A winter-long celebration of the rich dialect heritage of the Yorkshire Dales is taking place at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes.
Rare interviews with local people gathered by University of Leeds researchers in the 1950s can be heard alongside snippets from twenty new oral histories recorded by volunteers.
Fieldbooks, word maps and objects which illustrate dialect words, such as a sheep cratch and a havercake board, are on display. Audio clips from Muker, Askrigg, Dent, Horton-in-Ribblesdale and Grassington – as well as places just outside the National Park including Soulby near Kirkby Stephen, Pateley Bridge and Burton-in-Lonsdale – can be heard.
The special exhibition is called ‘In Your Words’ and will run until 20 April 2023.
As part of the celebration, the Dales Countryside Museum has also commissioned a second series of its Voices From The Dales podcast. Six episodes, to be published fortnightly from Friday the 2nd of December, will explore dialect as spoken by the people of Hawes and the next door village of Gayle. A one-minute Series Two Trailer has been published and is available on all podcast platforms or via the museum website.
One of the contributors to the exhibition is Helen Guy from the Keld Resource Centre in Upper Swaledale. She said sharing dialect with visitors had become an important part of her work:
“It’s just such a privilege to be able to tell people all about it. And they are just so, so interested in it. You know, I take people for walks and I’d say, ‘That’s a hog house’ and they are like ‘Oh, pigs?’ and I’m like ‘No, sheep’ – and they are like, ‘What?’ People just think it’s fascinating that up here a ram is not just a tup it’s a ‘tupe’ and a ewe is a ‘yow’, things like that.
“My Grandad Guy, I couldn’t understand him. You know he’d say, ‘ahse ye bin in to’t top pasture?’ And you think, ‘What’s he saying to me?’ You know, ‘Wat beeasts are up there?’ I’m like, ‘You what?’ And dad would have to explain what he was saying, ‘He’s asking if the cows are still in the top field’. So yeah – it takes you back.”
The exhibition is part of the Dialect and Heritage Project, a National Lottery Heritage Fund-supported initiative based at the University of Leeds. The project has seen the opening to the public of the extensive Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture as well as the recording of dialects and memories from present-day communities.
Kevin Frea, who is Member Champion for Promoting Understanding at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, which runs the Dales Countryside Museum, said: “People can connect with their roots through dialect and it’s no wonder that you see people huddled together at the end of the exhibition discussing words and phrases. That’s what ‘In Yours Words’ is there for – it’s for people to see how their family words compare with those gathered by fieldworkers from Leeds University in the 1950s and 1960s.
“The 50s and 60s were a high point for research on life in the Dales because that’s when the last big agricultural transition took place, when tractors replaced horses and much else changed – including the way people spoke. Many Dales children were brought up to speak the ‘Queen’s English’ and dialect has become much less widely spoken. But it is still there – and that’s something we want to celebrate.”
The Dales Countryside Museum is open seven days a week. Tickets are £4.80 and entry to the special exhibition is included in the admission price. Children are admitted free.