Aall Ower be Christmas

James Hay Stories written in the dialect of County Durham.

When the Waar stairted ivverybody wes excited. It wes August Bank Hollida - reed het it was - Aa'll nivver ferget it. Aa'd just torned sivventeen an some o the lads wes taalkin about it when we were hevvin our baits.

"Me fatha says it winna last lang," says Jimmy Bell. "He reckons it'll be aall owwer be Christmas. The Jarmans'll gerra good hidin when we get owwer there."

"Aye," Aa says, "the Navy'll sort them buggers out. Aa've read about our fleet. The' reckon the' were aall riddy weeks since. The sailors got nee leave nor nowt. Just riddy ter gan owwer ter Jarmany an gi them a good hidin."

"Aye," says Jimmy. "An wait till the' see our lancers. Man, Aa went wi me fatha ter Newcassel a couple o yors since an the' wes a band an ivverythink, an then we could hear the gallowas comin an ivverybody wes dancin an cheerin an wavin flags. An then we seen the lancers! By lad, the' were smairt, an git big gallowas an aall. An yer shoulda seen the lances the' had! Man, the' musta been thutty foot lang wi git shiny points on them. By, lad, when them Jarmans see them Aa bet the' run like hell."

"How lang did yer fatha say it would last?" asks Ramsay Russell.

"Aw, just a couple o months or see," says Jimmy. "It'll defnally be owwer be Christmas."

"D'yer think we'll hev time ter join up, then," asks Ramsay.

"We could try," butts in Tommy Brown. "Aa shouldn't think it'll tak lang. We could gan inter Durham an join the DLI. We'd hev ter see Mr Hairvey an tell him, though."

"Aye," says Jimmy. "We could gan in o Sarrada efternyeun an get the uniforms an guns an things. We could be in Jarmany this time next week."

"But yer've got ter be eyeteen," Aa says, "an what would me fatha say?"

"Aw, divvent worry about that," says Tommy. "We'll just say we're eyeteen, an once we're in neebody's ganna dee nowt."

"Aall reet," Aa says, "we'll gan in Sarrada efternyeun, but divvent tell Mr Hairvey afore we gan or he'll tell our fathas an try ter stop us. He's a Quaker, ye knaa, an the' divvent like fightin."

So Sarrada we gets on the train inter Durham an went strite from the station ter the Drill Haall in Gilesgate. The' wes a queue outside an we stood half an hour afore we got in. Man, it wes like the pictures."

Anyway, we gets inside, an there's an officer stannin, an a recruitin sergeant sittin at a desk wi some papers an a pen.

"We've come ter join up," says Jimmy Bell.

"Well, you've come to the right place, lads," says the sergeant. South country fella he was: divvent knaa where from, though.

"How old are you?" says the officer. Reet lahdidah he was.

"Eyeteen," Aa says, an Aa wes blushin cause Aa could never tell lies proply.

"Are you all eighteen?" he says.

"Yes, sir," we aall pipes up.

"Right, lads," says the sergeant. "I want you all to fill in one of these forms, and then go through that green door for your medicals."

Why, we filled the forms in an went ter see the doctor, an we stripped off an got examined. The doctor said we were aall reet, an we went ter get sworn in. Yer had ter put yer hand on the Bible an swear ter defend the King an he's heirs an successors, an the' give us a shillin each - Aa didn't expect ter get paid fer it. We were aall owwer the myeun.

The sergeant was laughin. "Right, lads; any questions?"

"Aye. When we ganna get our uniforms an guns?" says Ramsay Russell. Why, the sergeant var nigh had a fit wi laughin.

"Oh, you'll get those, lads. Don't worry, but off you go home now. We'll send you all letters telling you where to report to."

So off we went yem, an aall we could taalk about in the train wes the waar an the Army. But Aa didn't feel se clivver. Aa wondered what me fatha would say. Aye, an bigmouth Jimmy Bell wes quiet an aall. Aa knew what he wes thinkin: he's fatha would kill him when he found out.

"Aa divvent think we should say owt at yem," says Jimmy. "Not till we get the letters, anyway."

"Naw," says Ramsay an Tommy. "We'll say nowt till the letters come."

Aa'll tell yer one thing, marra. Aa wasn't feelin as brave as Aa had that mornin. Aa wasn't frightened o the Jarmans, but by God Aa wes frightened o me fatha.

Ray Clark asserts his moral right to be recognised as the author of this text
Ray Clark 2000 / 2005

Stories from Paperless Writers. a new venture for amateur, unpublished writers, site by Jim Hollingsworth.