Black Country Stuff

I have been wanting to post a poem in Black Country dialect on here for some time, and feel it would be much better if I could include the sound – more comprehensible, for a start. When I can manage this, I’ll add links.

Part of the fun (and challenge) of writing rhymes in dialect is using words that wouldn’t rhyme in RP (received pronunciation or Queen’s English) and there are plenty of those in our vernacular.

The Crock ‘Oss

I hope you enjoy this tale of a careless child and a forgiving mother! There’s a vocabulary list at the end of this.


Lookin at the tranklements, Ah broke a crock ‘oss
Un when me Mom found it er day arf get cross.
So Ah run out the ‘ouse, up the gully – go’ lost,
Skeered ter jeth, me ‘eart thumpin as if it’d bost.

Then all of a suddin this ‘umman sid me –
Ah’ll never ferget the koind look er gid me.
Er patted me ‘ond un er axed, “Wassa marrer?
Yow’m stondin theer gawkin loik a pore little sparrer!”

Ah troid ‘ard ter answer, bur’ Ah’d bin struck dumb.
Then Ah finally mumbled, “Ah wan’er goo wum!”
Well, lucky fer me, this owd wench knowed me muther
Cuz er little chap wuz a mairte o’ me bruther.

So er brung me back wum un me Mom wuz so glad
Er completely fergot er wuz sposed ter be mad.
Oi expected er’d wallop me ‘ard, burr’er day:
Ah’d smoshed er crock ‘oss – er just gid me me tay!


crock ‘oss = pottery horse
tranklements = ornaments
Ah / Oi = I
er day ‘arf = she didn’t half
skeered ter jeth = scared to death
bost = burst
‘umman = woman
sid = saw
gid = gave
‘ond = hand
Wassa marrer? = What’s the matter?
stondin gawkin = standing looking vacant
sparrer = sparrow
goo wum = go home
owd wench = old girl
chap = boy
mairt = mate
brung = brought
burr’er day = but she didn’t
er gid me me tay = she gave me my tea (= supper)


Lying in my hospital bed, I watched at the end of visiting hours as the husband of the elderly lady opposite lingered by her bedside. The strength of the bond between them was obvious, but he couldn’t tell her how he felt, although his wife was seriously ill. After he had gone, she wept. “Ah luv ‘im ter bits,” she told me. “Burr’ Ah cor tell ‘im.” She died a couple of days later. The only words of comfort I could find were to repeat what she had said. We  wept together.  

Loights Aht

It’s toime.
They’m gunna dout the loight in a bit.
We ay go’ lung tergether now,
So yow’d berra say the wairds
As am cloggin yer throwt,
Them wairds
As feel loik ‘edge’ogs
Cairled up in yer gullet.
Wairds as cor scrawl owver yer tung
Be theirselves.

They’m chowkin yer, ay they?.
Ah know they’m theer
But yow cor spit ‘em out.
Dow marrer.

Jus’ squeeze me ‘ond.

It’s time.
They’re going to put out the light in a little while
We haven’t got long together now
So you’d better say the words
That are clogging your throat
Those words
That feel like hedgehogs
curled up in your gullet.
Words that can’t crawl over your tongue
By themselves.
They’re choking you, aren’t they?
I know they are there
But you can’t spit them out.
Doesn’t matter.
Just squeeze my hand.


The changing face of the Black Country and the lack of civic pride nowadays.
Victorian and Edwardian terraced houses – two-up, two-down – were often poky and their occupants poor, but windows were kept clean, net curtains were snowy white, and front doorsteps were polished bright red with Cardinal polish. No longer the case today.
Tthe “fowd” (fold) was the small forecourt in front of each house, or the part of the pavement outside the front door where this opened straight onto the street or ‘oss road (horse road). 

Black Country Museum

Black Country Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ouse Proud

 In th’owd days, Gramma scrubbed the step,
Polished it red, un allus kep’
The ‘ouse as clane as a new pin
Inside un out. Dairt was a sin!

When me Gramma swilled the fowd
All the water run dowun the road
Loik a river in the gutter,
Till the drairn ‘ud mek it splutter,
Gurglin, glugglin, inter the sewer
Tekkin bits of ‘oss manure
Un sticks un leaves un grass un stuff,
Till Gramma thought aer’d done enough.
Then the Council’d send a mon
Ter sweep the rest up best ‘e con
In them days, people took a proide
In ‘omes as looked fit for a broide.

Ah walked dowun Gramma’s street last wik;
Them terraced ‘ouses ay as spick
Un span as in me Gramma’s toime.
Aer’d cunsider it a croime:
Them dairty winders, peelin pairnt,
Rotten wood – it dow look quairnt
No mower. It med me think: Sum’ow
Ah’m glad Gramma cor see it now.


An old Black Country word for a dog is a wammel – maybe a variant of ‘animal’ or possibly from an Anglo-Saxon root. This poem is about the last visit to the vet.

wammelTarra ter the Wammel 

C’mon owd wench! Look, t’ay much fairther now.
Ah purra birra whisky in me tay
T’elp me keep me strength up – burrit day;
Me legs ‘m feelin wobbly some’ow.
It’s ‘ard ter keep frum blartin, Ah’ll allow.
Ah wish Ah’d ‘ad the nairve ter mek yer play
Cuz yow dow look as if yow wan’er stay.
Yow’m shiverin frit, yower tairl ay waggin now.
Yow’m deaf and lairme, yow cor see wheer yow’m gooin.
Jus’ let the doctor lay yer on the bench.
Ah dursn’t stroke yer now, but wharr’ Ah’m doin
Is fer the best. Tarra a bit, owd wench.
We’m neether on we gerring any younger
Burr’Ah cor aboide to see yow suffer lunger.

wammel = dog
Tarra = ta-ta (goodbye= usually “Tarra a bit” = ‘bye for now)
burrit day = but it didn’t
blartin = crying, weeping
frit = frightened
Ah dursn’t = I daren’t


Watching the world go by through the net curtains is a favourite pastime of the elderly, once their mobility is restricted. And there is a certain element of competition among octogenarians and nonagenarians wanting to outlive one another. The photo is of my own Grandmother, although she was never in this position herself, as she died in her seventies and remained very active right to the end .

Through the Winder 

Image0615“Tay much cop when yow cor gerra about,
Gramma sez, “Stuck in a cheer all day,”
Burr’er sits be the winder and looks out
Watchin the wairld goo by, wid ‘er tay
In a choina cup. Aer wow use a mug.
Oi axed er whoy not, cuz a mug owlds mower.
“Tay dow tairste roight,” er sez, wiv a shrug,
Smoilin loik a queen in er owd pinafower.

Through er net cairtins er con see all the nairbours
All the comins and gooins, fowk doin odd stuff,
Kids gooin ter skewl, menfowk at their labours,
Gossipin women, young chaps talkin tough.

“Theer’s summat amiss,” er muttered wun day,
“Theer’s a p’lice car un ambulance outside Owd Jack’s –
Ah wonder if they’ve come to tek im away?
Ah cor see what’s ‘appening, onny their backs.

Oh look, theer ‘e is, on a stretcher, pore bloke.
E’d berra no’ go jus yet, it’s ‘is round:
Jack un me’s gorra bet on, it’s onny a joke,
Burr’ ooever guz last owes the uther a pound!”


Aer kid” is how Black Country folk refer to their brothers. “Mom, Dad, me, aer kid un the babby” is a family of five. Many years ago, before autism had been recognised, a boy in my class at primary school had an autistic brother who could draw brilliantly. He was dismissed by the world in general as “saft” (soft in the head) and left to his own devices in a corner of the classroom with paints and crayons, where he disturbed nobody.
This story didn’t actually happen – but it could have!
“donny” is a child’s word for “hand”.

Aer Kid

Aer kid ay gorra proper naerme.
Ter me e’s just aer kid.
Mom calls ‘im Bab
Un’ Dad dow talk to ‘im
Cuz e’s saft.

When aer kid started skule
The taycha just said “Yow”:
Yow wi’ the dairty fairce …
Yow wi’ the snotty nowse …” 

Aer kid day loik skule.
E day lairn nuthin
Un’ ‘e wor no good.

Wun day sumbody gid ‘im sum pairnt
Un’ purra brush in ‘is donny.
Aer kid pairnted a bostin picture
Of all the taychas lookin gormless –
On the wall.

The taycha sid it
Un’ called the yedmaster.
Ah thort, e’s ‘ad it nah,
Yow cor pairnt on the wall.

The gaffer loffed ‘is yed off.
E said aer kid’s a genius,
An idiot savant.
Un now aer kid’s fairmous.

Burr‘e still ay gorra proper naerme
They just call ‘im
Lee O’Nardow.


The Mon wi’ the Bell

When Fred turned up in the pub with a jingling bell around his neck, his mates scoffed.
This was his explanation:

Ard’v Earin

 Me woife’s ‘earin aids dow wairk
So aer cor ‘ear
Ah’ve med er jump a few toimes
When er day know Ah wuz theer.
Aer’s purr’ a bell around me neck
That rings at every breath
So Ah cor creep up be’oind er
Un froighten er ter jeth.


Three women gossiping about their friend:

Sharon’s Babby

 – As Sharon ad er babby yet?

 – Nor’ as Ah know to.

– Ooh ah, er ad a liddle chap,
About a wik agoo.

– Jer see er then?

– Ooh ah, Ah did,
Er wuz shapping in Merry ‘Ill

– Ow’d er look?

                                    – Er day look bad,
Cunsiderin ‘er’s bin ill.

– Wor’ appened? Did it come too quick?
It wor due yet at all.

– Ah, it should’nt’ve bin until next wik
Burr’er went un ad a fall.

– Yow never know wi babbies
They come whenever they’m ready.

– If er adn’t bin wearing them killer ‘eels
Er wouldn’t’ve bin unsteady!
Any road up, er’s gorr’im now,
Burr’ er usbond’s slung is ook.
E’s a blond un the babby’s black.

– That’s jus’ pore Sharon’s luck!


In my childhood, murmurations of starlings were a common sight in the early evening as the birds came to roost in the trees of the park near my home. These are less common nowadays, but I had the joy of causing a brief one recently. I wasn’t quick enough to take a photo of these, but found this site with some beautiful pictures.

A funny owd ‘umman in the park

Them starlings!
Mekking a racket an’ clatter
While they’m settling in for the night.
When we wuz kids we’d mek ‘em scatter
Clapping we ‘onds sudden like
An’in fright
They’d rise up like a cloud and fly
In a big whirly swirly pattern,
A million dots filling the sky.
Ah’d forgotten all that.
Yow dow see ‘em so much terd’y
But jus’ now Oi ‘eard ‘em chatter
As Ah wuz cumin through the park.
There wor nobuddy in sight
So Ah clapped me ‘onds an’ med ‘em scatter,
Just for devilment.
Then Ah sid Ah wor alone after all:
There wuz a little kid on a swing, staring at me –
Wondering what wuz the matter!


One of the much loved local characters that made a big impact on me in my childhood was Old Roly Griffiths, who delivered the milk in an old-fashioned float drawn by a big strong horse. His granddaughter was (and still is) a good friend of mine, and she supplied me with the photo, though this shows him, not as his customers remember him, but as he looked “scrubbed up” for a posh function. Although he was generally known as “Old Roly” she tells me that in fact he died before he was 70.

Owd Rowly

 Owd Rowly wuz our milkmon
With a dray ‘oss an’ a cart,
E wor no more ‘n foive foot tall
Bur’ e ‘ad a giant’s ‘eart.

‘E allus wore ‘is gaiters
‘An a little woolly ‘at,
A cardy an’ a cowgown –
‘E wuz cuddly an’ fat. IMG_0627

‘Is fairce wuz round an’ rosy
‘Is eyes wuz bright an’ clear
They twinkled loik a galaxy
When he smiled frum ear to ear.

Us kids ‘ud ‘ear ‘im cumming
At the bottom of the road
The iron cartwheels rumbling
As th’ ‘oss pulled ‘is ‘eavy load,

We’d run down to the corner
An’ ‘e gid us all a ride
Squashed in among the milk crates
‘An ‘anging on the side.

Owd Rowly luved us children
‘E would let us pat the ‘oss
While it grazed by the roadside,
‘An ‘e never once got cross.

‘E lived next to ‘Ill Top park
But Rowly dae grow tall
So ‘e propped a wooden ladder
Up against the wall

Ter watch the courting couples
A-canoodling in the park,
But some chap went an’ nicked it
For an April Fools’ Day lark.

Owd Rowly ‘ad a sideline
In furniture ‘e got
Frum Kiddyminster auctions
‘E sold it lot by lot.

All ‘is milk-round customers
Bought sideboards, tables, chairs,
Foive bob or sixpence ‘apenny:
Deal done, an’ it wuz theirs.

‘E dae charge for the woodwairm
‘E throwed them in for free,
And sometimes in the cushions
Yow might even find a flea.

Rowly’s last wish wuz granted:
To die in ‘is own bed,
With an ‘appy smile upon his fairce
And his woolly ‘at on ‘is yed.

Owd Rowly with ‘is ‘oss ‘n’ cart,
‘As long been dead an’ gone
But bits of second-‘ond furniture
Keep ‘is memory living on.


Pigeon fancying was one of the most popular pastimes among working-class men in the Black Country when I was growing up. Many a terraced house had a pigeon-loft in the backyard, and on Saturdays the men would wait eagerly for their prize homing pigeons to return from some far away place, grunting and grumbling under their breath as the pigeon landed, dawdled, and finally stepped into the loft – because only then could it count as having arrived. As council estates sprang up, with clean, modern houses, neighbours started to complain that the pigeons were unhygienic and the lofts an eyesore, so many pigeon-fanciers were obliged to give up their hobby. 


‘Ere, gimme a pint o’ bitter, Joe!
Cuz it’s bitter I’m feeling at the mo’
They say I’ve gorra, but I wo’
Move me pigeon-loft.

Them faithful bairds ‘ave allus cum
Back to the plairce they know as wum
An’ it’s mekkin me feel bloody glum
To move me pigeon-loft.

W’eer’ll they goo if the loft ay theer?
Yo cor tell a pigeon it’s gorra steer
A different course as it’s took all year
Cuz they’ve moved me pigeon-loft.

This tale of woe cast a pall of gloom
On all the blokes in the pub’s back room
For Bob’s prize pigeons met their doom
When they moved ‘is pigeon-loft.

16 thoughts on “Black Country Stuff

  1. Pingback: Lead Balloon | catterel

  2. Bostin’ My OH, in dental practice in Wolverhampton, tells the story of a patient from Bilston, another big round chap. Jock had golden hands with a needle, and was very surprised when the chap said, with feeling, “It dae ‘urt” . Jock replied “I’m terribly sorry, I was gentle as possible.” “Nay, it dae urt.” It was only later than the local meaning of dae for didn’t sank in.

  3. I’m just reading Pip Williams’ “The Dictionary Of Lost Words” that contained the phrase ‘bostin’ mairt’ which brought me here. We have relatives in Scotland and I find this dialect not that far removed from some of their expressions. Thanks for the post.
    Graeme Smith, Traralgon, Australia

    • I think there may be some Anglo-Saxon words still used in British dialects, but can’t find much in common between the Black Country dialects and Scots. Maybe you’ll have the chance to visit some day and hear for yourself?

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