- Mark talks about courtship, married life and working as a labourer in the 1960s
- Mark James (b.1939/08/11; male, labourer)
- C900/11129 © BBC
Transcript for Byker
Mark: Well. I met our lass in, I mean, I fell, I mean, why, it sounds, it might sound old-fashioned, but I fell in love with her. You know. I still, I still, I’ll always love our lass. I mean I love her stronger each day. I mean, you, the, them days you didn’t, you didn’t live with lasses. If, if a bloke was ganning with a lass and they weren’t married, she, she had a bad name. You know. And everybody looked, looked down on people like that. And if a lass had a bairn, even if a lass had a bairn out of wedlock, she was, look, frowned upon, you know. I mean, I’m not saying that’s right. But at the time they seemed right. I mean, people’s att, your attitudes change now. I divn’t think they’re right now anyway. You know, when they live together. And they’re having kids and, and they divn’t want to get married and, I think you’re, you’re better being married. I mean it worked for me. But saying that, mind, uh, I got the right one. I was lucky; I got the right one. And it didn’t work for my brother; he got the wrang one. So you cannot speak for other people really, can you? You know what I mean? I cannot. But I mean, I’m lucky. I’ve been lucky; dead lucky.
Virtue: What did you want in your home when you were setting up home in the early sixties?
Mark: I think, I di, it’s, you know, it’s funny, but the kids now, they want everything. Straightaway. We were happy to get a few sticks of furniture and pay weekly for it. And then a bit, a bit carpet. And you rented your house. And you’d never, ever thought you’d buy a house. I mean that seemed and, and, naebody bought houses in them days. And we got our bits of furniture. And then, then, then we got a black and white television, which we rented. And that was a luxury. We were happy. You were happy with what you’d got, cause you knew no else, anything else. You didn’t know anything else. And we were pleased just to be in our own house. And later on your sights went a bit higher. You made more money. The kids grew up a bit. We bought our own house. And I, I worked on bonus and I, I, I paid it off quick as I could. Because I always had the fear that I wasn’t ganning to be working. Because that was always on the back of your mind. That you were ganning to be on the dole. Nae money. Because when you’re brought up like me, I mean, we were always hungry. And always wanting. And you never had that dinner. And that’s always on the back of your mind that you’re gannin to be like that again. I always remember a story about Charlie Chaplin1. They reckon even when he was rich, he used to hide food and store food. I can understand that. Because you always think you’re ganning to be left with naught again, aren’t you? It’s in the back of your mind. But I, we, we bought our house and, uh, it’s the best thing we done, like. And I’m, you’ve got to be content with what you’ve got, haven’t you? You know.
Virtue: Was it, was it hard to get a mortgage?
Mark: Not really. It wasn’t really hard to get a mortgage. Paying it off is a, a different thing, like. Because, I mean, they say it’s a milestone round your neck. And it is. It is a milestone. Because that was
Virtue: You mean it’s a millstone?
Mark: Aye, millstone. Well, we call it milestone.
Mark: Because, you know on the side of the road, when, uh, you were a kid? You had a, uh, it’s eight miles to, so I, I suppose, uh, you’re, you’re pro, you’re, you’re pro, you’re probably right, like. But, eh, it was hard to pay off. But I think what it is, I’ve always had casual work, me, you know. I’ve never had a, a permanent, steady job. And I, I work, when you work with your hands, jobs divn’t always last. You build, you might be on a building, so it might last for six months. Then you’re on the dole and you get another job. That might last nine months. But the cables was the best, cause that lasted years. Cause I was, I was always good at what I done. I had to be good. I had to be good with my hands. And I worked with Irishmen. Well, with me being English, they didn’t want me in a gang. Unless I was, I had to be really good. And prove I was as good as them, if not better. So I proved I was as good as them. And I set the pace. And, uh, it was, it was great. It was great. It was, eh, the, the, the, the crack was great, the crack. You know, uh, blackguarding each other and, I mean, you’re always calling each other. And we used to gan in the bar and get drunk, you know. And there used to be fighting and everything, you know. You used to. It was, I, I mean, it was the way it was. We, we used to jump off the wagon. Outside the Central Station covered in clarts. You know, we, you know, we, we were like a lot of tramps. We used to roll across the bar across the road. And the first pint didn’t touch the sides, you know, because you were thirsty. And the crack would start. And you’d be bragging about how much work we had done and how much money we had made. And the other gangs would come in. And you were all bragging and that. And it was great, man. And the old, the next thing you used to remember was the alarm clock ganning off the next day. It was time to gan back to work. Because I never used to hurry see the bairns then. Cause I was working that hard. I was just working and sleeping and drinking and working. And that’s all your life was. The bairns now, they says, “Dad, we thought you were hard and you were hard then and we were frightened to talk to you. But we realise now you had to dae that.” And, uh, I’ve got more time for the kids now. Because I’m not working. Cause work, it takes over your whole life, you know. It, it’s, it’s like a drug, it makes, it’s hard. I mean, when I was working, I mean, I, even when I was sleeping, I used to be working in my sleep. Cause it was that hard. I mean, you, a pick and shovel and a spit. I mean, it would kill a horse, you know. If a horse was daeing that, I think the RSPCA2 would, they would have something to say, would. Well, we worked, I mean some of the lads, they, they worked till they dropped, some of them. They died very young, you know. I mean, we, we used to pass the cap for the funerals and put money in the cap. There was always lads keeling over and dying with their heart and that. And we just accepted it. Why, you know, they used to be dying all the time. And I mean you cannot work like that. At the time I didn’t know. I was too, too thick to realise. I thought I was like, I was like a machine, you know. And honestly, the work; I’ve seen me dig fifty, sixty yards, you know. Two foot six deep, you know, like. You know, I was, I was like a machine and I, I was proud of the fact as well, because your muscles would pump up, you know. And you, and you, it was like, you know, you’d, you, it was automatic. You didn’t know you were daeing it. You used to just dae it automatic. And you used to be thinking of other things, you know, when you were digging. And uh, uh, the sun on your back, you know, I used to love it. But you get older, divn’t you, and you, you start to get the arthritis in your joints. I’m starting to get all them aches and pains now, like. Mind you, I still love my work. I work at a college. Newcastle College3 there. I work with young bricklayers and that. I dae a bit part-time teaching sometimes. I get teaching and that. And I can get on great with the kids, because you know how to talk to them. And you get them laughing. And we just, I mean the kids are great, the kids, I mean. They say the kids aren’t as nice as they used to be. I think that they are. I think it’s just, just the, the way it is, isn’t it, you know? But I love working with young ones, like. I work with the special needs, you know. The special needs are funny. You know. Uh, and, uh, I got on the bus with them the other night, you know. And, uh, I, I got on and they were all sitting around us. “Hello, Mark,” you know. And everybody was looking at me and I had all these kids around us. You know, I, I, I felt proud, because they would, they come to you like a magnet. I mean, you never, ever talk down to anybody, dae you? I mean, these, these kids were the special needs. And I can, I, I’m on the same wavelength as them. They’re brilliant, like.
- Charlie Chaplin (1899 -1997) was a London-born actor/director and arguably the most famous figure in the early years of motion pictures at the start of the twentieth century.
- RSPCA refers to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – a charitable organisation established in 1824 that seeks to promote kindness and prevent cruelty to animals.
- Newcastle College is an FE College.
Commentary for Byker
The Geordie dialect
The dialect of the City of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and the surrounding area is arguably the most distinctive of all British English dialects. It still has a rich vocabulary that includes words here such as our lass, gan, bairn, wrang, naebody, dae and clarts, meaning respectively, ‘my wife’, ‘go’, ‘child’, ‘wrong’, ‘nobody’, ‘do’ and ‘sticky or claggy mud’.
Geordies also share a number of instantly recognisable accent features. Perhaps the most distinctive pronunciation feature is the tendency for speakers across the whole of North East England to use glottalised consonants for the sounds <p, t, k>. This is an extremely subtle phonetic process, and most noticeable when the consonant appears between vowels in the middle of a word or at a word boundary between two vowels. We can hear this feature frequently in Mark’s speech here, but it is perhaps best illustrated by the way he pronounces these consonants in the following words: lucky, happy, attitudes, better, automatic and sometimes.
Geordie vowel sounds
There are also a number of characteristic vowel sounds we associate with a broad Geordie accent: listen, for instance, to the vowel sounds Mark uses in words in the following three sets:
- day, anyway, straightaway, later, paid, again, eight, pay, cables, pace, great, way, station, made, aches, pains, same and wavelength
- bloke, so, own, bonus, dole, milestone, road, suppose, roll, whole and older
- worked, work, furniture, working, permanent, first and thirsty
An interesting non-standard grammatical feature of Geordie dialect is the avoidance of the preposition of preceding a noun. Listen, for instance, to the statements a bit _ carpet and I dae a bit _ part-time teaching. This construction can be heard throughout Scotland and is also typical of broad dialect in North East England.