Sid’s mission is to keep Lancashire dialect alive

Lancashire dialect specialist, Sid Calderbank
Lancashire dialect specialist, Sid Calderbank
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While “text speak” may be the language of teenagers, Sid Calderbank is working hard to keep the traditional Lancashire dialect alive.

The 61-year-old has spent 40 years performing the stories, poems and songs written by ordinary men and women in the dialect of their town at the time.

Much of it was written during the 19th Century and is now difficult to read and interpret.

Sid, of Wigan Road, Euxton, travels around the country to perform in the Lancashire dialect and keep it alive for younger generations.

He said: “Because it’s so difficult to read, people don’t do it and so it’s fading away.

“But at the moment, there are people around, mostly people of my generation, who have heard these old speech patterns and dialect.

“Give it three generations from now and there will be no people around who have heard it naturally.

“Language is changing and communication is changing. As these things change, it will eventually disappear.”

Sid has always lived in Chorley and Leyland, so speaks with a natural Lancashire accent.

He said: “I have got this accent because that’s how I was brought up and that’s how I learned to talk.

“If you don’t move out of the area and you don’t have to change it for work or whatever, then you can keep it.”

He first developed an interest in the traditional Lancashire dialect when he discovered folk music in the 1970s.

Sid, a father-of-one, said: “I found out there was so much Lancashire dialect in folk songs and not many people could do them, because they didn’t have the natural Lancashire accent and couldn’t reproduce them.

“I used to work at Leyland Motors at night.

“So in the daytime, I would go to Leyland Library and I looked through the books and found something that could be used to make a song.”

Sid started performing songs, poems and stories, often highlighting social history with tales from the cotton mills and mines.

He said: “The old dialect exists only in performance now.

“It’s hardly used in everyday conversation, unless I meet one of my enthusiast friends.

“You can’t use it all the time because it wouldn’t make any sense.”

Sid believes the Lancashire dialect has distant links to the kingdom of Northumbria, which 1,000 years ago stretched from the Scottish border to the Humber.

The first examples of writing in the dialect date back to 1750, at around the same time as the first dictionary of standard English.

But it was during the Industrial Revolution when there was a real boom in writing in the Lancashire dialect and reading it aloud.

Sid said: “These authors were so hugely popular and it was such popular entertainment that if you had a lot of money, you could get the author himself to come to your home or organisation and give a reading.

“If you didn’t have much money, you had to club together to get him to perform in a church hall.

“If you had less money, you clubbed together and bought one of his books.

“There would be a competition among the locals to find out who was best in the groups at reading the stuff.”

Sid continues that tradition by performing the work written in the dialect.

He is also chairman of the Lancashire Society and a member of the Edwin Waugh Society.

Sid mostly performs across Lancashire, but August saw him travelling to events in Devon, Whitby as well as nearer home in Fleetwood.

He said: “I think people are fascinated because they suddenly realise that it’s their history, and that’s especially the case around the Lancashire area.

“When I’m talking to groups of senior citizens like old folk clubs and church groups, I often find that very old people come up to me at the end and say I sound just like their grandad.

“That’s the nicest thing they could say to me, because it means I have got the pronunciation right.”

Sid is particularly keen to interest younger people, so the dialect can live on.

He said: “For the younger generation, there is a lot of entertainment in it.

“You can make it interesting and you can make it fun for them.”

Sid is now focusing on promoting the dialect in his home town, starting with a new series of reading circles at Euxton Library, which will be taking place this coming Monday.

The free weekly sessions will run from 10.30am to 11.30am and are designed to introduce people to the of Victorian dialect writing stored in Lancashire’s libraries.

Sid said: “I want to make people aware of it. If they want to hear it or have a go at reading this stuff, they can come to Euxton Library.

“If that’s popular, I will go to other libraries.”

Call Euxton Library on 0300 123 6704 for more details about the reading circle or just turn up.