- John tells a few anecdotes from his time as a miner at Sorn Colliery in East Ayrshire
- John Borland (male, retired miner)
- C900/21150 © BBC
Transcript for Kilmarnock
John: It was a small mine. And the guy in the afternoon shift, it w, they called him the bath attendant and he looked o’er, after the showers — he was off. So what they had to do, in a big pit they could just put somebody else fae the surface, but they’d to bring an old-timer up. And this was an old worthy they’d brought out the pit to look after the baths. Now I worked on a shift called ‘the ham and egg shift’: this was fae ten in the morning to five at night. And we come out of the pit just before five into the baths and who followed us into the baths but the manager? And I was talking to this old miner and the manager walked for it, he says, eh, “Jock, could I have a cake of soap?” Now this is the pit manager. And he says, eh, “Seven-pence”. He says, “Oh, I’ve nae money on us.” He says, “Well, just go and get money.” He says, “But Jimmy Mackay usually gies me it and I gie him the money.” He says, “Listen here, Tom: nae cash; nae wash!” Now that manager turned and sheepishly went out the baths and away o’er to his office to get the seven pence. But the, it was the statement that guy made.
Another story concerns a great friend of mine. I’ll no mention any names, but if he ever, this ever goes out, he’ll recognise it. So, he was haeing a wee bit heart problem and he was to go to the local hospital. So he lands in; the waiting room is packed, but sitting in the front row and there an empty seat is an old mining colleague of him. So they just dec, decide to have a wee bit crack, but just as the, my friend, he’s cried in and all the folk sitting waiting and they’re all looking at him, they had been waiting for ages. So he just went along the corridor and into the first door to the left. Now what he was in for was, he was to get a monitor and his heart was to be monitored for twenty-four hours. So the chap’s telling him and he’s showing him to the door and he says, “Now, when you come back tomorrow don’t stand in any queue; just come straight in. Knock the door and come straight in.” And by this my friend is out in the corridor and this chap says, “Now remember: twenty-four hours.” So he just went away at that; he had to go out another road and he never saw his pal. So the next morning his neighbour is out howding the edges of his garden and there’s another neighbour walked down. He says, “By Tom, that’s a bad yin!” And the neighbour, my friend’s neighbour, looked, he says, “What’s that?” “Oh, your neighbour.” “What do you mean, ‘my neighbour’?” He says, “They tell us he’s only got twenty-four hours.” He says, “What?” He says, “Oh it’s all the, the talk of the place; he’s only got twenty-four hours; it was heard in the hospital yesterday.” So his neighbour says, “Well, if he’s only got twenty-four hours, he’s going to hae the finest twenty-four hours ever you’d imagine,” he says, “you see him away there with his big dog, the fishing basket ower the shouder and twa fishing rods? So he’s going to hae a good twenty-four hours!” So, it just sh, it just shows you, ken.
Interviewer: It shows you how much gossip travels
Interviewer: in small communities, doesn’t it?
Scots Transcript for Kilmarnock
John: It wis a small mine. An the guy in the afternoon shift, it w, they cawd him the bath attendant an he leukt ower after the shours — he wis off. So whit they haid tae do, in a big pit they cud juist pit somebody else fae the surface, but they’d tae bring an auld-timer up. An this wis an auld worthy they’d brocht oot the pit tae leuk after the baths. Nou Ah worked on a shift cawd ‘the ham an egg shift’: this wis fae ten in the mornin tae five at nicht. An we come oot o the pit juist before five intae the baths an who followed us intae the baths but the manager? An Ah wis talkin tae this auld miner an the manager walkt for it, he seys, eh, “Jock, cud Ah heve a cake o soap?” Nou this is the pit manager. An he seys, eh, “Seeven-pence”. He seys, “O, Ah’ve nae money on us.” He seys, “Well, juist go an get money.” He seys, “but Jimmy Mackay usually gies me it and Ah gie him the money.” He seys, “Listen here, Tom: nae cash; nae wash!” Nou that manager turnt and sheepishly went out the baths and away ower tae his office tae get the seeven pence. But the, it wis the statement that guy made.
Another story concerns a great friend o mine. Ah’ll no mention ony names, but if he ever, this ever goes out, he’ll recognise it. So, he wis haein a wee bit heart problem an he wis tae go tae the local hospital. So he lands in; the waitin room is packt, but sittin in the front row an there an empty seat is an auld mining colleague o him. So they juist dec, decide tae heve a wee bit crack, but juist as the, ma friend, he’s cried in an aw the folk sittin waitin and they’re aw leukin at him, they haid been waitin for ages. So he juist went along the corridor an intae the first door tae the left. Now whit he wis in for wis, he wis tae get a monitor an his heart wis tae be monitort for twenty-fower hours. So the chap’s tellin him and he’s showin him tae the door an he seys, “Nou, when you come back tomorrow don’t stand in any queue; juist come straicht in. Knock the door and come straicht in.” An by this my friend is oot in the corridor and this chap seys, “Now remember: twenty-fower hours.” So he juist went away at that; he haid tae go oot another road an he never saw his pal. So the next mornin his nichbour is oot houdin the edges o his gairden and there’s another nichbour walkt doun. He seys, “By Tom, that’s a bad yin!” An the nichbour, my friend’s nichbour, leukt, he seys, “Whit’s that?” “O, yer nichbour.” “Whit do ye mean, ‘my nichbour’?” He seys, “They tell us he’s only got twenty-fower hours.” He seys, “Whit?” He seys, “O it’s aw the, the talk o the place; he’s only got twenty-fower hours; it was heard in the hospital yesterday.” So his nichbour seys, “Well, if he’s only got twenty-fower hours, he’s gaun tae hae the finest twenty-fower hours ever you’d imagine,” he seys, “ye see him away there wi his big dug, the fishin basket ower the shouder and twa fishin rods? So he’s gaun to hae a guid twenty-fower hours!” So, it juist sh, it juist shows ye, ken.
Interviewer: It shows you how much gossip travels
Interviewer: in small communities, doesn’t it?
Commentary for Kilmarnock
John is typical of many speakers in Scotland, in that he drifts between Standard Scottish English spoken with a strong regional accent and broader, more markedly localised speech patterns that we might more properly define as Scots. His speech is peppered with vocabulary that we associate with speakers in northern England and Scotland generally, such as land in for ‘arrive’, folk for ‘people’, road for ‘way’ and aye for ‘yes’, but it also contains a number of words that are more recognisably Scots in origin, such as fae for ‘from’, gie for ‘give’, wee for ‘small’, howd for ‘sway, wriggle’, yin for one, twa for ‘two’ and ken for ‘know’.
He also uses a number of pronunciations that are typical of both varieties — he pronounces the words any and out in two different ways, for instance. In the statement when you come back tomorrow don’t stand in any queue, he uses a pronunciation — any rhyming with penny — that is common throughout the UK. His pronunciation of the same word in the statement I’ll no mention any names is a much broader dialectal pronunciation and typical of Scots speakers, many of whom rhyme any with bonny. He also varies between rhyming the word out with bout or with boot — the latter being the Scots pronunciation. Listen also to John’s Scots pronunciation of individual words, such as seven, wash, dog, ower and shouder.
He also uses a number of grammatical constructions that are characteristic of many speakers in Scotland. Listen, for instance, to the way he uses nae or no as a negative particle in the statements I’ve nae money on us; nae cash, nae wash and I’ll no mention any names, where Standard Scottish English requires ‘not’. Likewise, the omission of the preposition ‘of’ in the statements he was haeing a wee _ bit heart problem and they decided to have a wee bit _ crack is widespread throughout Scotland as is the construction he was to go to the hospital and he was to get a monitor. These latter statements would probably be expressed as he had to go to the hospital or he was supposed to get a monitor in most dialects of English, although the construction John uses is also relatively common in the far north of England, especially in the North East.
Numbers: what dialect reveals
It is particularly interesting to hear John’s pronunciation of the numerals yin, twa, four and seven. The pronunciations he uses reflect earlier Old English forms and illustrate perfectly the Germanic heritage of English. Our numbering system is mirrored in several modern Germanic languages and the forms John uses remained in dialect use in much of the northern half of Great Britain until relatively recently. Today they are increasingly localised and perhaps only survive among older speakers in the far north of England. Nonetheless they remain quite common in a number of Scots dialects.
The number one
The Old English numeral and pronoun, ane, related to Old High German (and indeed modern German) ein, has a contemporary counterpart in the definite article, an, and indeed still surfaces as a pronoun on occasions in some English dialects, when people refer to young ‘uns or big ‘uns, for example. Its development to modern English one, however, is a fascinating phonetic process. In Midlands and southern dialects it developed an initial <w> glide to ease pronunciation — something that was at one time also common on a number of words in broad dialect, such as oats and home. In the north, however, a <y> glide became attached to the front of the word in speech, giving rise to pronunciations varying from yan and ya to yin as here. In most parts of the UK the southern pronunciation has become the dominant and indeed exclusive form, although the northern variant is still retained in a number of dialects.
The number two began life as Old English twa, as here, derived from Old High German zwa. Twa or twae — both of which more readily reveal their link with modern German zwei — remain widespread in many Scots dialects and the word is clearly the source for the slightly poetic or archaic Standard English word twain. John’s pronunciation of the word four, on the other hand will sound familiar to many speakers in the northern half of Great Britain — this or similar pronunciations are still heard as far south as Yorkshire. The initial vowel sound he uses in seven is also much more obviously related to modern German sieben than is apparent from the pronunciation used by most speakers of English nowadays.