Y is for Yard

Left is a photo of of a yard from yesteryear at the Portland Basin Museum in Ashton. It recreates the yard of a working-class home in the north of England of the 19th century and well into the 20th.

It shows the washing tub and a tin bath hung on the wall. And, of course, the outside lavatory which doesn’t bear thinking about in these centrally heated times.

Many of the houses had the word yard in their address and were named after the owner of the property. Below is a mid-1800s dialect poem by Samuel Laycock about Bolton’s Yard in the Castle Hall area of Stalybridge with a translation beneath each  section:

Bowton’s Yard

At number one, i’ Bowton’s yard, mi gronny keeps a scoo, But hasn’t mony scholars yet, hoo’s only one or two; They sen the’owd woman’s rather cross, – well, well, it may be so; Aw know hoo box’d me rarely once, an’ pood mi ears an’o.

At number one, in Bolton’s Yard, my granny keeps a school, But hasn’t many scholars yet, there’s only one or two; They say the old woman’s rather cross, – well, well, it may be so; I know she boxed me good one time, and pulled my ears as well.

At number two lives widow Burns – hoo weshes clooas for folk; Their Billy, that’s her son, gets jobs at wheelin’ coke; They sen hoo coarts wi’ Sam-o’-Neds, ‘at lives at number three; It may be so, aw conno tell, it matters nowt to me.

At number two lives widow Burns – she washes clothes for folk; Their Billy, that’s her son, gets jobs at wheeling (transporting) coke (coal);They say she courts with Sam O’Neds, who lives at number three; It may be so, I cannot tell, it matters not to me.

At number three, reet facin’ th’ pump, Ned Grimshaw keeps a shop; He’s Eccles-cakes, an’ gingerbread, an’ treacle beer, an’ pop; He sells oat-cakes, an’o, does Ned he boath soft an’ hard; An’ everybody buys off him ‘at lives i’ Bowton’s Yard.

At number three, right facing the pump, Ned Grimshaw keeps a shop; He has church cakes, and gingerbread, and treacle (sweet) beer, and pop; He sells oat-cakes, and all, does Ned, he has both soft and hard; And everybody buys off him that lives in Bolton’s Yard.

At number four Jack Blunderick lives; he goes to th’ mill an’ wayves; An’ then, at th’ week-end when he’s time, he pows a bit an’ shaves; He’s badly off, is Jack , poor lad; he’s rayther lawm, they sen, An’ his childer keep him deawn a bit – aw think they’n nine or ten.

At number four Jack Blunderick lives; he goes to the mill and weaves; And then, on the weekend, when he has time, he pours (drinks) a bit, and shaves; He’s badly off, is Jack, poor lad; He’s rather lame, they say, And his children keep him down a bit; I think they’re nine or ten.

At number five aw live mysel’, wi’owd Susanah Grimes; But dunno loike so very weel – hoo turns me eawt sometimes; An’ when awm in there’s ne’er no leet, aw have to ceawer i’th’ dark; Aw conno pay mi lodgin’ brass, becose awm eawt o’wark.

At number five, I live myself, with old Susannah Grimes; But I don’t know that she likes me very well – she turns me out sometimes; And when I’m in, there’s never any light, I have to shower in the dark;  I cannot pay my lodging brass (rent), because I’m out of work.

At number six, next dur to us, an’ close o’th’ side o’ th’ speawt, Owd Susie Collins sell smo’drink, but hoo’s welly allis beawt; But heaw it is that is the case aw’m sure aw conno’ tell; Hoo happens maks it very sweet , an’ sups it o herself.

At number six, next door to us, and close to the side of the spout, Old Susie Collins sells more drink, but she’s really always about; But how it is that is the case I’m sure I cannot tell; She happens to make it very sweet, and drinks it all herself.

At number seven there’s nob’dy lives, they left it yesterday, Th’ bum-baykus coom an’ makr’d their things, and took ’em o away; They took ’em in a donkey cart, aw know nowt wheer they went.  Aw recon they’n bin ta’en and sowd becose they owed some rent.

At number seven there’s nobody lives, they left it yesterday, The bum-bailiff came and marked their things, and took them all away; They took them in a donkey cart, I know not where they went.  I reckon they’ve been taken and sold because they owed some rent.

At number eight – they’re Yawshur folk – there;s only th’ mon and woife, Aw think aw ne’er seed nicer folk now these i’ o mi loife; Yo’ll never yer ’em foin’ cawt, loike lots o’ married folk, Tehy allis seem good tempered like, an’ ready wi’ a joke.

At number eight – they’re Yorkshire folk – there’s only the man and wife, I think I’ve never seen nicer folk than these in all my life; You’ll never hear them falling out, like lots of married folk, They always seem good tempered like, and ready with a joke.

At number nine th’wod cobbler lives – th’ owd chap ‘at mends mi shoon,   He’s getting very weak an’ done, he’ll ha’ to leov us soon; He reads his Bible every day, an’ sings just loike a lark, He says he’s practisin’ for Heaven – he’s welly done his wark.

At number nine the old cobbler lives – the old chap that mends my shoes. He’s getting very weak and done, he’ll have to leave us soon; He reads his Bible every day, and sings just like a lark, He says he’s practicing for Heaven – he’s really done his work.

At number ten Jame Bowton lives – he’s th’ noicest heawse i’ th’ row; He’s allis plenty o’ sum’at t’ eat, an lots o’ brass an’ o; An’ when he rides an’ walks abeawt, he’s dress’d up very fine, But he isn’t hawve as near to heaven as him at number nine.

At number ten James Bolton lives, he has the nicest house in the row; He has always plenty of something to eat, and lots of brass, and all; And when he rides and walks about he’s dressed up very fine, But he isn’t half as near to heaven as him at number nine.

At number ‘leven mi uncle lives – aw co him uncle Tum, He goes to conerts, up an’ deawn, an’ plays a kettle-drum; I’ bands o’ music, an’sich things, he seem to tak’ a rpide, An’ allis makes as big a moise as o i’ th’ place beside.

At number eleven, my uncle lives – I call him Uncle Tom, he goes to concerts up and down and plays a kettle drum. In bands of music and such things, he seems to take a pride, and always makes as loud a noise as the others besides.

At number twelve, an’ th eend o’ th’ row, Joe Stiggens deal i’ ale; He’s sixpenny, an’ fourpenny, dark coloured, an’ he’s pale; But aw ne’er touch it, for aw know it’s ruined mony a bard – Awm th’only chap as doesn’t drink ‘at live i’ Bowton’s Yard.

At number twelve, at the end of the row, Joe Stiggins deals in ale; He has sixpenny and fourpenny, dark-colored and pale; But I never touch it, for I know it’s ruined many a bard, I’m the only chap that doesn’t drink that lives in Bolton’s Yard.

An’ neaw aw’ve done aw’ll say good-bye, an’ leave yo’ for awhile; Aw know aw haven’t towd mi tale i’ sich a first-rate style; But iv yo’re pleased aw’m satisfied, an ‘ax for no reward; For tellin’ who mi nayburs ar ‘at live i’ Bowton’s Yard.

And now I’m done, I’ll say goodbye, and leave you for a while; I know I haven’t told my tale in such a first-rate style; But if you’re pleased, I’m satisfied, and ask for no reward; For telling who my neighbors are that live in Bolton’s Yard.

You can listen to a reading of the poem by clicking below:

Bolton’s Yard

ABC Wednesday Round 7

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Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

6 comments… Add yours
  • ROG 5th January 2011

    DEFINITELY need the translation! Thanks.
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  • Denise 5th January 2011

    Wow! Was transfixed with your header! Fantastic post – agree with Rog about the translation – you too may need a translation when you read my yorkshire jokes! lol!
    ABC Team

  • Sylvia Kirkwood 5th January 2011

    Definitely need a translation! Fun post for the Y Day!! Thanks! Hope your week is going well!


  • Mr Parrot 6th January 2011

    Thanks for your kind comments. I had problems translating this myself, and I’m supposed to understand the dialect!

  • Trevor Rowley 4th January 2012

    I’m probably a bit like you, Mr P, as I’m from a generation which would still have heard plenty of “Lanky” dialect being spoken in my youth – especially by the old timers. However, as we only hear occasional glimpes of it now, it’s easy to forget that it ever existed at all as we all now strive for “Estuary English” tinged with a nod towards our American cousins. I read recently, that there is a proposal that Lancashire dialect be taught and studied at university level as there is a danger that it will soon be no more than a part of our history (no doubt alongside The Plague, The Great Fire of London and anything that involved sailing galleons around the world with the hope of coming back with a hold full
    of peppercorns and cinnamon).

    Getting back to “Bowton’s Yard”, and specifically to Jack Blunderick at number four, for “when he’s time, he pows a bit and shaves”, you have “he pours (drinks) a bit and shaves”. Couldn’t the “pow” be to do with a haircut? You will remember that when we went to the barber’s for a haircut, we turned up at school the next day with our shorn locks and were always given “pow slaps” over the back of the head by our schoolmates. It seemed to be the only time in your schooldays that you could legitimately slap somebody about the head and get away with it. The “pow” could have come from the pole (red and white stripes) which traditionally stood outside the barbers’ shops. Seemingly, in Lancashire dialect, a pole of any sort was a “pow”. Any thoughts?

    Also, at number five (Susanah Grimes), for “aw have to ceawer i’th’dark”, you have “I have to shower in the dark”. Wouldn’t the shower have been something of a luxury in the backstreets of Stalybridge in those days? Should it have been “cower” in the dark?

    Al sithee. Tara fer now.

  • Mr Parrot 5th January 2012

    I do indeed remember the ‘pow slap’ and painfully too. It is connected in my mind to the old short back and sides haircut, but the origin seems obscure. Your idea that ‘pow’ might come from ‘pole’ seems as good a theory as any!

    I can’t recall where I got the translation of Bowton’s Yard from (it wasn’t mine) but showering at No. 5 is clearly wrong and ‘ceawer’ is much more likely to translate as ‘cower’ as you say.

    The Lancashire accent is fast disappearing, at least in these parts. I sometimes wonder if in some years time whether anyone will be able to understand the recorded memories gathered by the BBC and others.


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