When members of The Yorkshire Society talk about “God’s Own Country” they are nearer the truth than sometimes they imagine. Yorkshire was indeed an independent Anglo-Viking country over a thousand years ago, divided into three separate counties or “Ridings” – East, North and West Riding, under the overall control of our ancient capital city of York.
Things may have changed but many experts now recognise that Yorkshire, either defined by using the historic boundaries of the three Ridings, or even the modern confusing mixture of Unitary Authorities and Mayoral Combined Authorities that now make up the Yorkshire Region, has a unique sense of identity. Yorkshire is a province of England with a population of around 5.4 million – as big as Scotland, Norway or Denmark, that is a probably an overdue candidate for some form of English Devolution deal which unifies, not divides, our Region.
One powerful argument for Devolution – and Yorkshire is tipped to be a priority Region – is our very special distinctive landscape, culture and population, still with a lot of Viking in our collective DNA, as reflected by place names and even our regional speech, or dialect, which has many Anglo-Norse elements reflecting the truth that it is that landscape, people and language, not bureaucracy, that defines a nation or a region.
That’s why the Yorkshire Dialect Society, a Heritage Guardian affiliate member of the Society, is taking a particular interest in helping not just to preserve, but even revive, the Yorkshire Dialect, especially for younger people who need to understand and reclaim their birthright.
In fact, there are three distinctive dialects of Yorkshire – East, West and North Riding, which experts will tell you broadly coincide with the historic boundaries. And dialect is far from dead. At the Yorkshire Day gathering of the East Riding Dialect Society on July 29th in Driffield, the room was packed with people from all over the historic East Riding, reading poetry and prose from the Riding – even with contributions from a couple of West Riding interlopers.
It is no coincidence that the Yorkshire Dialect Society, England’s oldest dialect society, founded in 1897 and still one of the country’s leading bodies of dialect studies, was a founder member of The Yorkshire Society’s Heritage Guardian network.
There are of course local variants of Yorkshire dialect within the main Ridings, especially in towns and cities such as Bradford, Leeds, York and Hull, so that someone with a trained ear can identify the town or city or even district where a person originally comes from. Where you live in your teenage years is often a determining factor.
SIX WEEK COURSE IN TALKING YORKSHIRE!
In order to get Yorkshire dialect out of the history books, and used with passion and pride, this autumn the Yorkshire Dialect Society is running a pilot six-week course Let’s Talk Tyke to teach the speaking, reading and writing of Yorkshire Dialect. You don’t have to be born in Yorkshire to learn the language!
The short course going to be led by noted linguist and storyteller Rod Dimbleby, Chairman of the Yorkshire Dialect Society and a retired language teacher from Cleckheaton. The course – just £5 per session to cover costs – will take place on Friday mornings from 8th September – 13th October. It will be based in Keighley Library. Keighley has been selected because this West Riding town has, for many years, been a focal point of dialect studies, thanks to the late Ian Dewhirst. One of Yorkshire’s best known and loved local historians and dialect poets, Ian did brilliant work to celebrate and keep alive interest in dialect in his part of the West Riding.
For full details of the course email Rod at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or for further information about the Yorkshire Dialect Society visit https://www.yorkshiredialectsociety.org.uk.
A rather different way of celebrating Yorkshire and Yorkshire dialect will form part of this year’s Saltaire Community Festival. On Wednesday 13th September members of the Yorkshire Dialect Society and Wharfedale Poets will be joining forces with Saltaire’s Yardfest Jazz for what has been dubbed A Reet Grand Yorkshire Crack. The event will take place at the Caroline Street Social Club, Saltaire (just to the north of and behind Victoria Hall) between 3pm and 9.30pm.
There’ll be a mixture of Yorkshire dialect, history and song, poetry and stories, Yorkshire Jazz, a pie and peas supper. Entrance is free- it costs nowt – but donations welcome. For full details visit A Reet Good Yorkshire Crack – Saltaire Festival.