Northumberland writer wins award after being inspired by his London-based grandchildren to showcase region's dialect

A Northumberland writer is doing his bit to make sure the region’s unique language is not forgotten.

Paul Mein, from Warkworth, won first prize for a short story in the Lost Words Dialect Writing Competition.

His winning entry, ‘A canny day oot,’ was based on gathering bilberries in the Harbottle area.

The competition was organised by The Word, the National Centre for the Written Word, based in South Shields.

Paul Mein.

"I was over the moon to win,” said Paul, who runs writers groups in Amble and Alnwick and whose poetry collections and plays have been published in national and international magazines.

It also came as a complete surprise to Paul, who was born and brought up in the North East but spent many years living in the Midlands before returning to Northumberland some four years ago.

"The competition was postponed last year because of the Covid situation so it was about a year ago that I submitted it so I’d pretty much forgotten all about it,” he admitted.

He wrote it to remind his two London-based grandchildren of their North East heritage.

"They speak a very different language so some of the words I used they’d never heard of, never mind using them,” explained Paul.

"Even here in the North East, a lot of people have lost touch with some of the language that would have been used back in the day.”

Here’s a short extract from Paul’s story, ‘A Canny Day Oot’...

Ye’ll hev nae doot hord the sayin “Many a mickle myeks a muckle.”

Nowt sa true as when wa taakin aboot bilberries.

It teks yonks to fill a basket or pail with enough for a pie or tart. It’s not just that they’re deid smaal or that they hide away from yu; it’s just yu canna stop eatin them.

Thiv got a tyest like nee other.

The blueberries yu get in the shop are waatery. Bilberries explode in ya mooth. It myeks for slow progress in the gatherin.

Aa was up with the grandbairns in one o’ the best places for bilberries – the hill up to the Draakstone. Porple handed, porple moothed, we med wa way to the Stone, hunkered doon to watch the cloud scud ower Harbottle.

What a bonny place.

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