Durham & Tyneside Dialect Group / Word Lists / New Seaham C20/1


An autobiography set in the Seaham area of Co.Durham, relating to the first half of the 20th century. GH was born ca.1910 in Dalton-le-Dale, but most of the words apply to New Seaham where he worked in the Nack Pit in the 1920s; he left Seaham ca. 1932.

back shift: "In the back shift one worked from 9 .a.m until 5 p.m." p.662
bait - food for work: "my 'bait' of bread and jam" p.62
banksman - superviser at top of shaft: "the banksman put in his 'keps', and, as the cage rested on these iron protrusions, the chains that suspended it went slack." p.64
bide - stay: "Bide where tha is" p.107
braffins - "collars or 'braffins'" [on the ponies] p.68
broken: "coming back broken" [reclaiming more coal in return direction, until "only a forest of props supported the roof over a wide area." p.105; "the roof in such broken districts was often unsound" p.105
broth: "Fresh vegetables and bones were the main ingredients, but bits of meat floated around on the surface and suet dumplings bobbed up here and there or lay hidden in the savoury depths." p.20

cavils: "Piece-workers changed their working area every three months...The moves were based on a lottery, called 'cavils'" p.105
clippy mat: "Hessian sacks were cut up, stitched together and aniled to wooden frames. Rags were dyed to the required colours and cut into suitable sizes called 'clippings'." p.12
crackit - stool: "my little crackit or three-legged stool" p.12
curvings: "the cut itself would become choked with dust which we called 'curvings'" p.98

denes: "the narrow wooded valleys which we called the Denes" p.35
deputy: "the deputy overman...wrote reports, rendered first aid, fired the explosive charges, and maintained discipline by example or sheer cussing" p.69
dolls - plugs: "[Meanwhile] I had been rolling clay into cylindrical shapes about the diameter of the hole. These clay dolls were rammed tightly into the hole so as to throw the force of the explosion inwards." p.101
dowelly - "We said it [the Blast Beach] was 'dowelly' - lonely and threatening" p.30
dreg - brake: "I could stop a moving tub by spoking its wheels with a 'dreg'" p.70

fore shift: fore shift...meant going to work at 4 a.m. and returning at noon." p.62

gaff: "A theatre known as the 'Gaff'" [S'm Harbour] p.28
gallowa: "A pony became a 'gallowa'" p.70
gears - pony harnessing: "sets of gears - collars, bridles, straps and chains" p.66
gob (goaf) fire: "the 'gob' fire, when certain worked-out sections of the pit filled with gas." p.60
greaser - "the greaser was a tiny reactangular hole set between the rails, and as the trains of tubs, the 'sets' passed over it, the axles were automatically greased." p.66
guysers - mummers on Xmas Eve: "Voices called: 'Let the guysers in.'...Men were dressed as women; women as men; some had black faces and other carried musical instruments..they sang songs and danced jigs in which all the family joined." p.24

hang on: "'Hang on'...was the signal to resume normnal working" p.79
hogger - pipe: "the hogger - a wire-covered rubber hose-pipe through which the compressed air poassed to the engine..." p.101
hoy - throw: "to 'hoy' a stone..." p.32

in-bye: "I knew what in-bye meant. It signified in or approaching the working area." p.66

judd - coal ready to be brought down: "the cutting of the judd" p.98

kist: "A kist was a tool-chest used by the deputy" p.70

limbers: "I was able to yoke a pony into his portable shafts, called 'limbers'" p.70

marrer: "Tucker Thompson was my 'marrer', that is, he too worked in the landing..." p.90

ned cake: "Sometimes lard would be mixed into the dough to make ned cakes" p.20

Newrus - New Year's Eve: "In Durham, yule-tide was a double holiday, for we...shared hogmanay with the Scots. We called this Newrus." p.22

panacalty: "panacalty - a concoction of bacon, onions and sliced potatoes baked in a shallow dish in the huge oven." p.22
pillars: "Pillars and boards" [initial galleries driven inbye through the coal to the boundary.]
pit-hoggers: "pit-hoggers or drawers" [as a child's swimming costume] p.35
pitmatic: "I was also acquiring a new language. This was 'pitmatic'. It was a mixture of the broadest dialect of Durham and a number of words (often of foreign origin) used exclusively by pitmen when below ground." p.70
pit-yacker - pit worker: "'Pit-yacker' is a self-descriptive term used by miners of the Durham coalfield. It has a half-derisive, half-humorous connotation, and stands in the same relation to pitmen as 'clodhopper' does to a farm labourer." (preface)
poss-tub: "...the paraphernalia of the laundry: a poss-tub, scrubbing brush, bars of yellow soap and the mighty mangle" p.21

set (of tubs): "as the full set began its descent, the leading rope was allowed to go slack and the full weight of the 65 tubs was taken by the tail rope" p.109
staple (in pit): "the staple...its purpose was to lower full tubs to another level" p.69
stook: [in reducing the pillars of coal...] "this last bit is the stook" p.106

tallymen - due collectors: "on pay-day a stream of tallymen, club agents, money-lenders and insurance men passed through the house" p.18
taw: "a taw or shooting alley" p.55
tha - you (nom.sg.): "Tha's going shot-firing wi' me" p.102
tram: "A tram...had a bogey like a coal-tub, but in place of a superstructure of wood it had four metal bars, one at each corner. Usually these were used for transporting props." p.79
tyum: "tyum meant empty" p.70

wagonway-man: "a wagonway-man...was a general handyman, an experienced miner, who had a vague authority over the boys in his district" p.65

X - "my maternal grandfather used an X when signing a document - an operation that scared him stiff." p.15

yester cake: "With the broth were slabs of yester cake - flat, circular pieces of dough baked with the loaves." p.20

he loaves." p.20