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The former royal burgh of Cromarty lies on the northern tip of the Black Isle peninsula, at the mouth of the Cromarty Firth in northeast Scotland. It is home to brothers Bobby and Gordon Hogg, descendants of a long line of local fisher folk. They can trace their ancestry back for centuries in the small coastal port. In the 1861 census there were no less than 96 Hoggs living in the Cromarty district and an entry for the family name in the Old Parish Register dates back as early as 1698.
Bobby and Gordon believe they are the last two fluent speakers of the 'Cromarty fisher dialect', a unique Scots dialect identified in Robert McColl Millar's study of 'Northern and Insular Scots' as 'North Northern A', mainly associated with the fishing communities of the Black Isle (Cromarty and Avoch) and other small towns and villages on the Cromarty Firth. It is said that at one time there were at least two, if not three, dialects in the Cromarty area - fisher, town, and farmer. While several Cromarty residents retain aspects of the fisher vocabulary, when Bobby and Gordon get together they converse fluently in the dialect.
In this audio extract from March 2007, Bobby and Gordon talk about the various Scots diminutive forms.
Interviewer: A lot o them are just em 'ie' at the end o the words like 'pailie' an, an that kinna thing. A 'paile' an a 'roadie'. Do you do that? 'Leggies'. D'you put 'ie' on at the end?
Bobby: Sometimes, aye, to make it small.
Gordon: Sometimes, aye, to small.
Bobby: Aye, there's qualifications, right?
Bobby: Like, for example -
Gordon: Bonnie leggies.
Bobby: A boy becomes a chiel, right? Then he becomes a chielag. Then he becomes a chielachie, right? An they all got different qualifications - different ages. But the 'achie' is the very last, right? Chielachie.
Gordon: Chielachie, aye.
Bobby: Chiel's quite common in the northeast o Scotland an that, right up to Caithness, for example, it's very common, yeh. Sometimes we used to be confused between - to be Wickers, ye know, because we - ye sounded the 'r's same way an one thing an another.
Interviewer: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Do you say 'til' for 'to'?
Bobby: Til, aye, aye. Aye. Aye. Til. Very often say that, aye.
Bobby: 'Ah'm awa til e kirk.'
Gordon: 'Awa til e kirk', aye.
Bobby: 'Ah'm awa til e kirk.' But it's the intonation an the speed they use that comes into it a lot of it, ye know?
Bobby: We've a, we've a lot o Doric in our, in our language. There's one or two Gaelic words have crept in too, but these are generally used.
Interviewer: Was it the same words for the girls?
Bobby: A 'demachie'.
Gordon: A demachie. A dem. A dem an a demachie.
Gordon: Lassachie, aye.
Bobby: All that kinna thing yeh. There's a burd, look! Oh, a burdie. Oh, a burdachie, burdachie, burdach. Oh there's a burdachie. Right? Ye know it goes on like that, right? Ye qualify, ye know, the size o it?
Gordon: If he was big we would say, 'Oh, he's a yocker, that.'
Gordon: Yocker -
Bobby: A big one.
Gordon: - is big.
Bobby: Something's big, 'Oh that's a yocker'
Gordon: That's a yocker, that.
Bobby: Ah don't know where that comes from, a yocker. Aye
Click here to download Am Baile's booklet on the Cromarty Fisherfolk Dialect
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