Northumbrian Language Society

Aim of the Society: “To research, preserve and promote the Northumbrian language.”

“Keepin ahad o’ wor tung”

The Northumbrian Language Society has existed since 1983 to promote, preserve, research, publish and enjoy those rich dialects from Northumberland to NW Durham, descendants of the speech of the Angles, which have survived particularly in the Northumbrian ‘burr’ area. Meetings are held in different locations and recent publications include books and CDs by Katrina Porteous and Fred Reed.

Everyone knows at least some of the words of “The Blaydon Races”, that anthem of North-East England, while the sounds of the area’s speech are now familiar to many outside the area through such T.V. programmes as “Auf Wiedersehen, Pet” & “When the Boat Comes In”, “Vera” and even radio’s “The Archers”. But there’ s more to the Northumbrian language than “gannin alang the Scotswood Road” and “hawway the lads” — this rich, lively and expressive language is inherited directly from the Anglian speech of the Venerable Bede, Saint Cuthbert and, later, Harry Hotspur, with its own ancient and continuing literature. As a means of communication within the Northumbrian community it has survived for one and a half thousand years.

Most British people are probably familiar with, and understand, the traditional Geordie war-cry of “Haway/Howway the lads!” and would accept that it is unique to Tyneside. The same is true for “Newcassel Broon Ale”. These phrases are clearly different from standard English, but they are generally understandable, and they can therefore be classified as part of the north east of England’s regional dialect.
But what about “Fornenst thi cree an abeun thi hemmel, wu’ll hev wor bait, an batten worsels, time wu watch wor bollen bellies graa tiv i muckle, yarkin size”? Individual words are recognisable as English, but what does the rest of it mean? If you can’t translate the rest into English, then you’ve come across a different language; and that language is Northumbrian. 

Enthusiasts like the Northumbrian Language Society exist to preserve our unique regional dialect, and to encourage all Northumbrians to become bilingual, using the language amongst family and friends, and using standard English in more public situations. It is also the case that as society becomes more like a “global village”, more people are turning to the distinct cultural and historical features of their local communities in order to establish an identity that gives them a sense of belonging and value that is often absent in their public lives.

Contact the Northumbrian Language Society
Mr Stuart Lawson
4 Acreford Court
NE62 5YS
Tel. 01670 820387
General Enquiries
Mrs K Bibby-Wilson
Westgate House
Dogger Bank
NE61 1RE
Tel: 01670 513308
Mr John Davidson
10 Burnhouse Road
NE71 6EE
Tel. 01668 281462