John well versed in Norfolk dialect
Keith Skipper pays tribute to the life and work of a true champion of the Norfolk dialect – John Kett whose poetry will be be lasting legacy to our county.
That proud surname soaked in Norfolk history with more than tang of the countryside must have sparked both rhyme and reason for John Kett, a doyen of local dialect poetry who died aged 93 shortly before Christmas, to make his mark as the county's most successful dialect poet.
He delighted reflective readers and animated audiences for more than half-a-century as he gloried in deep local roots and a masterly touch for our precious vernacular in verse. Warmly encouraged by fellow dialect champions Dick Bagnall-Oakeley (another outstanding schoolteacher) and Eric Fowler (who starred as Jonathan Mardle in the EDP), he tied up rhythm, intonation and turn of phrase in a way never seen or heard before.
Four books of Norfolk delights earned John Kett an enduring reputation for lifting his subject matter well above the country yokel and 'bit of a larf' level. Tha's a Rum'un, Bor, Tha's a Rum'un, Tew, Wotcher Bor! and A Year Go By netted total sales of about 30,000 – remarkable figures for poetic offerings, not least those carrying a quaint brogue supposed to be dying out fast.
And just like those evergreen epistles drawn from the very heart of Norfolk country life, JK's verses will enlighten and entertain for generations to come because they are unpretentious, gently amusing and enhanced by a gloriously durable dialect, never swamped by it.
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His writing and performing stressed how a Norfolk man could have several sides, all of them equally challenging and uplifting. Employing his native tongue with its irrepressible humour and colourful vocabulary simply gave this village headmaster an extra qualification to impress.
Here is an example of his work:
- 1 Travellers camped at garden centre car park
- 2 Ex-head charged with sex attacks on boys at Norfolk school
- 3 'It's not even that short' - schoolboy, 14, put in isolation due to haircut
- 4 Tattoo studio owner fined after refusing to close in lockdown
- 5 'Someone will get hurt' - Frustration over pothole near Norwich surgery
- 6 Elton John to kick off UK leg of farewell tour at Carrow Road
- 7 James Bond themed windmill owned by 007 star for rent
- 8 'An insult to the city': Couple ditch 'hellhole' hotel after 45 minutes
- 9 Norwich City drop huge hint of global star gig at Carrow Road
- 10 Photo shows car inches from knocking cyclist off road
Bor, ha' yew noticed yew hin't far t'saarch
In Norfick, if yew wanter see a Chaach?
In Breckland, Broadland, fen-land, ennawhere,
Yew'll find'em, large an' small, some far, some near.
Jus' yew go uppa enna little hill.
An' yew'll see sav'rel Chaaches, that yew will.
I reckon that oon't dew fer us t'say
We can't git there corse tha's tew far away!
For more of John Kett's Norfolk dialect verse see the EDP Sunday supplement in this Saturday's EDP.