This recording is an example of a Dyfed dialect.
The speech of Mr and Mrs M is interesting in a number of ways. Although there are clearly aspects of their speech that reveal their Welsh background – above all a distinctively ‘Welsh’ intonation pattern and the frequent use of the utterance final tag, see – there are many features that we might nowadays more readily associate with the West Country and with the far South West of England rather than with Wales.
Pembrokeshire rhoticity and West Country dialect
Above all, Mr and Mrs M are rhotic speakers – that is, they pronounce the <r> sound after a vowel. Listen carefully to the way they pronounce the words never, long-fingered, bar, horse, afore, ever, downstairs, first, barn, hayguard, years, corn, work, here, anywhere and their. In fact the <r> sound in all these words would at one time have been a feature of speech across the UK and, until relatively recently remained very much a part of the English spoken in Pembrokeshire and along the border with England. In present-day Wales, however, it is now seldom heard other than among older speakers in Pembrokeshire, while in England it survives in the West Country and an increasingly small area of Lancashire to the north of Manchester. It remains, however, a distinctive feature of speakers in Scotland and Ireland (and is indeed characteristic of most US accents).
Likewise one or two grammatical constructions echo West Country dialect forms, such as the use of the determiner they in the statement didn’t they old things like that have wooden things, where Standard English requires 'those'. Listen also to the way Mrs M uses for to with an infinitive in the statements they got them all kinds of spinny things for to spin, that’s another thing that they had to build up for to keep the hay during the winter and then they had to thatch it […] on the top for to keep the rain out to keep the hay in the winter.
Little England beyond Wales
These similarities shed some light on why the south west corner of Pembrokeshire is often called ‘Little England beyond Wales’. This part of Wales has been culturally, and above all, linguistically distinct from the rest of Wales for many centuries. The English language, for instance, was established much sooner here than elsewhere in Wales and was already the dominant language when George Owen of Henllys wrote his ‘Description of Pembrokeshire’ in 1603. The Industrial Revolution saw a huge influx of English speakers at the start of the 19th century to towns such as Cardiff and Newport and communities along the Valleys. The population here expanded rapidly and English soon began to replace Welsh as the mother tongue of many speakers in that part of the country. Rural Pembrokeshire, however, remained relatively unaffected by this wave of immigration and thus the English spoken here has evolved from earlier sources. It is intriguing to see how features, such as rhoticity, provide a link between related dialects that have become geographically isolated from one another.
About the speakers
Mr M (male) & Mrs M (female)
Julie: Uh, can you describe the rake? Was it a steel rake or a wooden rake?
Mr M: A steel rake, steel rake, yes.
Julie: Steel rake? Did they used to have wooden rakes?
Mr M: Steel rake, no, ah, that was a hand rake, love, so you
Mrs. M: Wooden ones.
Julie: Oh, wooden teeth.
Mr M: it, wooden teeth in it.
Female: Didn’t they, didn’t they old things like that have wooden pr, things?
Mr M: No, no, not wooden rakes, but yes, there was such a thing, but oh goodness gracious me, love, that’s going back to the time of Noah!
Mrs. M: No, but didn’t they have, uhm, uhm, uh, as well as them steel ones then
Mr M: Ah no, but there was, there was, there was steel, they were steel, they’d break if you had wood
Mrs. M: Oh I see, oh that’s right
Julie: So in your time they were steel, steel prongs?
Mr M: Yes, steel
Mrs. M: I only thought I was right, yes.
Mr M: with the round claws that, raking the lot up in and then tip it up and put in a row across the field.
Julie: Yeah, yeah, that’s it. Uhuh.
Mrs. M: Yes.
Mr M: Yeah. Hmm.
Julie: Uh, oh you’ve probably already answered this one, but
Mr M: But there was another kind of rake, love,
Julie: Was there?
Mr M: with, I never seen it, I never used it
Mr M: but, uh, there was a lot of, long-fingered sort of thing, you know, wooden, wooden pegs.
Mrs. M: Ah, you are right.
Mr M: Ah, but that’s a long, we’re going back now to olden days
Mrs. M: Ah well, I said there was something with wooden things.
Mr M: uh and wooden pegs, and pegs that side and pegs this side, see,
Julie: Oh yeah.
Mr M: just like Sheila, Sheila’s hands that way and then other ones’d be that side
Julie: Oh yeah.
Mr M: and in the middle here there was a round bar coming across
Mr M: and on this round bar there was a pair of handles, see.
Mr M: The horse would be pulling this, mind
Mr M: raking this up and that’d be going flat on the ground
Mr M: and the, when it came, when then, when it was full up on top of this rake – that height probably
Julie: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Mr M: this old gentleman then would tip this with his hand, you see
Mr M: and then he’d bring the other side over to stack the rake the other side of the lump
Julie: Oh, I see.
Mr M: and when he went that, that’s full again
Mr M: he’d tip his old rake
Julie: Did he? And turn it up again?
Mr M: cause he, and he’d tumble, a tumbling rake
Julie: Oh yes.
Mr M: and then he’d pick up his rake and go in, but that was back afore me and you ca, ever came downstairs.
Mrs. M: Oh yes, but today, love, they
Mrs. M: and they’re called cock pheasants and
Mr M: Aye.
Mrs. M: and they got them all kinds of spinny things for to spin
Mr M: Very interesting them.
Julie: I’m not interested in today.
Mrs. M: No, no.
Julie: I just want to know the old types.
Mrs. M: No that’s
Mr M: No, but that was, that, that was about the first rake that ever was done was that wooden rake
Mrs. M: but the sole iron, the sole iron or steel rake was about then
Julie: Yes, pulled by a horse?
Mr M: Yes, pulled by a horse, pulled by a horse and the, and the
Mrs. M: the steel one, I should think that was about then
Mr M: steel one like that came, came after that with the horse rake, then, see
Mrs. M: yes, see.
Julie: Uh, what’s the place on the farm or the farm’s outbuildings where the farmer would put the hay? He puts the hay.
Mr M: In the barn. Where you put the hay?
Mrs. M: No, we used to call it the
Julie: Stack, stack the hay?
Mr M: Oh, in the hayguard that used to go
Mrs. M: in the hayguard that the hay used to go in the hayguard.
Julie: That’s was where he’d keep, that’s where he kept it?
Mr M: That, that where he kept it, yes.
Mrs. M: Oh yes.
Mr M: That was in, not in these times, no
Mrs. M: Building, building, not now though, love, because they got those Dutch barns as they call them.
Julie: No, oh no, I, I’m not interested in now.
Mr M: Not in now, no, no, that is in year, years gone by.
Julie: You didn’t have a hayloft, then?
Mr M: No. No, no. We didn’t have haylofts, no, the hay
Mrs. M: Oh no, no, they was never in them, the hay was never in, that’s another thing that they had to build up for to keep the hay during the winter – they had a rick of hay, they had to build it up and then they had to thatch it
Mr M: Aye, or keep on closing it up
Mrs. M: on hay, on the top for to keep the rain out to keep the hay in the winter.
Julie: So that, it was outside in, in the hayguard?
Mrs. M: Yes.
Mr M: So that was outside and then they used to what we call put thatch on it at one time, like, like straw
Mrs. M: Straw, like.
Mr M: like straw
Julie: Yeah, yeah.
Mr M: just like a sheaf of corn
Julie: Yeah, right.
Mr M: thatched it, but after that, years ago, had come by after that, then, when they had plenty of straw they found that they could do it without that, build the whole thing up again on top, put another coating of straw
Julie: Oh yeah, yeah
Mr M: on top of that and lay it there properly
Mr M: and, and teen it down so the water would run down off that straw
Mr M: saved a lot of work
Mr M: but down here, uh, you could do it better than up inland, because we had so much wind down here as when the rick would get wet, we wouldn’t be long after afore you’d have wind to dry it
Julie: Oh, I see. Yes.
Mr M: see, but further inland, where you didn’t get the wind, you know, it wouldn’t, it wouldn’t run off, it wouldn’t dry, especially in a valley or anywhere
Mr M: because they c, it couldn’t dry
Mr M: but down here we had the sea, the wind coming all the time
Mr M: as that, the thing would dry, so that saved them, that saved them thatching the, what they called it, thatching down their ricks of corn and their
Mr M: ricks of hay
Mr M: but inland they had to do something or, or cover them up with something else
Julie: I see.
Mr M: sheets of, uh, sheets of corrugated used to do it, but didn’t have to do it down here
Julie: I see.
Mr M: because we had so much wind
Mr M: Yeah.
- Dyfed dialect: Mr & Mrs M talk about traditional haymaking practice
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- © Survey of Anglo-Welsh Dialects
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- Diverse voices: varieties of English in the UK
Welsh English, surprisingly, is arguably a younger variety than the English spoken in the USA. Find out more about the history of English in Wales and its relationship with the Welsh language.