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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 sing a fisher folk song.
Gordon & Bobby:
'[The] Bay is very beautiful an full o biggar-man
I'll tak ma scoo an scanty an try the fleuks again
Ah'm almost in starvation, Bunks in Queer Street now
So I must mak an effort to find a chow
Frost or snow won't stop me, an gales Ah divnae fear
For if the tide be soutin, Ah'll leave luck til ma gear
Maybe Ah'll get a quarter, maybe a troutie as weel
An then Ah'll see the barman in Balblair Hotel
Wi silver in ma pocket an oatmeal in ma scoo
Ah'll tramp gladly homeward like cadgers always do
An when Ah reach the bothie so sair an tired I am
Ah'll keep the home fires burnin an fry the ham
An then to bed as usual, three, four pints o beer
It's best to tak things easy, we'll no be always here
Oh wha would slave like Storum or stare like Jessie Poose?
There's little sense in savin pence for Chenrey Hoose.'
Bobby: Chenrey [Chanonry] Hoose was a workhouse.
Gordon: Was the workhouse. Aye. It wis the poorhouse we called it
Click here to download Am Baile's booklet on the Cromarty Fisherfolk Dialect
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