Ethel Fisher's West Cumbrian Dialect titles Find!
Cumbria has its own distinct dialect...or to be more accurate, that should read "dialects" given that there is so much variation between the north, south, east and west of the county!
Dialect has already been touched upon in my post about Jacob Polley's Talk of the Town and also Doreen's find, T'Bacca Queen, where the area of Kendal known as Fellside even had its own distinct dialect, quite seperate from that of the rest of Kendal.
So it was with great interest that I came upon several slim books by Ethel Fisher, actually written in West Cumbrian dialect.
The first one I came across was called Old Fashioned Fairy Tales. On the back of the book Ethel writes how dialect is fast dying out or is frowned upon, and she wants to preserve it in her writing. She had also noticed that children are very interested in it, so she wrote Old Fashioned Fairy Tales for "all scholars aged from 8 to 80".
She takes 14 traditional fairy stories ranging from Jack and the Beanstalk to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, but re-tells them in modern West Cumbrian dialect. The result is hilarious and can't help but grab the reader's interest...and for the more faint hearted there is also a glossary at the back to aid understanding!
To give you a taste (pardon the pun!) this is the bit where Goldilocks enters the cottage and tries the bears' porridge whilst they are out:
While thu wur oot, a laal lass cawd Gowlgilocks wue 'evvun a walk throo t'wuds ut t'siamm time, und wen she com ucross t'cottige, she fund ut t'dooer wuz oppun, so she walket reet in, und wat a gud smell thur waaz inside! It wut t'poddish ut wuz smellun, and she wuz gau 'ungry, so thowt she'd tiaast it. She tried t'biggust basun fust, but it wuz ower 'ot tu swaller. Then she tried t'middlin-sizet basun, but fund it wuz ower lumpy, so she dippt 'ur spiuun intut laalust basun, und it tiasted just reet, so she varra siuun eat it aw, leavun t'basun wid nowt in.
The next title I came across by Ethel Fisher was Old Will Ritson's Tall Stories. The tales within this book were allegedly told by Will Ritson (1808 - 1890) who was the publican of the Wasdale Head Hotel. Will always kept his customers enthralled with stories so outrageously outlandish that he became known as 'The World's Biggest Liar'. [Wasdale was already famous for having England's deepest lake, (Wastwater); the highest mountain, (Scafell Pike); and the smallest church, (Wasdale Head Church), so it seems quite fitting really!]
Naturally these stories are re-told in dialect, and they are hugely funny. The tradition of the "tall story" lives on in Wasdale, and every November a contest is held at The Bridge Inn, Santon Bridge, to award the title of 'The Biggest Liar in the World', to the person who is worthy of following in Will's foorsteps.
Ethel Fisher has not limited herself to prose however, and has also produced 2 other books entitled: Humorous Tales in Cumberland Dialect Rhyme and More Humorous Tales in Cumberland Dialect Rhyme.
There are videos online of Ether reciting her poems. To see and hear her in action go to:
So what of Ethel herself? She has lived in West Cumbria all her life and was brought up on a farm. For many years she travelled round the village of Seaton with a pony-drawn milk cart, delivering milk twice a day, and met her husband Eric whilst carrying our her deliveries.
Her book We Ploughed the Field by Moonlight was published in 2001 and tells of life on a 500 acre farm. It was the bygone age when horse power was used to work the land, and the farm house did not have gas, electricity or hot running water, but despite all this it was a time of great fun and hilarity.
Ethel Fisher has since been awarded the MBE and still lives in Seaton. More about her life can be seen by clicking: http://www.whitehaven-news.co.uk/the_queen_of_cumbrian_dialect_writing_delights_even_those_who_find_it_hard_to_understand_1_338940?referrerPath=profile_2_910
In an age when language is becoming increasingly uniform we are lucky that there are people like Ethel to champion and preserve its regional variations.
27 October 2009 from Helen
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