the course, log on to the YDS website yorkshiredialectsociety.org.uk


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