Brit Language: Cromarty Fisherfolk Dialect

We may never hear words like Yokker or Roodadoo ever again. Bobby Hogg, age 86, was the last native speaker fluent in the Cromarty Fisherfolk dialect, after his brother Gordon died last year. The dialect has a lilting sing song quality and is full of descriptive language:

“Am fair sconfished wi hayreen; gie’s fur brakwast lashins o am and heggs.” (I’m so fed up with herring, give me plenty of ham and eggs for breakfast.)

Cromarty is a close-knit geographically isolated community of 700 in Scotland’s Black Isle. Much of the language is directy related to fishing though at one time there were three different dialects; one for the townspeople, one for the farmers, and one for the fisherfolk. Fishing families, moving north from the Firth of Forth in the 15 and 16th centuries and thought to be descendants of Norse and Dutch fisherman, may have brought the dialect to the Black Isle.

Fishing boats moored in Cromarty Harbour

Bobby Hogg speaking to the Daily Mail said:

“Our father was a fisherman and all his folk had been fishermen stretching way back. It was the same on our mother’s side too. When we were young, we talked differently in the fishertown to the rest of Cromarty. It wasn’t written down. It was an oral culture. We had this sort of patois, which I think had both Doric and Gaelic in it. There were words, a lot to do with the fishing, which nobody else could understand.” (Source)

In 2009, Janine Donald a researcher for the Highland Councils’ Am Baile preservation project compiled a booklet of Cromarty dialect word and phrases. The booklet (PDF) includes phonetic explanations, dialect, phrases and words as well as “weather lore, biblical expressions and local tales and customs.” (Source)

The Cromarty Fisherfolk Dialect

Cromarty Fisherfolk Dialect and their English Equivalents:

Div thee ken? Did you know?

Ar: where

Bauchles: old, ill-fitting shoes

Blether-bus: a chatterbox

Droog-droogle: heavy work in wet weather

Jenny Muck: a female farm worker

Roodadoo: heron

Sulky blubber: jellyfish

Yokker: big

ablach: odd-looking, awkward

belwar: layers of tangles

bronyach: poor creature

cosfeet, cosfit, cossetor cossits: starfish

carcle: to count, calculate

crockums or crockuns: refuse of fish livers after oil is extracted

droog-droogle: be engaged in wet, heavy work

foodge or fooge: to play truant

greenga or greengaw: slimy grass left after the tide has receded

lyeerin: green slime

tumblers: dolphins & harbour porpoises

At now kucka: a friendly greeting

 

Find out more about the Am Baile Initiative to preserve the Cromarty Fisherfolk dialect at Am Baile.org.



Comments

  1. avatar says

    I think it’s rather sad to see a rich heritage like this die out. One of the most charming aspects of Britain is its wildly varying mini-cultures, and it’s a shame that more of them aren’t being kept alive. On that note, bravo to the Am Baile preservation project!

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