- Billy recalls working with carthorses and reflects on the days when farms employed large numbers of labourers.
- Billy Williamson (b.1884; male, retired farm labourer)
- C908/58/C8 © University of Leeds
Transcript for Warmington
Billy: Oh in the old days we used to have to be out half past six; we used to have a lantern to yoke up, the yoke to a plough and then we ain’t used to come in while half past two. No fear! We had to work them days from, uh, six o’clock in the morning till half past five at night. There’s nothing of that now, you know.
Billy: And Saturdays are, no half a days at Saturdays we never got. We used to hae to work while half past four. Yes, and then Sundays and all.
Billy: Ah, I like t’see a nice team of greys.
Billy: Yes, I had a team of greys when I was in Thorney Fen1.
Stanley: Hmm. Do you have them shod, then?
Billy: A horse had shoes on them in front. I don’t know whether them are, them are got hind shoes on, iron fro, just fr, front shoes on. The road horses used to have four horse-shoes on. Oh there were plenty of smiths then.
Billy: They used to come and shoe them on the farm; cold shoe them.
Billy: I were talking to this here smith here at Elton2 today — I were in the blacksmith’s shop with him three-quarters of an hour. So I, I said, “Do you get many horses now?” He said, “I’m got fourteen round Winwick and Gidding3 and that way,” he said, “and I go and shoe seven of a Sunday morning.” There’s no smithies round there.
Billy: And he said he’s still got several down Elton, as, as comes to Elton: estate horses and different people, several he says he has come there yet.
Billy: But they got a lot of cart-horses on the estate, he said, still got several.
Billy: So he were telling on me today.
Billy: There were some horses kept round here them days. I should think round here there were somewhere, uh, tween sixty and seventy working horses
Billy: round here. That stable o, over here: that used to have nine in. Well, the stable and, and the outside log; there were nine there.
Billy: Now you don’t see any.
Billy: And we had nine down here and all.
Stanley: Did you?
Billy: Down on Thomas Stokes’s.
Stanley: Hmm. And what was the barn for, then, in those days?
Billy: Oh, used to put the corn and stuff all in there.
Billy: Well then, that place where sonny keeps his, you know where that taps in the wall? That used to be the nag stable: the ponies were in there, what they driv, like, in the harness.
Billy: And up top there’s a big granary up there I th, don’t know whether they use it or not; there used to be no end of stuff up there.
Stanley: Hmm. Oh.
Billy: And where Wally calls his place, that used to be the coach-shed, as there used to be two nice little traps in there.
Billy: Oh, I reckon there were about, well, there was, I worked over here and there was horse-keeper At, Fred Atkins, [inaudible]4, Walter Sheffield, Charlie Peplow — they were chapel preachers — and then there’s, there used to be poor old shepherd Thompson. Oh there used to be s, seven or eight on us over there.
Billy: Eight on us m, very often.
Billy: The boss himself gave the orders.
Billy: He lived there where Joe Martin lives.
Stanley: Oh, yeah.
Billy: That is the farmhouse belonging to that farm.
Billy: That field out there; that was the best grazing field in Warmington, Acomb Close.
Billy: It fat bullocks, that would, and used to fat them.
Billy: I were only an old boy and I used to go out along of old shepherd Thompson; we used to have sometimes sixteen beast out there and every one’d have a little round trough; seven pound of cake put in each trough every morning. And I used to stop there while they’d clear it up and then go round and turn all the clo, the troughs over again ready for the next day; turn them over so as they didn’t get wet.
Billy: And I used to have the horse and cart; take it out with the old shepherd, the horse, to where he wanted his things, for his sheep or bullocks or whatever he wanted.
Billy: You don’t see the cake today, as we used to bring them days, naught in here to fetch twenty ton in, loose cake, you don’t see one ton today. Where do you see a bit of cotton-cake or anything? Well, like, you might three-hundred-weight. They don’t go in for it today.
- Thorney Fen presumably refers to the village of Thorney to the north-east of Warmington
- Elton is a village just to the north of Warmington
- Winwick and Gidding are villages to the south-east of Warmington
- [inaudible] indicates a passage or phrase where the speaker’s exact words are unclear
Commentary for Warmington
It is interesting to note that Billy uses the non-standard preposition, while, in the statements we ain't used to come in while half past two and we used to hae to work while half past four, although he also uses the Standard English equivalent, till, in the statement we had to work them days from, uh, six o'clock in the morning till half past five at night. While is still widely used in this context in northern England, but it is unlikely to be heard as far south as Northamptonshire these days.
An echo of the past
Listen also to the way he pronounces the word horse as if it rhymed with moss. This is in fact an echo of a much older pronunciation in English. The original Anglo-Saxon pronunciation reflected the fact that the word is descended from the Old High German word <hros> (modern German Ross). Initially all four letters would have been pronounced, but in many dialects the sound was dropped. H-dropping is common to most non-standard dialects of English in England and Wales and so speakers in some parts of the country were left with the sound <oss> , like Billy here.
Once again, this is a pronunciation we can still hear today, although as with the preposition while, it is now most closely associated with broad dialect speech in northern England. In other dialects, notably in southern England, the <r> sound shifted to occupy the position after the vowel, giving us the modern Standard English pronunciation of horse.