As aw’m passin’ a “little heawse” corner one day
(Neaw it’s feawnded on facts what aw’ve getten to say),
Aw yeard a lad prayin’, a tellin’ the Lord
He hadn’t bin faithful an’ true to His word.
His ideas wur so childlike, aw couldn’t but smile,
As he said, “My poor fayther’s bin deod a great while;
Aw’ve getten noa clogs, noather here nor a whoam;
An’ my mother’s a bustian at th’ end ov her thumb;
Hoo’s lapped it wi’ rags, an’ hoo’s rubb’d it wi’ sawve,
But it makes her noa better, but crosser bi th’ hawve.
Aw happen’d to touch it one neet wi’ my yed,
An’ hoo towd me t’ lie still, or else get out o’ bed,
Poor mother! hoo’s pained till hoo connot abide,
An’s lots o’ times ceawer’d up i’ th’ neet time an’ cried.
Whenever we [‘] ve meat, such as bacon or pork,
Mi [sister gets] howd on’t because hoo has t’ work.
Tha [said tha’d] a father to th’ fatherless be,
An’ tha’s ne’er sent a [2 words illegible] nor nowt yet to me;
We’d some broth t’other Sunday’s it’s true we had given,
But these war so thin they wur ne’er made i’ heaven [!]
Mi pencil’s [1 word illegible] short, an mi copy book’s full;
An’ th’ Missis hoo says aw’m both stupid an’ dull;
Mi trousers wants mendin’, mi bishops i’ holes;
An’ th’ fire it’s gone eawt, for we hannot no coals.
We’n porritch i’ th’ morning, an’ porritch at noon,
Till aw’m getten reet weary o’ usin’ a spoon,
Aw haven’t a cap to put on does ta know?
An mi jacket’s i’ pieces at th’ elbows an’ o’
When aw’m pickin’ up cinders an’ sticks ‘ats i’ th’ lones,
Th’ lads co’ me ragg’d Jemmy, an’ pelt me wi’ stones.
Iv tha’d let mi poor fayther get eawt o’ yond hole,
He’d fetch us some chips, an’ a hundert o’ coal;
An’ while he wur here he could just pow owar Ben, ---
Do let him come whoam, tha can have him again!
We sowd o’ his cloas, but no matter for that,
Ewar Tummy can lend him a cwot an’ a hat,
An’ aw’d beg him a bit ov a waistcoat at th’ shop
Where we took that check shirt o’ ewar Isaac’s to th’ “pop.”
When aw’d yeard him say this much , aw dragg’d him off th’ seet;
Took him whoam to ewar heawse – gan him summat to eat;
Put some clogs on his feet, fill’d reet full o’ big nails,
An’ aw said, “Tha’m tell God neaw how thankful tha feels.”
He ran back again, put his hands up o’ th’ board,
With a heart full o’ joy show’d his clogs to the Lord.
Let us o’ learn a lesson from this simple youth,
For the story, tho’ strange is brimful o’ real truth;
Let us o’ go to God wi’ our trials an’ cares,
An’ be plain like this lad, then answer ewar prayers.

Title:Prayin' Jemmy

Author:S. Laycock

Publication:Ashton and Stalybridge Reporter

Published in:Ashton-under-Lyne

Date:July 11th 1863

Keywords:charity, dialect, family, pawn, poverty, religion



The poem shows how the writer attempts to adopt readable orthographical spellings to suggest dialect sounds. The writer also uses the same spelling for a specific lexical set. This is the case of the digraph “eaw” in feawnded (founded), eawt (out), heawse (house), and neaw (now) which relates to the standard diphthong [aʊ]. “eaw” in these four words probably suggests the diphthong [ɛʊ] in the Lancashire dialect. However, [ɛʊ] is not considered a pure dialect sound as it is the standard variant of [aʊ]; this means [ɛʊ] is a novel realization which entered the dialect to substitute the archaic sound [u:].

This poem also shows “ow” in the words towd (told) and howd (hold). This spelling probably suggests either [aʊ] or [ǝʊ] in the dialect. The peculiarity of these two terms is also the omission of the grapheme “l” in the spelling which is associated with its absence in the pronunciation. In northern dialects, the letter [l] is subjected to vocalization that mostly results in the vowel [ʊ] as exemplified in the two possible diphthongs suggested. This linguistic phenomenon is known as [l]-vocalization and it is considered an enregistered northern feature.

Samuel Laycock presents the spelling “ee” in the words neet (night) and reet (right). The digraph “ee” in these two terms clearly suggests the long vowel [i:]. This monophthong in this type of words is related to an archaic pronunciation, which is rooted on some phonological phenomena distinct from the Standard English. The digraph “gh” in these words represented the consonant [ҫ] in Old English. This Old English consonant was vocalized into [ɪ] in the standard and joined the previous [ɪ]. This merger resulted in [i:] which later became the present-day English diphthong [aɪ]. However, in northern dialects and, in this case, the Lancashire dialect words containing the voiceless fricative [ç] remained unvocalized. As a result, [ɪ] remained unshifted, and when these words in northern dialects finally lost the consonant, the previous vowel became [i:] because of compensatory lengthening.

The words yeard (heard) and yed (head) presents the y-inclusion in the spelling, which is related to [ɪ] in the pronunciation. Therefore, these two words are probably realized as [ɪǝ] in the Lancashire dialect. This epenthesis is rather common before front vowels such as [e] in several dialects. In yeard, the diphthong [ɪǝ] could be due to the analogy with its correspondent infinitive form “hear”, pronounced with this diphthong in the standard. As a result, both the past and the infinitive/present tenses are equally pronounced in the Lancashire dialect. In yed, we also find the omission of the consonant “h” in word initial position. This omission, which also involves the absence of [h] in the pronunciation, is socially discredited.

The poem presents the construction connot which stands for “cannot”. The peculiarity of this word is the replacement of “a” by “o”. This substitution involves phonological implications as this term would be pronounced with [ɒ] instead of [æ]. This substitution is related to the tendency of substituting [a] or [æ] by [ɒ] in front of nasal consonants such as [n]. This is a very old phenomenon that dates back to the Old English period and is present in the north and in the West Midlands. Finally, the non-standard word fayther, standing for “father”, is probably pronounced with the diphthong [ɛɪ] in the Lancashire dialect. This pronunciation is, once more, rooted on distinct phonological processes.

As far as the lexicon and the grammatical structures are concerned, we do not notice several differences between the dialect and the Standard English. Laycock presents the term lad in the third paragraph to refer to the standard “man”. This word is not confined to Lancashire, but it is a widespread form in several dialects of England. The word hoo is the dialect form to refer to the third person singular pronoun “she”. The form hoo is the dialect outcome of the Old English form hēo. Although “she” is the most typical form, “hoo” covers several areas of England, including the county of Lancashire. Finally, the word Aw is again the dialect form that substitutes the first person singular pronoun “I”. Aw, which is very common in the Lancashire dialect, is pronounced as [ɔ:] according to Wright (1898-1905) but its origins are unknown.

Concerning the grammatical perspective, this poem presents the forms Aw’m getten and Aw’ve getten (I’ve got). The peculiarity in these two instances is the -en ending in the verb “get” to suggest the past participle tense. This form is an Old English influence which still prevails in northern dialects. Finally, we find the reduction of the definite article “the” as it is represented with the form th’ as in at th’ shop (at the shop). This reduction or ellipsis would be one of the most stereotypical marker of Northern British English dialect, especially of those varieties belonging to Lancashire.