North Elmham

Edward talks about the local wildlife.
Edward J. Dawson (b.1873; male; retired gamekeeper & smallholder)
C908/60/C3 © University of Leeds

Transcript for North Elmham

Edward: Well, that what we call a mouse-hunter, uh, about here

Francis: Hmm.

Edward: I believe they’re practically extinct now.

Francis: Aha, yes.

Edward: And they, they, there’s, was some in Hampshire, what about to say, but, uh, they didn’t call them the same name.

Francis: Hmm.

Edward: Well, stoat, he’s a long fellow, white throat,

Francis: Hmm.

Edward: belly, dark chestnut back

Francis: Hmm.

Edward: with a darker streak down the middle and a long, black tail.

Francis: Hmm.

Edward: And, uh, chocolate marks on his muzzle.

Francis: Hmm.

Edward: And often they turn white in the wintertime.

Francis: Hmm.

Unidentified female: Hmm.

Edward: I hae catched five or six in various stages of white and brown.

Francis: Hmm.

Edward: But the weasel, he’s a little chap, he’s about six inches long

Francis: Hmm.

Edward: and a tail about inch-and-a-half.

Francis: Aha.

Edward: He’s all brown bar his throat; little bit underneath. And the male is some bit bigger than the female.

Francis: Hmm.

Unidentified female: What is the colour underneath, then?

Edward: Ye, yellowish-white, creamy white

Unidentified female: Yes, yes.

Francis: Hmm.

Edward: under the throat and fight like the very devil, they do.

Francis: Hmm.

Edward: But mister mouse-hunter, he’s as long as a weasel. Well they, they ain’t much thicker than your finger.

Francis: Hmm, they’re slender?

Edward: And they, he got a little black tail.

Francis: Hmm.

Edward: But the other customers’ve, well a chocolate tail, but the other customers’ve got a tail the same colour as the other part.

Francis: Hmm.

Edward: And the other one, he’s chocolate colour and the face just like a weasel or a stoat only a little bit darker.

Francis: Hmm.

Edward: Then there’s another bloke I just saw down on some meadows there one day not, what, about a couple of year ago. Ain’t I told you about hine?

Francis: Who was that?

Edward: Uhm, I, uh, told maw’r here about it. I’d never seen one before. Funny thing, I was reading in a, in a book about some animals and I come across of it. That is a, a black vole.

Francis: Oh, hmm.

Edward: Oh, the loveliest little customer as you ever see and I think he’s about, between five and six inches long.

Francis: Hmm.

Edward: With, uh, no hair from his hocks, uh, or his knees you might say, to the feet.

Francis: Hmm.

Edward: And they were pink.

Francis: Hmm.

Edward: Pink nose and a pink tail.

Francis: [inaudible].

Edward: And the other part as black as coal.

Francis: Oh yes.

Edward: The loveliest fellow you ever saw in your life. He, uh, I, his, I was putting a snare down again the edge of the dyke. Well, I set a foot on, he come out the hole, ooh, and sat looking at me.

Francis: Ha ha.

Edward: Well obviously I never seen a bloke like you before.

Francis: Yeah.

Edward: I don’t know what you are, but then I made out when I was reading this book. [at this point there appears to have been a break before recording started again]. They used to pay the women a halfpenny a bushel, picking the stones off the new leas.

Francis: Hmm.

Edward: And they all used to pu, a bushel skep with the bottom out. They’d fill that full and lift the skep up and leave them in little heaps.

Unidentified female: Yes.

Edward: Well, Wade was keeper here then. And, uh, he’s coming along, there’s a dog along with hine and all, gun under his arm, saying, “How you going along, Harry?” cause Harry’s chucking these onto the tumbril. “Oh, all right, but I should like to have a job like you hae got.” “Why?” “Never do no work, just walk about with a dog all day and a gun, running aside on you.”

Commentary for North Elmham

Norfolk dialect

Edward clearly speaks in traditional Norfolk dialect. He uses a number of distinctive expressions, such as referring to his wife as maw’r — an affectionate form of address widely used in East Anglia until relatively recently. It is an abbreviation of mawther and thus closely related to the English word ‘mother’, although the way it is used here mirrors the practice in Norway of addressing young girls with the word mor (‘mother’). This might therefore suggest a potential link to Viking incursions into Norfolk.

Listen closely to the following statements and you will hear Edward use an extremely old grammatical construction: ain’t I told you about hine and there’s a dog along with hine and all. The masculine object pronoun, hine, generally pronounced as here with the <h> omitted often appears in dialect literature as en and anyone who knows any German might spot a link with modern German accusative forms such as den and ihn, which differ from the dative forms, dem and ihm. English has undergone a number of simplifications in comparison with other European languages, such as French and German — we no longer use genders, for instance, nor do we have a particularly complex system of verbal and adjectival endings. In most forms of English hine simply merged with the old dative form, him, many centuries ago, although there are a handful of older speakers in the West Country and East Anglia, like Edward here, who you might still hear very occasionally using hine or en where we might normally expect to hear him.

Norfolk accent

On the other hand, Edward’s pronunciation is probably much more familiar to people currently living in East Anglia. He uses a number of vowel sounds that we would still expect to hear among speakers with a broad Norfolk accent. Listen, for instance, to the way he pronounces words in the following three sets:

  1. dark, darker, mark, half, bar and part
  2. mouse, about, now, brown and out
  3. white, stripe, wintertime, five, fight, dyke, all right and why