Dialect of the Furness Area of South Cumbria

The Furness peninsula juts into Morecambe Bay at the southern end of the English Lake District. Although for centuries part of Lancashire 'north of the Sands' it is now in the county of Cumbria, with which it has a natural geographic and linguistic affinity. The traditional Furness dialect and pronunciation has much in common with that of other parts of Lakeland but has been much diluted over the past century.

W B Kendall    

A fine account of the language spoken by Furness country folk in the 19th century is the "Forness Word Book" by William Barrow Kendall, an early engineer with the Furness Railway and a distinguished local historian and naturalist.

More about W B Kendall

Kendall's dialect dictionary is a small pocket notebook with 167 pages of neat handwritten entries. He proudly notes on the front page that the work was "begun at Salthouse" (his home village close to the then infant town of Barrow) "in the year 1867". At that date he was just 16 years old!

I transcribed Kendall's dialect dictionary as a tribute to my late father, Walter Dixon Knipe of Bailiff Ground, Kirkby-in-Furness, who was an active member of the Lakeland Dialect Society and proud to be able to lapse into the dialect of the Furness and Cartmel areas where he was born and raised. My old friend Bill Rollinson (who first introduced me to geology when we were schoolboys together) helped decipher some of the more faded entries, and added biographical notes on Kendall plus notes on the derivations and usage of many of the words. I dedicate my small effort to the memory of two fine gentlemen.

Download a complete copy of the Word Book, with introductory notes
- zipped file in Word format
    Wordbook.zip   [191kb]
or have fun exploring some of the dialect of Furness in this interactive version     Interactive

The Wordbook contains over 2100 definitions plus many examples of how they were used.     wordbook text
scrud - a defective (boy's) marble; inferior and mis-shapen. (see scrood)
scruff - nape (of the neck).
scrunty - stunted; thin growth.
scuddher (vr) - to hurry about confusedly.

Here is WBK's description of how Furness folk spoke compared with their southern cousins:
"The Furness tongue is a variety of the North Country Talk spoken in the territory situated between a line drawn roughly from the mouth of the Eden to the mouth of the Tees, and another line extending from the mouth of the Lune across the country to the east coast a little to the north of the Humber. It is more closely allied to the 'Border Scotch' spoken on the north than to Middle English; and this is especially the case in Mid-Cumberland and North Westmorland.
Each district, as for example Furness, Millom, Egremont, the Fells etc, has its own accent and peculiarities of pronunciation. In some parts they talk sharp and quite nippy, in other parts they draäp and drawl. In the remaining portions of Lancashire and Yorkshire they use quite a different make of talk, and in the Midland counties different varieties of Middle English are spoken. Further south the people begin to talk fine."

'hummeler - an instrument for removing awns from barley when spread on barn floor'
The notebook is illustrated with numerous little pen sketches of agricultural and kitchen implements, toys and ear marks in sheep.

lug marks - identifying cuts in the ears of sheep; this pattern is 'key bittit'
sheep lug marks
loukin tongs
'loukin tangs - instrument used for pulling up weeds, as thistles etc in arable land'

[ Colin Knipe's page ] | [ Top] | [ W B Kendall ] | [ Interactive Wordbook]