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A Shout From The Attic: 121 Fitzwilliam Street And All That

"The house I was born in, 121 Fitzwilliam Street, was a lodging house owned and operated by my grandma, known as Nanny. Many of the lodgers were long-term inhabitants. From these, I learned the rudiments of Broad Yorkshire. Later, when I went to school, my dialect would be refined to the point where it would become almost unintelligible by those not from the favoured shire...''

Ronnie Bray recalls the house in which he was born - and the broad Yorkshire dialect which was his boyhood lingua franca.

I remember, I remember,
the house where I was born


The house I was born in, 121 Fitzwilliam Street, was a lodging house owned and operated by my grandma, known as Nanny. Many of the lodgers were long-term inhabitants. From these, I learned the rudiments of Broad Yorkshire. Later, when I went to school, my dialect would be refined to the point where it would become almost unintelligible by those not from the favoured shire.

Broad Yorkshire used to change significantly every five or so miles. Today, except among aged isolates it is becoming a dead language. Efforts of a few intellectuals to maintain it are appreciated, even as we are forced to smile at the thought of those who would rather die than speak with any kind of northern accent keeping alive the gruff dialect of uneducated working people. The irony is sweet and not a little touching

The furnishings and appointments of the house where I was born were basic, practical, and sparse. The last gasp of Victoriana offering minimal comfort that served best to remind one of the temporary nature of one’s welcome. I lived there for the thick end of seventeen years without feeling welcome. To feel tolerated was very heaven, but rare. It is easy at this distance to overplay the tensions and alienation that some children feel. But though my story is tinged with an acerbic and arcane humour, the sentiments they colour are honestly remembered and were profoundly felt.

I learned that making others laugh would often forestall a beating. It has been known to stop bullies in their tracks, but not vicious ones. Vicious bullies are invariably insecure and unintelligent, or if they are intelligent, their brightness is on ‘hold.’ Humour escapes them; more’s the pity.


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