A Kestrel for a Knave

Well it was once when I was a kid. I was at junior school, I think, or somewhere like that, and went down to Fowlers Pond, me and this other kid. Reggie Clay they called him, he didn't come to this school; he flitted and went away some-where. Anyway it was Spring, tadpole time, and it's swarming with tadpoles down there in Spring. Edges of t'pond are all black with 'em, and me and this other kid started to catch 'em. It was easy, all you did, you just put your hands together and scooped a handful of water up and you'd got a handful of tadpoles. Anyway we were mucking about with 'em, picking 'em up and chucking 'em back and things, and we were on about taking some home, but we'd no jam jars. So this kid, Reggie, says, 'Take thi wellingtons off and put some in there, they'll be all right 'til tha gets home'. So I took 'em off and we put some water in 'em and then we started to put taddies in 'em. We kept ladling 'em in and I say to this kid, 'Let's have a competition, thee have one welli' and I'll have t'other, and we'll see who can get most in!' So he started to fill one welli' and I started to fill t'other. We must have been at it hours, and they got thicker and thicker, until at t'end there was no water left in 'em, they were just jam packed wi'taddies.

You ought to have seen 'em, all black and shiny, right up to t'top. When we'd finished we kept dipping us fingers into 'em and whipping 'em up at each other, all shouting and excited like. Then this kid says to me, 'I bet tha daren't put one on'. And I says, 'I bet tha daren't'.


This excerpt comes from A Kestrel for a Knave (1968), written by Barry Hines. It is part of a story told by a boy called Anderson in class. Anderson illustrates his story with snatches of what he and Reggie said to one another at the time. The boys speak in a Yorkshire dialect.

Taken from: A Kestrel for a Knave
Author / Creator: Barry Hines
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Date: 1969
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board
Shelfmark: X.908/18345