October 2008

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Your letters

A Place by Any Other Name

I must take issue with Roderic Walkington’s analysis of place names (Readers’ Club, September 2008).

Tun was not a Scandinavian place-name element; it was Anglo-Saxon (Old English) for a small settlement and became what what we now know as -ton (which in some instances has become ‘town’).

Common Anglo-Saxon place-name suffixes in the earliest phases of Germanic occupation were -ing, -ham, -ton and -ley; some authorities argue that in this order they relate to the chronology of settlement. Compounds of -ingham, -ington and -ingley seem to be younger than the simpler forms.

In Yorkshire we have very few place-names that end simply in -ing, as our region was settled relatively late by the Angles (Pickering is a scarce example); most of England’s simple -ing names occur in the southern counties, where the earliest Anglo-Saxon colonisation took place.

The element -ing is Anglo-Saxon, from ingas, meaning ‘the people of [personal name]’. The personal name was usually that of a family head, a group leader or tribal chief. Walkington is Old English, probably from the Anglo-Saxon personal name Walca, so ‘the tun [settlement] of the people of Walca’ is the likely explanation for this place-name and the family names that were subsequently derived from it.

The Old Norse/Old Danish name elements for varieties of farm/ farmstead are -by, thwaite, -thorp(e) and -toft, with -by probably being the most common. Other Scandinavian place-name elements found often in our region include -ness, -beck, -holme, -kirk and -with.

The -by element (originally a farm, usually preceded by a personal name or a landscape descriptor) is found all over Denmark, southern Sweden and the old Danelaw of England; the Norwegian cognate is usually -bo. Our -thorpe is found in modern Scandinavia in forms such as -trup, -trop and -torp. I think one would be very hard pressed to find a -tun or -ton place name in Scandinavia.

Yorkshire Place Names by Peter Wright (Dalesman, 2001) is a useful beginners’ guide. Wright includes a little poem:

“In ham and ley and hill and ton
Many Old English place-names run.
But beck and kirk and by of course
Arrive in Yorkshire from Old Norse.”

Skipton (like Grimston) is what is known as a hybrid place-name.

In the case of Skipton, the original Old English sh was ‘Scandinavianised’ to sk. ‘Shipton’ (the sheep town) existed as a settlement long before the Vikings arrived. Many words ‘borrowed’ by English and beginning sk are Scandinavian in origin: skirt, skip, skull being examples.

Grimston is made up of a Scandinavian personal name, Grimmr, followed by the Old English -ton. We know that Scandinavian settlers not only created new settlement names but also modified existing Anglo-Saxon names.

For those who would like to study the subject in more depth, useful reference books are Anglo-Saxon England – 3rd Edition (Sir Frank Stenton, 1971), A Guide to the British Landscape (JRW Cheatle, 1976), Dictionary of English Place-Names (A Room, 1988) and The Concise Dictionary of English Place-Names (Eilart Ekwall, 1960)

Dr Barrie M Rhodes, Publicity & Information Officer, The Yorkshire Dialect Society

What accent did the Brontës have?

It was very interesting to read in September’s edition the article regarding Dorothy Una Ratcliffe and Yorkshire dialect.

Although agreeing very much about the Brontës being famous writers, I would disagree that Emily never attempted to write in Yorkshire dialect.

She uses Joseph, the old retainer at Wuthering Heights, to show that she did indeed have much knowledge of Yorkshire dialect — she had after all been brought up in a moorland Yorkshire village.

One such passage in the novel finds Joseph reprimanding the young Cathy and Heathcliff, after the death of Mr Earnshaw, for playing ‘in the arch of the dresser’ on a Sunday:

“T’ maister nobbut just buried and Sabbath nut oe’red und sahnd uh’t gospel still i’yer lugs and yah darr be laiking.”

If that’s not Yorkshire dialect I don’t know what is. It would have been wonderful to have heard just what kind of an accent the Brontë children had — a Cornish mother, an Irish father, and a servant, who became a second mother to them, who had been born in and had never left Haworth.

Isobel Stirk, Silsden

Take-offs and landings

J E Handby of Settle states (Readers’ Club, September) that the aircraft in question took off from the big field near Austwick and flew back to Prestwick.

This is incorrect, as it took off to return to its home base at Middleton St George.

Mrs S Carr of Gainsborough says that the aircraft type involved was a Lancaster. In fact it was an Armstrong Whitworth Whitley. She goes on to say that the pilot was Leonard Cheshire, but this is wrong as the pilot was Christopher Cheshire, the younger brother of Leonard.

As a person that has researched the circumstances of all military aircraft that has crashed in the North of England, I feel qualified in offering the above corrections.

If any of your readers are interested in learning the full details of the above incident, I have compiled a DVD which includes interviews with local people that actually visited the site of the forced landing and watched its take-off. I would be glad to loan them a copy if they so wish.

Guy Jefferson MBE, 29 Ings View, Shipton Road, York YO30 5XE

How many rivers to cross?

I much enjoyed reading Sheila Bowker’s fascinating article ‘Many Rivers to Cross’ (Dalesman, August), but by the end, I was getting quite tired. The article gives the impression that the whole walk, sixty miles, was done in one day. Surely not? This sounds like a week’s expedition for most. Any suggestions for readers about a few overnight stays along the way, or even ideas for breaking this great walk up into ‘bite-sized’ chunks, perhaps using public transport?

John Mothersdale, Rastrick, Brighouse

Sheila replies: I pondered at length on whether to include details of how long we walked each day and where we stopped each night, but felt it would detract from the pace and movement of the text. I think it’s also a relevant point that readers of differing ages and ability would probably cover the route in anything from two to six days, so felt it hard to know where to draw the line. It is probably a week’s expedition for most, as we took a leisurely six days over it, stopping at Grinton, Carperby, Woodale, Kettlewell and Malham en route, which broke it down into between seven and ten-mile daily walks.

Have we no pride in the Dales?

My wife and I recently took a day out to visit the Dales, not having visited for some time despite the area being only forty miles or so from home. At about 4.30pm we arrived in Ingleton, a village I used to visit every weekend as it was my centre for caving pursuits (now curtailed due to my age).

I was very dissapointed to find the village centre full of rubbish, and a large group of twenty or so youths between thirteen and about sixteen years old hanging around the centre, drinking lager from tins, smoking, shouting and using the most foul language.

I am no prude, but their behaviour was disgusting. They were local — at least some of them were as, when they followed us down the road, we could hear them talking (shouting) about their homes and what a dump the place was.

Have we no pride in our home towns any more?

I expect this type of behaviour in large cities, as it can be seen every day, but it seems as though it has expanded to the more rural locations.

David Crane, by email

The mighty Farmer Mothersdale

I have always been impressed by the way that Roberta Mothersdale’s husband runs his farm. He always seems to be well in advance of all the other farmers, when it comes to being up to date with his work.

However this time he has really excelled himself, I received my copy of the August Dalesman in the last week of July. I live on the coast just outside Bideford in North Devon, a reasonably dry and early area.

A local farmer started harvesting winter barley on the 25th July in very good weather. I have not yet seen any wheat, oats, or spring barley being cut, and have not seen any that is yet ready to harvest.

Lo and behold, Farmer Mothersdale has not only started harvesting he has finished, on a farm in Yorkshire some 300 miles north.

He seems like the Yorkshireman I once asked if he could sell me a pound of tomatoes from his greenhouse. His reply was “yes, I’ll cut you one in half”.

M. Clarke, Bideford, Devon

Roberta writes: John has just walked in (7th July) and said some winter barley is already cut in this area — for stock feed — and most winter barley will be cut by end of July in this part of Yorkshire on light land. Our neighbour combined pearl winter barley during Yorkshire Show week (12th July) as he farms on light land. We are known around here as often catching a ‘weather market’, ie getting it in early and getting a premium price as others have not started combining.

Where to buy citric acid

Regarding problems trying to buy citric acid (Readers’ Club, August), we called Bettys Cookery School for help. They advised us to try the Alliance Pharmacy in Harrogate Waitrose and mention Bettys. They normally stock it (under the counter). We were also told that the citric acid is a preservative and that it is possible to omit it if the cordial is stored, in small quantities, in plastic bottles (not overfilled) in the freezer.

E Connell, name and address supplied

When the accent cannot lie

Ian McMillan’s ‘Distilling the Essence of Yorkshireness’ (July) reminds me of something which happened to my great-grandfather who at one time lived in Bradford. He was once in a pub where a man was boasting he could tell where a person came from after meeting them for the first time. Great-grandfather thought he would put the man to the test and began talking in various accents and dialects. The man looked at him and then said: “Hasta got a cum frum?”

Mrs A MacCall, Nottingham

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Dalesman, The Water Mill, Broughton Hall, Skipton, North Yorkshire BD23 3AG
Or email: paul@dalesman.co.uk

The editor reserves the right to edit letters for length and clarity.

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