September 13, 2008

Daft Laddies: Farming from the road

Northumberland, farming, husbandry, history, humour, dialect, Daft Laddies, 1950s

By Dr Clive Dalton

Photo: The road up North Tyne from the top of the Bower rig, Lanehead 1954. After the climb, the engine on Norman's bus could cool off going down into the valley, and passengers could record every farming detail to report on their arrival.

One of the big disadvantages of being a Daft Laddie on an inbye farm up the Tyne or Rede valley in the 1950s was that inevitably your antics and sartainly your predicaments would be on public view from the road and especially the railway. Ootbye folk had nen of these hazards to face daily

Cars were not a great problem as there were not many, and it was mainly the more wealthy folk "oot viewin" at weekends. Farmers were just starting to get cars, and many were so concerned with steering that they only had time for the odd glance ower the fence.

It was the bus and the train that were the menace, as here folk could apply a hundred percent concentration oot the window, and the advantage of height and almost a periscopic view of what was ganin on in the valley fields.

Their ability to assess what they saw in minute detail, analyse it, and then have the headlines prepared for their report would challenge any of today's news services. It was a mobile news service like the Internet that didn't need a computer.

It was also a regular surveillance, as up the Tyne there was the forst trains up and doon between 7-8am, then the mid-day train went doon at 11am and came up again at 1pm, then the evening trains went up and doon at 6-7pm. Then Norman Fox drove his bus up and doon the valley from Bellingham to Kielder about four times a day, and then there was the bus service from Bellingham to Hexham about four times a day as well, the forst bus at 7.30am and the last bus into Bellingham about 6.30pm. A modern satellite in the sky could not have covered more farming territory much more!

Here the famous Bellingham photographer WP Collier has caught the train passing Tarset Hall farm. It was a wonderful mobile viewing platform to see what was going on up the valley.

Up the Rede there were buses from Newcastle to Otterburn and return, and they covered a very big visual territory. As the Rede valley was the main central route into Scotland over Carter Bar, there was massive opportunities to see all the farms up the valley, and even to hear from folk what things were like on "the Scotch side".

Here are some examples of conversation topics for after your arrival or your return home. It was interesting that folk providing news and comments were never thought of as gossips – they were admired for being so "up to date". The trigger to get them going was this very simple question – "Aye, Owt fresh"?

The start or lack of start of events
  • Aye, Aa see thiv started the hay at The Park.
  • Aye, Aa see they've gitten hay doon at The Park.
  • Aa see they've cut nowt at The Park yit. Whaats rang wi the lazy buggas?
  • Man, Aa see they've got aall the hay doon at – they'll luk gay daft if it rains.
  • Aa see thors nee corn led at The Park yit.
  • Aa see the Leicester tup's oot at The Park – far ower orly.
  • Aa see they've still got the tups oot at The Park – they'll still be lambin in haytime.
  • Aa see they hevn't starteed singlin tornups at The Park yit, thor damnd near meetin in the drills.
  • Aa see they're pluwin the haughs at The Park – it's far ower wet.
The finish or lack of finish of events (There was little conversational mileage in commenting on positive things that had been competed as this would appear too complimentary and would kill the "crack" gay smartly. Far better crack could be generated from negatives. So the trick was if you started with a positive, for goodness sake murder it with a negative to get some impact.)
  • The Park's finished thor hay Aa see – they must hev been gay light crops.
  • Man, Aa see thor still fartin aboot tryin te git hay at The Park – it'll be good for nowt but beddin.
  • Aa see aall the corn's in at The Park – but it'll be aall straa after that bad week.
  • Aa ses thiv finished singling turnips at The Park but yi cannot ses them for Fat Hen.
Anybody spending money
  • Aa see they've gitten a tractor at The Park – must be made o' money.
  • Man did ye see they've gittin a new tractor at The Park - must be made o' money.
  • By man they've got a new raker at The Park - must be made o' money.
  • Man did see they've gitten a muck spreader at the The Park - must be made o' money.
  • Aa see they've gitten a motor car at The Park - must be made o' money.
  • Did ye see the new car at The Park - must be made o' money.
  • Aa heor tell they've gitten the phone it at The Park - must be made o' money.
  • Aa see thiv gitten a greet big new shed at The Park- thor was nowt rang wi the owld caert shed was thor? Must be made o' money.
  • God, ye cudn't see The Park's haughs the day for stour from the manure spreader – laying on that artifeeshal muck – it'll suck aall the gud oot o' the grund, and they'll nivor get the hay wun - must be made o' money.
  • It'll be them yung uns wi thor daft college trainin that'll be wantin aall these new-fangled things and wastin money.
  • They must be borrowin muney from the bank!
Not strite (Of all the afflictions that could befall a Daft Laddie – this was one of the worst)
  • Did ye see the tornip drills at The Park – thor like a dog pissin on snaa.
  • Did ye see the hind's pluwin at The Park – like a dog's hint leg.
  • Aa see that new fence at The Park's like a Don Mason's banana – the posts are as rotten an aall.
  • The new hind at The Park wants te git his eyes looked at if the tettie drills are owt te gan by.
  • Pests, weeds and diseases Man, the turnips at The Park are just a bed of wickens.
  • Man, the fat hen in the turnips at The Park is man high.
  • Aa see the rabbits have eaten aall the turnips at The Park.
  • Hev ye seen the mowdies in the hay fields at The Park.
  • By heck Aam pleased Aam not hind at The Park – the corn's aall thistles man.
  • By man the hay fields at The Park is nowt but yella rattle.

Crop yields and failures
  • By them oats at The Park is just straa – nowt in thor heeds man.
  • Man the corn's as flat as me hat at The Park – they'll nivor git it cut.
  • Thor's nowt i' the barley at The Park but blowd rabbits – they willn't be worth threshin.
  • The lads at the threshin at The Park said thor was nowt but weed seeds cumin oot the mill.
Stacks and threshing
  • Aye the corn stacks at The Park have cowped. That's the new hind for you. Clivor bugga.
  • Did ye see aall the props in the stacks at The Park? Aa see the threshors in at the The Park.
  • An Aa see the gate post inte the stackyard's brokken off.
  • Aye, Aa see the threshor's smashed baeth gate posts at The Park.
  • Aye, they must hev run oot o' hay at The Park afore the stack was topped oot.
  • Them corn stacks at The Park 'ill piss thorsels afore lang – they worn't laid oot enuff at the easins.
  • The stacks at The Park are het enuff te boil the tetties.

  • Hev ye seen the hoggs at The Park. Thor as lean as craas.
  • Hev ye seen the stirks torned oot at The Park, ye can see thor muck through them.
  • Did ye see the new Leicester tup at The Park – he's gye-necked, doon iv his pasterns and his balls are nee bigger than hazel nuts.
  • That fancy Lanark tup they bowt at The Park is rang in the heed.
  • That Daft Laddie at The Park needs his arse kicked for lathorin that horse.
  • Aa saa the AI man at The Park the day when Aa was doon at Hexham. They must be on wi that daft business anaall.
  • Hev ye seen the sucklers at The Park? The muck on them's keeping them tigithor.
  • Divn't expect ony luck muney from owld Sep from The Park. He's as tight as a ducks arse.

Dykes and hedges
  • Did ye see that greet muckle gap in the dyke at The Park.
  • The Daft Laddie had driven the tractor through it when tornin on the heedrig. Clivor young bugga!
  • Did ye see that lazy sod of a hind at The Park has only rickled that gap in the dyke up the haughs.
  • Just ye watch, he'll not hev fettled it afore spring.
  • If that new hind at The Park thinks he's a hedge layer – well I'm Kevin Keegan.

  • Social comment was very important for a Daft Laddie if he wanted to progress to the high honour of being hired as a hind. The following are some examples of areas that is was important to be knowledgable about.
  • Aa saa the ambulance gan oot the day – Aa didn't think Peggy was due for anuther month.
  • Did ye see the ambulance gan up the road this forenoon? Hevn't hord nowt we's bad.
  • They say that new Daft Laddie at The Park's been te Korkley Haall. He needs his arse kicking – clivor yung bugga.
  • Did ye see the new tenants are in at The Park. By lad, they'll hev te watch that dowter.
  • Did ye hear that the sarvant lass hes left The Park. Aye well they divn't stop there lang.
  • By lad hev ye seen the new hoosekeeper at The Park. She'll hev te watch horsel wi owld Hamish!
  • Aa see Lizzie's back heme wi a fancy man from doon sooth. He's owld enuff te be hor fathor.
  • Did ye hear that Bella's dowter's tean off eftor a bloke from doon sooth. Aall fancy tunge – Aa cudn't understant a woord he said.
  • By lad that new lass in the Northern Farmers' office will hev te watch horsel wi that Daft Laddie at The Park. He's hings aboot the office a lot eftor he's got his trailer loaded up.
Calamities and predicaments
  • This has got to be the area that gains you most Brownie points to reply to the "Owt fresh" question.
  • Did ye see the Daft Laddie cowped the caert crossin the road at The Park?
  • Did ye see the new hind's stacks at The Park have aall cowped?
  • Did ye see the fancy new tractor in the drain up tiv hor belly at The Park - and the hind tryin te pull hor oot wi the horse?
  • Did ye hear that Geordie's gone and crashed his new car. Went inte the drain trying te see ower the dyke alang The Park haughs lookin te see if the drills wor strite.

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