Norwich launch of Keith Skipper dialect book

Lovers of the Norfolk dialect packed into Jarrold's Pantry restaurant, in Norwich, last night for the launch of journalist Keith Skipper's definitive book on the subject.

Come Yew on Tergether! traces the story of the dialect from the late 17th century when one of Norfolk's most famous adopted sons, Sir Thomas Browne, first noticed the place had a dialect of its own.

And it brings it right up to date to the current revival sparked by the formation of Friends of Norfolk Dialect in 1999.

The book highlights the role of Norfolk's newspapers in celebrating the regional dialect over the years through the Boy John Letters of comedian Sidney Grapes in the EDP and Maurice Woods's Harberts News from Dumpton column in the Norwich Mercury.

Mr Woods, EDP's London editor until he retired in 1980, was the guest of honour and lapsed into his dialect to delight the audience with a Harberts News update.

Although he admitted: 'I have a shocking confession; I am not a Norfolk man, I am a Suffolk man, and that makes it worse.'

However, he assured the gathering he was born and bred in Corton and 'North Suffolk people are Norfolk in disguise'.

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'Norwich is our city and the Norfolk Broads are our playground,' he said.

The 95-year-old recalled that as a child he often had to translate for the wealthy Londoners visiting in their Bentleys when they tried to speak to the local fishermen.

Norman Hart, chairman of the Friends of Norfolk Dialect, described Mr Woods's storytelling in dialect as 'music to my ears',

He said: 'The dialect is still very much alive. If you listen to the way people speak around here the pronunciation, the grammar and the rhythm are still there even if some of the vocabulary that reflected a different rural way of life has gone.'

Irreverently describing the occasion as 'the Booker Prize with squit', Mr Skipper said the dialect that was still alive as part of the Norfolk character made him realise he was in 'the right county with the right people'. He invited everyone to stay on for a mardle. It was left to EDP editor Peter Waters to launch the book, confessing it was difficult to follow EDP legends such as Mr Woods.

Describing the paper as 'the cultural flag for Norfolk', celebrating its heritage and history, he pledged always to maintain a platform for the county's dialect.

Publisher Adrian Bell, of Mousehold Press, said the book was his sixth collaboration with Mr Skipper, but this had been by far the longest in gestation.

He said: 'When I first met Keith he said, 'what I would love to do is get the best Norfolk dialect writing together over the centuries and publish it in a book'.'