Birkenhead

Topic:
Maria talks about her husband’s involvement in the Torside industrial dispute of 1995.
Speaker:
Maria Ann Langan (b.1969/05/04; female, housewife)
Date:
1999
Duration:
5'30"
Shelfmark:
C900/10058 © BBC


Transcript for Birkenhead

Maria: Torside1 turned up, there was this, his dad said that, you know, the docks was taking on men, you know, dockers’ sons and he should apply, so, which he did. So he thought, you know, “I won’t get it” and I was thinking, “Well, you might get it,” and, of course, we was saying, “If you do get it, it’s a job for life: look at your dad; it’s good money, it’s tonnage and everything, blah, blah, blah.” And we were hoping and praying he’d get it and it turned out that he did get this job. Well, it was just fantastic; we just all, we, we celebrated that he’d got this job. The whole family went out for a meal and, it, my dad was so made up, because, I think my dad looked upon it as it being security for his daughter as well, because a job on the docks was a good job, you know, you, everyone wanted to have security and that’s what we thought. Ehm.

Evelyn: And what was the actual job?

Maria: He w, he was a, he was a docker, he was, ehm, he worked for an agency called Torside, but he would do the same work as what the RDW’s2 would do: he would, ehm, work on the stacker trucks; he’d do the cranes; he’d be a deck-hand; ehm, he’d do, do everything the same really. He’d work alongside them.

Evelyn: So how long was he there?

Maria: Oh, ehm.

Evelyn: Well, when did, when did he start? [inaudible]3

Maria: When did he start? It probably was about ninety-one, ninety-two.

Evelyn: So your, your standard of living improved then obviously, if he was earning more money?

Maria: It did, yeah, it did. And he used to work a lot of overtime as well, so that used to be, come in handy, although he always regretted missing Thomas, when Thomas was a baby and him growing up, cause he used to come home from work and Thomas would be in bed; he’d’ve had his bath, had his bottle and gone to bed. So he’d say, you know, “What’s your day been like?” and I’d say, “Oh, fine” and I’d say, “And my mum has told me that Thomas,” cause I was missing things as well. And he’d say, “Oh, is he?” and I’d say, “Yeah,” and he came home and I’d say, “He walked today,” and it was, like, “Oh, is he in bed?” and I’m saying, “Yeah,” and I thought, “Oh, it’s so sad, really, that he missed all that,” but, ehm.

Evelyn: But you s, did you have a better standard of living? Were you able

Maria: We did.

Evelyn: to afford things that you couldn’t before?

Maria: Well, we got a car; we got a telephone; uh, we’d go on holidays — not a lot abroad, cause we had the baby — but we were all generally, we’d, we’d buy clothes for ourselves and we started shopping in Tesco’s4 rather than the Kwik-Save5; uhm, and we, we, you know, we’d go for meals and go the pictures and things like that.

Evelyn: So the, the money did make a difference to your lives?

Maria: It made a big difference, yeah.

Evelyn: And then the bombshell.

Maria: And then the bombshell, yeah, yeah.

Evelyn: Just tell me briefly what happened, would you, Maria?

Maria: Ehm, he came home from work early and I thought he’d got what they call ‘the twilight shift’, you see, cause it was normal practice: he’d go to work and sometimes he’d come home and he said, “Do you want the good news or the bad news?” and I said, “Oh, give us the good news.” He said, “I’m not on the twilight,” and I said, “Well, what’s the bad news?” He said, “I’ve been sacked.” Well, I was sitting there and I said, “You’ve been sacked?” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “Don’t be daft,” I said, “what’ve you been sacked for?” I said, “What’ve you done?” He said, “I haven’t done anything.” I said, “Well, you haven’t been sacked then,” I said, “you can’t be sacked for doing nothing.” He said, “Maria, I’ve been sacked.” He said, “We’ve all been sacked.” So then he, he sat down and he told me and I said, “Oh well, that’s just ridiculous, Chris,” I said, “they”, you know, “they don’t mean that.” I said, “Go back in to work tomorrow. Everything’ll be OK.” So he said, “Maria, I’ve been sacked.” So I said, “Well, it doesn’t make sense.” He said, “Well, listen to this,” he said, “Chris” — this is another Chris, his friend, who actually lived in the same street as us — ehm, “has been sacked.” And he was on holiday and he’d been sacked. And I said, “Well,” you know, “you’d better go and tell him,” cause he’d just got back at the weekend. So he said, “I will.” So he went over and told him and then Gail came over and she said, “I can’t believe this,” and I said, “Well, I can’t to be honest with you, Gail, there must be some mistake,” I said, “don’t worry about it; it’ll all get sorted out.” Well, of course, it didn’t all get sorted out. And it got worse for us as well, because his dad is an RDW and when they set up the picket line, he come home and he said, “We’re going to set a picket line up,” he said, “have you got any coffee?” I said, “What for?” He said, “Well, I don’t know how long I’m going to be there for.” So I gave him coffee and teabags and made butties for him and he, he went out in his usual clothes: in his yellow jacket and his, his woolly hat. And I thought, you know, “Oh, I hope this is going to get sorted out today.” And it went on for another day and then we went round to see his dad and his dad said, “I’m not crossing no picket line, especially with my son being on it.” So he never crossed it and then I couldn’t believe it when all these dockers weren’t crossing this picket line, thought, “God, this is serious now! I can’t believe what’s going on!” And I was watching the news – the ‘Granada6 Report’, which was the local news — every hour on the hour to see what was going on. And I’d see Chris on the television and I’d think, “Oh God, it’s real. What’s going on?” He’d be standing round this tin with this, this fire burning from it. And then it, it turned out that his dad had got his P457; I think it had got delivered in a taxi. And he was really upset, his dad, cause he’d worked there for thirty years and I thought, “Oh God!” I felt so guilty and Chris felt guilty, because we, I felt as if we’d lost his job; it was our fault, you know. But when I heard the story of what’d, how it’d happened, that these man had just refused to do this overtime, cause it hadn’t been agreed and then, “You’re sacked; you’re sacked; you’re sacked; you’re sacked!” I thought, you know, “That, that’s not, you know, it’s not fair that and you’re right to do what you’re doing.” But I th, I still do feel terribly guilty about those men losing their jobs and.

Notes

  1. Torside Limited is the name of a company that was registered with The Mersey Docks and Harbour Company in the early 1990s
  2. RDW is an abbreviation for Registered Dock Worker
  3. [inaudible] indicates a passage or phrase where the speaker’s exact words are unclear
  4. Tesco’s refers to the UK’s largest national chain of supermarkets.
  5. Kwik-Save refers to a national chain of discount supermarkets.
  6. Granada refers to the largest independent broadcaster and serves the whole of the northwest as part of ITV plc
  7. P45 refers to the form issued by the Inland Revenue at the termination of an employee’s contract

Commentary for Birkenhead

The Scouse accent

Scouse — the accent of the city of Liverpool — is instantly recognisable and there are several features we immediately associate with speakers from Merseyside. Listen, for instance, to the characteristic <ts> sound Maria uses for the letter <t> in the following words: celebrated, security, daughter, thought, start, twilight, street, sorted out, hat and upset. Also typical of many speakers on Merseyside is the apparent deletion of a word-final <t> at the end of a statement. Listen closely to the way Maria says it’s so sad really that he missed all that, we’d go for meals and go the pictures and things like that, they don’t mean that and don’t worry about it. In fact the <t> sound is not generally omitted, rather it is replaced by a very weak (and therefore often inaudible) <h> sound.

Key characteristics

Of additional interest, though, is the way Maria combines these extremely local features with other pronunciations of <t>. On a number of occasions she employs a <r> sound, such as in the statements we were hoping and praying he’d get it, I’m not on the twilight and you’d better go and tell him. This type of pronunciation is extremely common in the north of England as a whole. It is only possible when a small set of common verbs (e.g. get, got, let, put, shut) or non-lexical words (e.g. but, lot, not, that, what) precedes a word beginning with a vowel — combinations such as what if, get off, lot of and shut up, for instance — or, in extreme cases on words such as matter. Finally, in common with many younger speakers across the whole of England, Maria occasionally substitutes a glottal stop for a <t> sound. Listen, for instance, to the way she pronounces the word bottle and the phrase not a lot in the statement we’d go on holidays — not a lot abroad.

In the statement I’m not crossing no picket line she also use a non-standard grammatical feature, multiple negation, which is extremely widespread in a number of English dialects worldwide. Finally, many people in Liverpool and perhaps elsewhere, too, will recognise the term made-up, meaning ‘happy, pleased’.