06 June 2019, The Tablet

Local heroes


Tongue and Talk: The Dialect Poets
BBC Radio 4

Katie Hale, who presented this engaging half-hour on Cumbrian dialect poetry (1 June) clearly had a point to prove. Born and bred in the area, a fascinated repository for every obscure regional expression going, she turned out to possess the near-fatal disability of two non-Cumbrian parents. This made her an “off-comer” – the Norfolk equivalent, by way of contrast, would be a “blow-in” – whose loyalty to her native land would always be suspect to the purists.

One of the charms of Tongue and Talk is the sheer torrent of local idiom. We began with a recitation of “Fly”, a dialect poem by Colin Armstrong so abstruse that the printed version would probably need a two-page glossary. There followed half a dozen examples of star-spangled Lakeland patois – “yeow” for “sheep”, “laal childer” for “infants”, “twining” for “moaning” – and a chat with Cedric Robinson, the Queen’s Guide to the Sands of Morecambe Bay, who talked about “brobs” (laurel bushes) and “bracks” (runnels left in the beach when the tide washes away.)

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