Sid talks about traditional stacking and threshing techniques.
Sid Hodder (b.1877; male, retired farm worker)
C908/68/C6 © University of Leeds

Transcript for Portesham

Stanley: And how would you make a rick?

Sid: Well, you’d make, you’d, you’d make him the shape of a bollard1, you see. You’d put it on the, you’d put it on the staddle just the shape of a bollard. Well then, when you get to the corners, you see, course there’s, there isn’t properly a corner to a boiler1, you see, but when you go round the curve to the corners, you, you simply go round, you see, and then your rick’d be a r, uh, almost a round rick, you see.

Stanley: Mmm.

Sid: Not quite round, you see.

Stanley: Mmm. Yeah.

Sid: But barley, you see, barley you could put it in loose into a rick, just like you do hay. Oats you’d do the same — make a rick, so you could make a square rick, you could make a round rick of oats, you see. But oats is a thing, after it’s cut, you wants to cut oats early. Uh, when you go into a oat field and see two or three black oats, shining, out through the ears, it’s time for you to start cutting them oats. Even so, if the under-oat is a little bit green, cut him all the same. If you lose, if you lose them there too, you’ll lose the lot just as well, see. And, and then stack it up. And the farm where I worked on, he’d never carry an oat rick, of oats, unless they’d been in, in, uh, stacked up in here on, over three Sundays. That was the first thing we used to cut, was oats, and the last thing we used to carry, was oats.

Stanley: And then, of course, when you’d got your rick made you’d put something on top to keep the weather out?

Sid: Oh yes, you’d tip him up, you see, you’d tip him up for make a, like a roof of a house, you see, and then on comes the thatcher and thatch hine in, you see.

Stanley: Mmm.

Sid: Yes.

Stanley: And was that a heavy job, was that a big job?

Sid: Well, if you can make it out, it was a hard job, but not an exceedingly heavy job, not till you get up overhand and if you had to pitch him up overhand, then the corn was a little bit harder on you. But while you was a-starting down the bottom, you see, you was only just throwing them off underhand, you see, it wasn’t a hard job, but, uh, you had plenty enough to do because you was in the, you was in the rick, we’ll say, with the crew in the rick. Well, you had to go by those out in the field what was loading and, uh, if they was a little bit smart out in the field loading, well you had to be smarter in rick to keep the wagons free. Because our nature was we didn’t never like to see two wagons in rick to once ...

Stanley: No.

Sid: ... with any corn on them. We always liked to see the wagon empty when the next load did come in and, if so, two or three fellahs1 between, we’d have a bit of baccy.

Stanley: [laughs] I see.

Sid: Yeah.

Stanley: And then, how long would it stay in the rick?

Sid: Well that all depends. If the man wanted, if the, if the farmer wanted his, uh, wanted the money for the corn for to pay for his rent in, we’ll say in October, or anything like that, well, he’d thresh a rick or two. But mind you, if you didn’t thresh a rick within, we’ll say, uh, first six weeks, it, you, you didn’t ought to thresh hine not before or after Christmas that then.

Stanley: Oh I see.

Sid: Because he sweats, you see. The corn, her sweats, you see. You, you really, you wanted to thresh it if you want to thresh it early you must thresh it just after you’ve made it, before the corn starts sweating in the rick.

Stanley: Mmm. Or else give it chance to dry out?

Sid: Or have it, give it a chance for the sweat to dry out of it. And that’d be up, uh, well, up in December any road.

Stanley: And what was the old way of threshing then?

Sid: Old way of threshing years and years ago, but, uh, I’ve never seen it but once, once in my life. And that was down here to Elworth2 and there was a man there with frails, threshing with frails on the barn floor — two long sticks throw hine over his shoulder like that and every time they smack down, smack down on the floor, knock out the corn. Of course the corn was on a bay, you see, and then they’d save it like that, you see. But ...

Stanley: And you’ve actually seen that?

Sid: I, I seen that once and I was only a small boy then, when I seed that. And of course, I, since my, I been about, you see, there’s been a threshing machine, you see.

Stanley: Oh aye.

Sid: Well, that’s quite natural, that is, you know.

Stanley: Oh yes. Everything ...

Sid: Old threshing machines, see, yes.

Stanley: And what about root crops? Did you grow root crops?

Sid: You always, yes, you always growed root crops. If you don’t grow root cops, crops, you can’t get, you can’t get no food for sheep, you see. Yeah, and if you, if you don’t, if you don’t have sheep on the land, you can’t grow good corn.

Stanley: Mmm.

Sid: I don’t trouble what nobody say. Sheep is the place for the farm and that’s what the farms, that’s what the land is missing now, is sheep.

Stanley: Mmm.


  1. These words are inaudible, but a possible interpretation has been supplied.
  2. Elworth is a village just to the south of Portesham.

Commentary for Portesham

West Country dialect

A very traditional feature of West Country dialect is the tendency to assign masculine gender to inanimate objects. Listen, for instance, to how Sid describes a rick — you’d make him the shape of a bollard — and how he explains the way corn is stacked: if you had to pitch him up overhand then the corn was a little bit harder on you. This is perhaps no longer as common among younger speakers in the West Country today, but Sid does use other non-standard grammatical constructions that remain widespread. In saying you was in the rick and if they was a little bit smart out in the field loading he uses a form of the verb ‘to be’ that is unmarked for person.

Speakers in many parts of England, perhaps predominantly in the south, mark the past tense of to be by saying I was, you was, he, she and it was, we was and they was, whereas speakers of other dialects differentiate by using you were, we were and they were. This non-standard 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. Likewise, Sid’s use of multiple negation in statements such as we didn’t never like to see two wagons in rick to once and if you don’t grow root crops you can’t get no food for sheep is a feature of non-standard dialects of English worldwide.

The changing West Country accent

Sid also uses a number of pronunciations that are typical of a traditional West Country accent. One feature that used to characterise this part of the country was the occasional tendency for a <f> sound to convert to a <v> sound, a <s> to convert to a <z> and <thr> to convert to <dr>. This has often led to the playful assertion that the heart of the West Country is ‘Zummerzet’. Listen closely to the way Sid pronounces the words frails and threshing and the statement I was only a small boy then, when I seed that. This particular feature is very much in decline and is now only heard among older speakers in rural areas. Indeed, even at the time of this recording fifty years ago it was becoming increasingly rare.