Friday, May 28, 2010

What We've Lost

The Sussex accent is virtually dead. It has been replaced by a fairly nondescript "Estuary" accent that can be heard anywhere within a 60-mile radius of London.

Occasionally I hear a rural burr from some of the older people in town, but it's nothing like this wonderful recording from 1959. Click on the John Nash picture below to visit a page featuring Harry Burgess of Firle:

The British Library's National Sound archive is a wonderful resource, with recordings that include Tennyson, Florence Nightingale and Arthur Conan Doyle. But my favourite part of the archive is a collection of recordings of accents and dialects, arranged by county.

Another favourite of mine is this one from the Isle of Wight. Mrs Sheath has a wonderfully rich voice and if you listen carefully, you can hear a clock gently ticking in the background. As for this accent, it might as well be in another language.

Television, cars and people like me have all helped to erode local identities and sadly, we will never hear a voice like Harry Burgess's again. Thank God someone had the foresight to record these accents just before they disappeared.


Milton said...

It disn't work - and I so wanted it to! Milt x

Steerforth said...

Try it as a link.

simoom said...

This is a fabulous discovery! Thank you! What lovely stories, tenderly, humorously related. I just listened to Kenneth Spooner from Leek, Staffs. "It was an 'ard life. The women 'ad muscles like men."
Out here in Morocco it brought tears to my eyes.

simoom said...

p.s. All that talk of 'beasts'(aka farm animals) and 'byres' from Westmoreland, also wonderful... But Mrs Sheath's litany of a life spent cooking, and making breakfast, washing up, making dinner, and washing up, and making tea - then sitting up all night in the winter at her father's bedside, and caring for him for 15 years (all against the ticking clock in the background) frightened me so much I lost all appreciation for her accent.

Motherhood The Final Frontier said...

I felt sad and nostalgic for these times and voices past, but at the same time, like simoom, so terrified by the spectre of Mrs.Sheath's life, and no doubt so many womens' llike her that I have gone running off to order an iPad and further immerse myself in the global esociety, far, far away from local community. EEEK

Steerforth said...

That's the thing: it may have been a gentler, slower pace of life, but it's too easy to forget the drudgery, narrow-mindedness and lack of opportunities.

As for the iPad, I had a look at one yesterday and can't see what all the fuss is about - it's just a big iPhone!

ella said...

This post is months ago, so you'll probably never read it - I just wanted to say, as a Sussex girl myself (expat now, sadly) that tho my grandmother and great-grandparents didn't have the 'arr' of the old Sussex accent, the rise and fall sing-song intonation is wonderfully familiar to me. I don't do it myself, but find myself reproducing it unintentionally when I read aloud sometimes, and can spot an (older) Sussex-ite from a great distance.