'Th' owd dialect in th' modern age
In memory of Harry Craven. Photo credit Stephen Craven, CC
to foster 'n sustain'
From time to time one reads of the death of a significant person in your place. Perhaps they were a local worthy: a businessman, politician, community worker who worked hard to improve the working or living environment of the area. Perhaps they were active in sport or the arts and helped put your place on the map. Perhaps they were men or women of valour in previous conflicts. Perhaps they were just ordinary people, not famous for anything in particular, but who represented a last link with a way of life which has passed into history.
One such gentleman was Jack Crawshaw. Although not a Springhill resident, people in the community were saddened to read of his death recently. He was 96 years old, and his death marked the end of the old way of life in two respects.
Firstly, he was a clogger all his working life, having a shop approx. a mile from Springhill. Clogs are part of the caricature of northern life but were widely worn by many in the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. Until relatively recently children were often brought a pair of clogs when they started to walk, the feeling being that these were more stable and secure under foot for toddlers than shoes. I clearly remember my sister being bought her first pair of clogs when she was about 14 months, and am reliably informed that I learned to walk in the same way. More recently, clogs were made mainly for clog dancing (a longstanding tradition and growing pastime) and as souvenirs and gifts with recipients of Jack's clogs including HM the Queen and Margaret Thatcher.
Clog wearing was traditionally associated with working people, as reflected in the phrase 'Clogs wouldn't do and shoes wouldn't come', referring to a person who aimed too high in love and was left single.
This leads to the second reason why Jack's death is a break with a former era. The Lancashire dialect (actually a range of dialects with quite subtle local variations) was widely spoken locally in the first half of the 20th century. This staggered on into the 1960s and 70s with the older generation (my grandparents) speaking Lanky which was comprehensible to the younger folk, but we didn't speak it and the works passes from common use. The heading is an epitaph to a dialect poet, Harry Craven, who died in 1971 and who is commemorated in a well on the moors about 3 miles above Springhill. Craven failed in his attempt to sustain dialect usage in the modern age and Jack Crawshaw was felt to be one of the last surviving speakers of the Lancashire dialect.
These two strands, clogs and dialect, come together in Jack's life. They are also recorded in Harvey Kershaw's dialect poem, Clogs.
As soon as Ah were owd enough
To toddle on me own down t’ clough,
They made me wear – ‘cause t’ loan were rough
When later on Ah went to t’ Skoo
Because mi Mother made me goo,
Wi’ temper – Ah punced through
Skoo Maisther 'at Ah had just then
Oft gan me t’ stick – but more so when
He saw ‘at Ah’d forgot to clen
Like o’ young lads Ah loved a lark,
Ah liked to mek clog-irons spark.
Ah cracked – through doing it in t’ dark
Mi fayther went off at t’ deep end
When he fun’ out – he made me bend –
Then Ah felt what power a foot could lend
If bigger lads at top o’ t’ brew,
Should try to bash me, coming from t’ Skoo,
One thing 'ud allus pull me through –
From t’ Skoo, Ah went half-time in t’ Mill,
A skip wi’ bobbins Ah’d to fill,
Mi first week’s wage just settled t’ bill –
For new Clogs.
At 18 Ah were courting strong,
Sad to say, it didn’t last long;
For hoo said when Ah axed her what were wrong –
It’s thi Clogs.
That hurt so mich, Ah welly skriked,
An’ after tay, to bed Ah piked.
But Ah fun a lass, who said hoo liked –
We were wed i’ June, at following year,
Th’ owd Church were crammed – you couldna’ stir,
That’s th’ only time Ah didna’ wear –
Ah’m owder now bi 50 year;
But let them as want, have shoes to wear.
Ah’ll be owd fashioned and prefer –
Shoon nip yer feet, just like a vice;
Ah’ve had some and it’s noan so nice.
If you have too – tek my advice –
If you’ve getten a job, like shifting sond in,
Or bug-blinding yer upstairs londin’
You’ll need a gradely understondin’ –
Two things you’ll find browt Lancashire fame;
An’ one is Cotton and t’ Cotton Frame.
But as for t’ other, well there’s nobbut one name –
And that’s Clogs.
Stereotyped? Of course.
RIP Jack. Are there any individuals who epitomise the history of your place, and whose death weakens the links with the past?