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A Shout From The Attic: Yorkshire Grit

“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…’’ Ronnie Bray, continuing his life story, recalls his childhood years, spent in a boarding house owned by his grandmother.

Yorkshire Grit

‘I have to confess to having foreign blood in me’

Yorkshire folks were made of stern stuff, and just as well, because the blows came thick, fast, and hard. Although it is painful to admit it, in the interests of the whole truth and blunt Yorkshire speaking, I have to confess to having foreign blood in me. My maternal grandparents were from Derbyshire and Staffordshire, and my paternal grandmother came from the East Coast of Yorkshire, somewhere around Scarborough, which is the ancient stamping ground of the Willis surname.

In my defence, my paternal grandfather, Oliver, came from Deighton, Huddersfield, and so did my great grandfather, George, and my great great grandfather James, and James’ father. My great great great grandfather, Antony, lived at Deighton but he was born at Saddleworth, as was his wife, Sarah Baker.

121 Fitzwilliam Street and All That

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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