‘Geordie Fraser’s Geordie Phrases’ is a series of YouTube videos in which David Simpson takes a light-hearted look at the origins of the region’s Geordie dialect.
There are many influences upon the Geordie and Northumbrian dialect. In this series ‘Geordie Fraser’ explores some of the region’s well-known words and phrases and examines some of their possible origins.
In the first of the videos we see how the region once spoke a form of Welsh but this has left very little influence upon the dialect and place-names save for a prominent Pennine hill in Yorkshire and a peculiar means of counting sheep that survived across the uplands of the North and North East.
The Angle ‘angle’ of North East dialect origins is explored in the first video looking at the origin of the Angles who gave England its name – ‘the Angle Land’. These were a people who also established the Kingdom of Northumbria. In addition, this first video explores the speech of the closely associated Frisians, whose surviving language is still the closest relative of English with words and pronunciations having a marked similarity to Geordie and Scots.
It’s been argued that Geordie (and Northumbrian) words are about 80 per cent Anglo-Saxon origin with the Angle influence being particularly prominent. This may be stretching the truth a little but certainly words and phrases like ‘gan’, ‘hoppings’ or ‘toon’ for town have striking similarities to Anglo-Saxon words even though the Old English language of the Anglo-Saxons would be largely incomprehensible to most English speakers today. Then again, the same is sometimes said for Geordie.
In the second video ‘Fraser’ asks: was there any Viking and Norman influence on Geordie dialect and place-names? The third video explores the Geordie dialect’s relationship to local place-names, asking the question: Is the Red Yuff really a ‘yuff’? Fraser also recalls a humorous encounter with a Border Reiver in Redesdale, during a search for “a very long place-name, that begins with ‘B’
Video four explores the words ‘canny’ and ‘wor’ and investigates the origin of the Northumbrian ‘burr’ and its possible influence upon Geordie speech.
The fifth video in Geordie Fraser’s YouTube series examines some common Geordie words and phrases, with a little touch of humour. Other videos exploring North East dialect will follow.
Gateshead is a town that is arguably growing slowly in confidence and status. Could it one day even challenge the city status of its historic neighbour across the Tyne? DAVID SIMPSON explores Gateshead’s transition from an apparent ‘backwater’ to a major centre of northern culture.
In times past Gateshead was once unflatteringly described in parliament as a ‘dirty lane leading to Newcastle’. It has also been described in more chauvinistic times as ‘Newcastle’s wife’. In fact, there’s that oft-told story of a stranger asking a native Geordie for directions to Gateshead. The reply is something along the lines of:
“gan ower the bridge and ye’ will say ‘this canna’ be Gyetsid’, but it is”.
Things are a lot different today of course, at least for those parts of the town that face the Newcastle waterside. Gateshead has been a town and borough in the shadow of Newcastle since medieval times. It could be willingly or unwillingly under its neighbour’s direct control. Since 1882 Newcastle has held the status of a city, reinforcing Gateshead’s role as a ‘suburb’. This was despite the two places belonging to two quite different counties for so many centuries.
Modern Gateshead: A Cultural Centre
There is, almost, dare I say it, a sense that modern developments and future plans could, in decades to come, bring about a turnaround in this status. As Newcastle’s neighbour grows and develops it might well become the sparkling modern city of glass and steel while Newcastle might come to serve the splendid role of ‘the old toon’, a kind of beautiful historic quarter with charming old buildings, streets and bars so typically found in many of the most frequently visited continental cities.
I regularly listen to Radio 2 these days – I’m showing my age here – and I often hear them announce forthcoming tours of prominent performers to major cities. Through the splendid work and fabulous event programme of the wonderful venue that is Sage Gateshead, it is often Gateshead that you hear listed amongst those cities, rather than Newcastle. It’s quite an astonishing thing when you think about it, given the almost ‘backwater’ status that the town once held.
A symbol of the North
And there’s more. What is the most iconic symbol of the region today? The Tyne Bridge? Well maybe, but if it is so then Gateshead can certainly claim its share of this wonderful eminence of solid steel.
However, arguably the most internationally recognised symbol of the whole region, let alone Tyneside today, is the Angel of the North. In fact it might even be described as the symbol of the entire North of England and it’s right here in Gateshead. Well, where else?
Even down on the river, the Tyne Bridge is now somewhat challenged in the admiration stakes by the Gateshead Millennium Bridge which tellingly includes the town as part of its name. Its modern elegant gleaming white arch certainly seems to connect with the companion buildings of Sage and BALTIC on the south shore a little more so than perhaps it does with even the most modern quayside buildings on the Newcastle side.
Being a pedestrian bridge it is also, in human terms, the most effective link between the two ‘toons’ if we are to insist on that humbling dialect term for a community’s civic status. By comparison the magnificent Tyne Bridge, though undoubtedly the greatest symbol of ‘home’ for many a Tynesider, seems designed, despite its symbolism, to carry traffic through and away from the two places as much as it serves in bringing the two communities together.
Of course it is the central business districts or retail centres that are often most identified as the heart of any city. Northumberland Street and Eldon Square, which though both pleasing, could, let’s be honest, be located almost anywhere, as much-loved as they are. They are as seemingly as popular as ever but it is reasonable to ask what they might look like in fifty years time considering the new era of online commerce which we are, in generational terms, still only just entering.
In fairness, retail seems to be one area where central the town is unlikely to challenge Newcastle. The modern Trinity Square in Gateshead town centre is certainly not on a scale intended to do so, although the out-of-town MetroCentre has given Newcastle town centre more than a run for its money for some decades now.
Today we often hear the two places now described under one name ‘Newcastle-Gateshead’. This initiative to market and develop the two as one seems to have been broadly accepted, at least for now. Might there come a day when the modern ‘city’ of Gateshead demands recognition and perhaps even a senior status in its own right? A place distinct from its grand, handsome but ageing partner across the water?
Well, maybe not, but who would have thought thirty years ago that Gateshead could have developed into what it has become today?
The Land of Oak & Iron is a vast region rich in natural and industrial heritage and is right on the doorstep of some of the most populous parts of the North East. DAVID SIMPSON explores.
Have you ever visited the Land of Oak & Iron? Perhaps you have without realising. This is after all a land covering around 177 km2 of North East England and features a wonderful wealth of ‘heritage, history, heroes and habitats’.
Focused on the beautiful Derwent Valley this land encompasses parts of County Durham, Northumberland and the Borough of Gateshead and is a superb part of the region to relax and explore on foot or bike and all within easy reach of Tyneside and many of the most populous parts of the North East.
Recently we visited the plush new Land of Oak & Iron Heritage Centre and the adjoining independent café Shrub which are very easy to reach just off the A694 at Winlaton Mill between Consett and Gateshead. In the sunny Autumnal sunshine there were plenty of people enjoying good food in the café – much of which is sourced from North East producers, while others were trying their hand at wood-engraved print-making in the heritage centre, courtesy of visiting demonstrator, Shona Branigan of Salmon Jam Press.
The centre and café look out onto the beautiful wooded Derwent Valley with its extensive network of pathways that are popular with cyclists, dog walkers and families out for a stroll. Formed as a landscape partnership, the Land of Oak & Iron is hosted by Groundwork NE & Cumbria and with £3.4 million of secured funding, is undertaking a programme of fourteen interconnected projects to conserve, enhance and encourage accessibility to the area’s unique cultural and natural assets. The developments began in 2016 and will continue all the way into 2020.
The opening of the café and heritage centre in October 2018 has been an important milestone in these developments and the centre is a good starting point to explore the whole area. However it’s about much more than just one place. This is the heart of a region that stretches north west from the wooded valley of Allensford near Consett along the beautiful Derwent to where the little river joins the Tyne at Swalwell. From there the region stretches west along the Tyne to Cherryburn the one time home of famed eighteenth century engraver, Thomas Bewick.
Bewick is just one of the many local heroes associated with the Land of Oak & Iron. Others include the fraternity of seventeenth century German sword makers who settled at Shotley Bridge; the renowned industrialist, Ambrose Crowley; the ‘Unhappy Countess’, Mary Eleanor Bowes of Gibside and the ‘pitman poet’ Tommy Armstrong.
In terms of heritage, the landscape speaks for itself. Extensive woodland includes Chopwell Wood, Milkwellburn Wood and the Thornley Woodlands which are typical landscape features of the district. In fact in the old Brythonic tongue of the Celts, the name Derwent means ‘oak river’ and is testament to the long-established sylvan nature of the district.
Improved access to woodland, encouraged through the work of Access & Woodlands Officer, Peter Downes, works to assist and support local owners of small woodlands and is another successful aspect of the Partnership’s work, bringing owners of adjoining woodlands together. According to Kath Marshall-Ivens, Community Engagement Officer at Groundwork NE and Cumbria, the area covered by the partnership has a 13% woodland cover which is higher than the national and regional average. It includes a number of PAWS (Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites), which are sites that were ancient woodland but have been replanted in more recent years. Ancient woodland is that which has existed continuously since 1600 or before.
There are four country parks within the whole area, namely Derwent Walk, Derwenthaugh, Allensford, and Tyne Riverside and there are additional visitor centres at Thornley Woods and The Lodge Heritage Centre at Consett and Blackhill Park.
The numerous landscape features and habitats across this beautiful region include wildflower meadows like Blaydon’s Shibdon Meadow which lies in close proximity to the MetroCentre, adjoining the Shibdon Ponds nature reserve. Further to the west near Prudhoe are the intriguingly named ‘Spetchells’ to the south of the Tyne which in the North East form a unique chalk meadow landscape created from the spoil heaps of a former chemical works that stood on the site. As well as interesting fauna the Spetchells form a special habitat for solitary mining bees.
Industry has certainly played a role in shaping the landscape of the Land of Oak & Iron. The Derwent Walk pathway that forms the primary walking and cycling route through the whole area follows the course of a Victorian railway that linked the former iron town of Consett to Tyneside. Many of the smaller pathways of the network follow the routes of colliery wagonways some of which date back to the 1700s and 1600s.
Major heritage features in the region are often reminders of its important links to the iron industry and include the early eighteenth century remains of Allensford Blast Furnace near Consett and the impressive Derwentcote Steel Furnace of the 1730s near Hamsterley Mill. We also have the rare and curious Whinfield Coke Ovens near Chopwell Wood, built by the owners of the Victoria Garesfield Colliery in the 1860s.
Other heritage features within the Land of Oak & Iron include two major National Trust sites in the form of Thomas Bewick’s cottage at Cherryburn which stands in a splendid rural setting and of course the wonderful parkland of Gibside near Rowlands Gill including the magnificent Palladian chapel and much else besides. Somewhere between the two we have a major English Heritage site in the shape of the twelfth century Prudhoe Castle, reputedly the only castle in the North East never to have been captured by the Scots.
A lesser-known heritage site that forms a lovely independent attraction is the Path Head Water Mill, a restored operational water mill complete with a working water wheel and adjoining mill pond. Parts of the mill were salvaged from mills at Acomb and Guyzance in Northumberland and it forms a super attraction in lovely grounds near the valley of the Blaydon Burn.
Perhaps a more surprising heritage feature of the Partnership area are the remains of the thirteenth century medieval manor house called Old Hollinside Manor near Whickham. It was known as the ‘Giant’s Castle’ because the men folk of the Harding family who once resided here were noted for being so tall in stature.
The River Derwent and Tyne are of course an important aspect of the area’s cultural, industrial and natural heritage. In recent years improvements have been made to the Derwent as a habitat for fish and this has been one of the partnership’s most publicised projects. Salmon and Sea Trout can now migrate much further upstream to lay their eggs after the development of a rock pool fish pass at Lintzford, overseen by the Tyne Rivers Trust.
Opened in November 2016, the new fish pass complements the existing 300 year old weir that had previously blocked the migration of the fish. Another fish pass will be created upstream at Shotley Grove and this will open up the whole river for spawning and have a positive impact on trout and salmon numbers in the valley and even out at sea.
Towns such as Consett, Rowlands Gill, Ryton, Whickham, Blaydon and Prudhoe all lie within the Land of Oak & Iron as well as several smaller villages. The proximity of neighbouring Tyneside make this all the more important as a region of natural and industrial heritage in close proximity to so many thousands of people.
Community involvement has been a major factor in the success of the Land of Oak & Iron Partnership and has included outreach programmes to local schools with sessions aimed at exploring the industrial and natural heritage of the area.
Notable creations associated with links to schools include the composition of a song and also the creation of an orchestral piece both inspired by the landscape of the area. In addition there has been much work in partnership with Gateshead College aimed at engaging with the landscape, with projects including photography and work for building students in the conservation of the industrial heritage sites.
Although the projects will be completed in 2020, the legacy and community involvement will continue far beyond with a ‘legacy group’ ensuring that the wonderful Land of Oak & Iron can be explored, enjoyed, understood and appreciated for many generations to come.
Main Partners Land of Oak & Iron Partnership: County Durham Community Foundation; Durham County Council; Durham Wildlife Trust; English Heritage; Gateshead College; Groundwork NE and Cumbria; New Visions Heritage; Northumberland County Council; Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust; Tyne River Trust; The Woodland Trust. Other partner organisations include: Blaydon Youth and Community Centre; Friends of Chopwell Wood, Heritage Lottery Fund; Industrial Heritage Networks; Newcastle Gateshead Initiative and Visit County Durham.
Have you visited the Land of Oak & Iron?
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