Billy Liar

'So tha's going to London, is ta?' he said with mild interest, as though the subject of the calendars had been settled entirely to his satisfaction.

Hopefully, I said: 'Aye, ah'm just about thraiped wi' Stadhoughton'. I remembered too late that 'thraiped' was a word Arthur and I had made up.

'How does ta mean?'

'It's neither muckling nor mickling,' I said, using another invented phrase in my complete panic.

'Aye.' The old man poked the ground with his stick, and said again, 'Aye.' I had no indication what he was thinking about at all. I tried hard to keep talking, but I could not think of a single word of any description.

'Well tha's gotten me in a very difficult position,' he said weightily, at last. 'How does ta mean, Councillor?'

He studied me keenly, and I realised for the first time, with a sinking heart, that he was not as daft as he looked.

'Is ta taking a rise out o' me, young man?'

I felt myself flushing, and found my whole personality shifting into the familiar position of sheepishness and guilt.

'No, of course not'.

'Well just talk as thi mother and father brought thee up to talk, then. Ah've had no education, ah had to educate myself, but that's no reason for thee to copy t' way I talk.' He spoke sharply but kindly, in a voice of authority with some kind of infinite wisdom behind it, and at that moment I felt genuinely ashamed.

'Now sither. We'll noan go ower t'ins and outs of it, tha's been ower all that down at t' office. But young Shadrack theer thinks ah ought to have a word wi' thi father about thee. What does ta say to that?'

'I don't know,' I muttered, hanging my head. I wondered how I could ask him, without actually begging for mercy, not to talk to the old man.

'Well don't look as if tha's lost a bob and fun sixpence! Tha's not dead yet!'


Billy Liar was written by Keith Waterhouse and first published in 1959. Billy is a young man with a dreary life, which he escapes by living an imaginary life in which he is hero. To dodge the consequences of a number of blunders Billy begins to lie. As his lies start to catch up with him, he finds himself telling bigger lies to cover his tracks.

In this conversation with councillor Duxbury, Billy has been mimicking Duxbury's dialect, trying to pass it off as his own.


Tha, ta thou (you)

Thi thy (your)

Sither see thou (look, see here)

Noan none, not

Ah I

A bob a shilling, or 12 old pence

Is ta taking a rise out o' me are you ridiculing me?

Taken from: Billy Liar
Author / Creator: Keith Waterhouse
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Date: 1959
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board
Shelfmark: NNN.13910