Ivy recalls her childhood in Hunslet in the 1920s.
Ivy Murray (b.1921/05/21; female, retired textile worker)
C900/08627 © University of Leeds

Transcript for Leeds

Jill: And where were you born, Ivy?

Ivy: I were born in, uh, Hunslet1. Askern Grove in Hunslet.

Jill: Right, Askern Grove.

Ivy: Near St. Mary’s Church.

Jill: Hunslet.

Ivy: Huns, Ask, number twelve Askern Grove I were born in.

Jill: Were you?

Ivy: Hmm.

Jill: Tell me what, what are your memories of that road?

Ivy: Well. It were lovely.

Jill: What, what was nice about it? What, what, what was?

Ivy: I don’t know. We were a, we were all, everybody was so friendly and we’d all load of friends and we used to play, all sorts of games, you know, in, in the, in the road. There were not a, weren’t a lot of traffic, then. So we could, we could play in the road. Hopscotch, skipping, uh, all kinds, kick-out-ball, beddy, all the lot, you know. And it were lovely.

Jill: Hmm. What did your, uh, dad do? What kind of work did he do?

Ivy: He, he worked at the nail-mill. It were just, just at the bottom of the road. Where Morrisons2 is now there was a nail-mill. And he worked there thirty-five years.

Jill: And what, what was that? Making nails, was it?

Ivy: Yes. Oh yes, they worked, they made nails. And, uh, on a night, uh, when they used to be turn, what he called turning the rolls, the, the, the racket from them, you could hear them bashing, banging about, you know. But we were that used to it we didn’t hear it.

Jill: What was turn, turning the rolls? What was it?

Ivy: Pardon.

Jill. What was that? What were they doing?

Ivy: They were, they were putting sheets of metal into the furnace. Making sheets. Sheets of iron used to come out and then the, when, of course, when it cooled they used to put it on the machines and cut it all up for, you know, and make nails and different things, I suppose, besides nails.

Jill: Right. And that, and that noise was when they were taking it out of the furnace, sort of?

Ivy: Oh yes. Yes, when they were banging and, you know. Yeah.

Jill: Hmm. Well, so was it shift work, then? Did he do shift work, or?

Ivy: Oh yes. Yes. He worked nights. Uh. Different times, you know, he’d say, “I’m on nights tonight,” you know and things like that. He worked there thirty-five years, my dad.

Jill: So was that a big, uhm, employer in Hunslet, that, uh?

Ivy: No, it weren’t, it weren’t a right big firm. I wouldn’t say it were a right big firm.

Jill: Hmm.

Ivy: You know, but, uh, it were big enough.

Jill: Where else did people work, then? When, your neighbours, where did, where did they work? Were they working?

Ivy: Well, there was the, uh, chemic, chemical works. Well, that was where, the chemical works were down, uh, the bottom of Anchor Street. That were the bottom of Hunslet Carr3. Where Tates Garage is. There’s Tates Garage there now. Well, that were the chemical works. And when they were, when they were doing something in the works, we used to get sul, we could taste the sulphur all over Hunslet when they used to be doing it. But we were that used to it, it didn’t bother us, you know, we’d say, “Oh, oh they’re doing, letting the sulphur out,” you know. Things like that. They used to say it were healthy, but I don’t think it were. And then, further up there were the steelworks. We had, uh, we had them all in Hunslet. All these, uh, factories, you know.

Jill: Hmm. And were they, were they big factories, or were they just small, family?

Ivy: Oh, steelworks were massive, the Hunslet steelworks. It were a massive place. And they used to, uh, let out fire, you know, certain nights. But, of course, they’ve all gone. They’ve pulled them all down now. Everything’s gone.

Jill: Hmm. So did most people who lived in Hunslet work in Hunslet, then? Was it, was it, there was a lot of employment for people?

Ivy: Well, more, oh, there were a lot of employment. Cause there were all engine, engine, all, uh, what-is-it factories?

Jill: Engineering?

Ivy: Engineering. They were all engineering more or less. And tailoring, there were a lot of tailoring. I worked in tailoring. A lot of tailoring factories, loads of them.

Jill: Were there?

Ivy: Yes.

Jill: Tell, describe those to me. Were they, what, what, what were they like?

Ivy: Uh, well, I don’t know, they were. We used, I don’t know.

Jill: Were they, were they

Ivy: I can’t, I don’t know how to explain it.

Jill: small, small family-run places?

Ivy: Some were, some of them. Some of them were small, family-run. And others were, uh, were biggish ones, you know. Yeah. In Hunslet.

Jill: And what kind of tailoring? What sort?

Ivy: We used to make suits. Men’s, men’s trousers and coats, jackets. And then, uh, then there used to be odd ones that made dre, did dressmaking, you know. But, uh, I loved it. I love sewing.

Jill: Did you? So did, did you train in that, then?

Ivy: Oh yes. When you, when you went, when you went, they’d teach you. They’d set you off as a runabout and then you’d sit, go on a machine and they’d teach you what you were doing.

Jill: Hmm.

Ivy: And then, uh, as, as years went by, of course, you kept, I were in and out of job, if I got fed up of one job, I’d move on to another.

Jill: Would you? It was like that, was it? It was easy to get a job, was it?

Ivy: Oh yes. You could walk out of one job, uh, straight out into another without any, without any hassle. There were loads of work, loads.

Jill: So, what’s been your favourite job, then?

Ivy: I don’t know, sewing, that’s all I can think of. I loved it.

Jill: Did you?

Ivy: Hmm

Jill: So what, how far did you

Ivy: enjoyed it.

Jill: How far did you get in tailoring, then? What did, what did you get to?

Ivy: Oh, I were, I were only a, I used to make, uh, trousers at first. Then I went on divisional work, you know. We used to go on divisional work sometimes.

Jill: What was that?

Ivy: Uh, well, instead of making the garment through, we used to do parts and pass it on, you know what I mean? Things like that. I did all sorts.

Jill: Hmm.

Ivy: Hmm.

Jill: And what did your, your mother do? Did she work?

Ivy: Yes, she was in tailoring.

Jill: Was she?

Ivy: Hmm. She were a trousers-maker, were my mother. She worked over, she worked in Hunslet Carr. It’s pulled down now, uh, Hibsey’s. Hibsey’s. She were a trouser, but years ago she worked in, in Leeds at Gloucester Clothing Company. But as the years went by, of course, she went to work in Hunslet Carr at Hibsey’s.

Jill: Hmm.

Ivy: She went there.

Jill: So, was it, was it an expected thing, then, that if your mother worked in a, a clothing factory, then the daughter would follow her? Did you, did you?

Ivy: Well, we automatically did. Actually. When you left school they didn’t say, “What are, what are you going to do? What, what do you want to do when you leave school?” You were automatically put, put in sewing, because you, they knew you’d get a wage, you know, you used, you didn’t get a lot, but you, you went in, got your job, you know, you got your wage, a little bit of wage.

Jill: Hmm.

Ivy: And you automatically went in. You never questioned it or aught, or naught like that. You just knew you were going. You know [laughs].

Jill: What, uh, what kind of people were your parents?

Ivy: Oh, they were all right, were my mam and dad. Yeah, smashing.


  1. Hunslet is an area of Leeds to the south of the city
  2. Morrisons refers to a nationwide supermarket chain that traces its roots back to a market stall in nearby Bradford
  3. Hunslet Carr is an area of Leeds just to the south of Hunslet

Commentary for Leeds

Listen to the way Ivy pronounces the in the following statements: we could play in the road and he worked at the nail-mill. Definite article reduction — an abbreviated form of the word ‘the’ — is a distinctive feature of speech throughout Yorkshire and some neighbouring counties. This is often inaccurately represented by mimics who imply that Yorkshire people say t’road or t’nail-mill or simply omit the definite article altogether. In fact it is an extremely complex phonetic process, perhaps best understood as the combination of an unreleased and therefore inaudible <t> sound, produced simultaneously with a glottal stop (although even this is something of an over-simplification).

It is important to recognise, however, that in some cases Ivy does produce a more fully articulated the: in the statements what he called turning the rolls and instead of making the garment through we used to do parts and pass it on, for instance. This illustrates perfectly how an individual speaker can fluctuate between markedly local features of speech and more mainstream norms.

West Yorkshire grammar

The grammar of the dialect of West Yorkshire also exhibits a number of non-standard features. The constructions I were born in Hunslet and it were lovely are unmarked for person. In some dialects in northern England and the Midlands, many speakers mark the past tense of to be by saying I were, you were, he, she and it were, we were and they were, whereas speakers of other dialects differentiate by using I was and he, she and it was. The northern pattern is in fact more regular and indeed mirrors the model for every other verb in English — consider I played, you played, I went, you went and so on.