Sunday, 6 December 2009

A nod to Christmas

Now Christmas is looming large on the horizon, I thought I would start including little pieces of Christmas memories and lore from several books I have. A Hampshire Christmas compiled by Sara Tiller is on the desk in front of me, so the first extract will come from that . . .

CAROLLING by Norman Goodland

'Carols is funny things! They bain't all to do wi' Christmas! if you don't ring 'em out proper, they might now answer the dor, nor gie thee nar apence!

Foster Father was delivering his annual lecture to the Baughurst bell-ringers, of whom he was Captain. They practised in Foster Mother's scullery, on the handbells.

I remember them - big bewhiskered men, shirt sleeved and leather-belted, standing facing each other in a double row. Flashing up the brass bells. Checking the swing with broad thumb, to make them speak' in their clear, lucid tones. It was all taken very seriously. Standards were high; they had to be, to impress the gentry upon whom they called.

They walked from Baughurst to Wolverton, back through Ramsdell and Pamber End, and home through what was then known as the 'gypsy' village of Tadley, or made their way up to Heath End, aiming for the high spot of the season - Aldermaston Hall.

We had to watch they sarvint galls!' Father once told me. 'They was always up to mischief!

'We was invited up to the hall oncest. We 'ad to go in through the back, an' through the kitchens y'see. An' we left our 'ats in the kitchen along wi they gals.

'We went in and give a tune or two to the Master and the Mistress, and then as was there. They gie us a sovereign! They told us to go back to the kitchen and Cook would gie us a drink.

'So we done that. And when 'twas time to get on, they gals was round the door away from the light. An' they wouldn't gie us our 'ats until we give 'em a Christmas kiss.

'Waal - you never put yer 'at on inside a gentleman's 'ouse, luk. So we put 'em on outside in the dark - so we didn't see what was gwine on.

'Anyways. We went on down to the Hind's Head, t'other end o' the street. We went in, took off our 'ats - an' everybody started to laugh! We didn't know what to make on it! Til we looked at each other - an' we seed we all 'ad white 'air - like a bunch of old men!

' 'Twas they sarvint gals! They'd put flour in our 'ats - whiles we was a-carollin' for the Master!'

Father and his bell-ringers faced some competition from other Christmas and New Year rounders - the village bands of the time - The August Hill Drum and Fife Band. The Temperence Bands; ne from Tadley, one from Baughurst. But it is said at the end of their rounds, the Temperence Bands were not more temperate than Father and his bell-ringers, when they came to clanking up the garden path well after midnight, to collect their bicycles and wobble their ways home!

I have so enjoyed typing that up. As a Hampshire Hog myself, the Hampshire accent still speaks softly in my ears - it was a delight to hear it spoken in Ringwood this summer - and in Norman Goodland's voice. He broadcasted regularly on local radio and wrote several excellent books, made tapes of the same. A good man, sadly no longer with us. "A good old bwouy" indeed . . .


  1. What a great memory. I can just imagine them putting on their hats and getting covered with flour!

    In the part of Hampshire where I grew up, there were three distinct accents. The Portsmouth twang, the Southampton accent ( which can sound a lot like a London accent) and then the rural Hampshire voice. We heard a great deal of the latter in our village.

  2. I used to have the Southampton accent, and I agree - very Estuary English! My dad despaired of me but when I went to work with horses, I started to speak more like the people I worked with - though they were a bit BBC English - and the only time I get an accent now, is if I hear a West Country one and then my Broad Dorset comes out . . .

  3. Hullo BB,

    Interesting post.

    I approve of the jug, being oringinally an Ayrshire, if not Ayr laddie myself. {Missed it by about 6 miles!}

    'Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a toon surpasses, for honest men and bonnie lasses'

    He wis ay'ways a silk tongued jibberjab that Rabbie!

    My lovely G always felt in the early days that when my Dad and I got together we spoke a completely foreign language, and she noted that my anticipation of going back home showed as we passed the dour auld 'kirk o Shotts' as my accent changed completely as I passed by.

    I knew soon we would be home and I would be talking of 'spyugs' and 'whops' and gettin' 'bawkit' by the fire to warm ma 'hurdies'

    That's sparrows, curlews, seated comfortably and thighs by the way!!!

  4. A foreign language indeed Al - I'm glad you translated! What fascinates me is the local dialects, and words which sometimes appear in another dialect but a fair ways away. Like, for instance, my mum always calling sparrows "spadgers". I thought it was exclusively a Hampshire word, but apparently it's used in Shropshire, Lancs, Bucks and I'm beginning to think it's a very common word now. Like Long- Tailed Tits being known as "bum barrels" in some places, and expressions worth keeping alive I feel.

  5. I flattered myself I had a fairly good grasp of UK dialect--until I began visiting these blogs. I think my ideas were based on listening to The Archers years ago on CBC radio. Interestingly, if we could all visit in person, would we be asking "what did you say?" because our "accents" would get in the way?
    My late FIL was from North Carolina and Virginia, but by the time I knew him had been long in the north east. However, when his sister visited from VA or we went there, his speech softened to more resemble that of his youth.
    We have a friend from the midwest whose flat "twang" amuses us for awhile--and then begins to seem almost harsh. I've had to become accustomed to figures of speech and pronunciations that seem peculiar to Wyoming. We don't "haul" or "pull" a horse trailer, for instance--we "drag" it.
    Long may these regional differences endure--who needs homoginized speech!

  6. This was a great post, loved it muchly :)
    Glad to see the chair finished too, it looks fab and sooo comfy. Give darling Snowy a kiss from me, poor poppet.x