Accent!

Media

There are currently 37 dialects in the UK

While we are waiting for the venerable Mr Tim Goodman to un-self-isolate so that the audio version of ‘Oranges & Lemons’ can make its way to its listeners, let’s consider the voice for a few minutes.

‘Accent!’ Max Adrian, the producer in Ken Russell’s ‘The Boy Friend’ yells from the wings at Twiggy, who instantly switches from a Gor Blimey working class voice to an ‘Aye say, aye wonder orfly if you’d maind’ tone on stage. Is it a solely British habit, the conscious upscaling and downscaling of the voice depending on whom we’re talking to? At the last count there were 37 separate dialects in the UK. Why do we assume some of them give away our class?

We did not have a television until I was about seven, and in those becalmed times listened to a lot of radio. Those transmitted voices of childhood are more memorable to me than their modern equivalents, partly due to RADA, partly Received Pronunciation. Actors spoke the words of writers; now everyone is a comedian, but that’s not the same as acting out the words.

The word Reithian has come to mean enlightening, improving and aspirational. It certainly defines early television and radio. John Charles Walsham Reith, 1st Baron Reith, felt that the media should be used to educate. I’m glad he’s not around to see ‘The Kardashians’. It’s because of him that everyone was upper class on early television, and Sunday nights were devoted not to religion but to intellectual discussion.

My speaking voice is close to Received Pronunciation, which is regionally neutral and middle class, probably because I worked around actors for so many years. True RP can be heard in Laurence Olivier, Patrick Stewart, Celia Johnson and Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge. It occurs in the delightful oddity ‘Stop Press Girl‘, 1947.  A more exaggerated theatrical version turns up in the films of Nöel Coward. This is the RP of rolling ‘R’s and crisp ‘T’s, and the odd flattening of certain double vowels. RP is about clarity, which is useful for being understood.

Actors have better comic voices than comedians because they understand which words should be clipped or elongated for amusing effect. Working with Kenneth Williams taught me a lot about the power of the voice, as he kindly coached me through scripts to make them funnier. Fruity voices like those of Hattie Jacques, Betty Marsden and Joan Sims were perfect for making even the flattest dialogue funny.

As social mobility increased along with the nation’s physical mobility in the age of cheap cars, the desire to reform working class accents and secure a better job resulted in many taking singing and elocution lessons.

‘We are all middle class now’

It was all about class, of course. A Birmingham accent is still considered guttural and working class and many try to lose it via speech coaching. (It’s common to the French, too. Try a blunt Niçoise or Alsace accent.) By rounding off the harder edges we create a more commonly accepted mode of speech. I once knew a brilliant writer with a strong cockney accent. He could clear a room by opening his ‘Norf and Sarf’. His favourite party trick was to lure in snobbish graduates who would underestimate him, then intellectually smash them.

If the RP accent softened over time, so did the working class dialect, shifting from far more musical rounded vowels to flattened monotone ones. I do wonder if this removal of tonal colour from language has something to do with a fear of being too flamboyantly emotional. Much of the change is connected to speakers of one language coming into contact with those who speak a different one. The most common accent I hear in Central London is also my favourite; a muted glottal-free tone used by black kids which feels like the true successor to cockney.

At an exhibition of oral history at the Museum of London, the curators realised it would be challenging simply having visitors standing around listening to the equivalent of old radio plays. Instead they recorded the local memories of 100 year-old East End residents and relayed them through telephones of the correct period, so it felt as if you were receiving a call from a relative, and created intimacy.

In the TV show ‘Toast’, failed Shakespearian actor Matt Berry is reduced to doing voiceovers for TV ads but can never allow himself to be populist. The traditional voice coaching of his RADA years refuses to leave him. The more actors emote the more they project and the slower their readings get, which means we have to cut their scripts.

For many years it was felt that the female voice when broadcast had ‘less authority’ than the male voice. The number of female voiceover artists could be counted on one hand. Some supplemented their pay by recording explicit audio tapes for sex shops in plummy ‘posh’ voices. When I asked one female voiceover artist what that had been like she said, ‘It taught me to enunciate clearly with two fingers in my mouth.’

Children’s voices of either sex are routinely played by women. Certain actors like the velvet-throated Bill Mitchell became famous for a particular tone of deep voice. Mitchell was one of the few artists in London who could handle a decent US accent, but he was in fact Canadian. Bill owed his voice to chugging whisky and smokes. He is no longer with us.

After years of being unable to sound American, UK actors perfected US regional accents after teaching methods changed. US actors who struggle with UK accents complain most about the following words;

Aunt – Castle – Ask – Answer – Afternoon – Perhaps – Nasty

English still contains words that will trip up the smoothest talkers. ‘Idiosyncracies’ is apparently one. Today’s children suffer from Word Poverty. Studies have shown that the average English native speaker knows about 20,000 words, with university-educated people knowing around 40,000 words. When actually speaking this goes down to about 5,000 very common words used repeatedly. Some children start school knowing 6,000 words, others just 500. 

Nobody knows how many words there are in English. It’s possible there are two million. I would quite like to learn all of them.

 

 

 

47 comments on “Accent!”

  1. snowy says:

    This seems to be big at the moment, a utterly self-obsessed snowflake managed to string the subject out into a 30 minute radio programme last week.

    Her thesis was that it was completely unfair that she should have to modify her mode of speaking so that she could be clearly understood by the other 64.99 million people that don’t happen to speak her personal form of ‘Urban Gibberish’.

    Accent and dialect are not the same thing, but they are linked by customary use/historical association.

    Accent is the way you speak, dialect is the words you use. I have an accent, it’s quite soft, and hard for a non-local to spot, if I was to read one of Bill’s sonnets most people couldn’t place me at all. But if a keen eared listener were to listen to my normal speech, they would quickly pick up dozens of small vocal tics, [initial and terminal letter swallowing, under and over aspiration, specific idioms etc.], that would place me within 10 miles. [Well almost, Granny came from another county and was a country girl, so there is a slice of that mixed in and she was also fluent in ‘U’ so those together skew me a bit East and South from where I actually grew up].

    The spread of RP was considerably driven by technology, or rather the initial limitations of, but because most researchers are focused on linguistics they frequently miss the connection.

    [Be very afraid, I might explain this at great length later!]

    A question for people in other Anglophone countries, is or was there an equivalent to RP in your country? Standard American, Standard Australian, Standard Canadian etc. [Of particular interest is when it arose and when it began to fade away].

  2. brooke says:

    Standard American, yes. Arose in late 40s movies and really took off with mass TV shows. Listen to early Ed Sullivan shows —that was SA, especially female announcers. Men were allowed to have regional accents–hence John Wayne type accent. I grew up in deep South; broadcasters with our local TV stations managed their Southern accents as they were affiliated with national networks and would have no chance of promotion with non-standard accents. Indeed anyone with Southern accent was the butt of jokes. SA began to fade away in early seventies, possibly as entertainment/media became more diverse.

    The US has always had a diversity of accents and dialects among regions. As with Londoners, a person’s accent ) places their origins in a section of the city. Dialect places your class and race.

  3. Liz Thompson says:

    My first husband had three modes of speech. Broad Yorkshire dialect, unintelligible for non native speakers (he came from Holmfirth); grammar school ‘correct’ English without dialect or noticeable accent; and the splendid (!) Oxford University accent he acquired there. He invariably used the last when answering the phone, switching if it turned out he knew the caller. The first was used to his fellow cricketers in the local team, and at the local pub. Grammar school speak was for work. I’m from lower middle class Northamptonshire, with minimal accent or dialect, although northerners accused me of being from Birmingham when I first moved to Yorkshire. I can’t mimic accents, though I did learn a lot of true dialect words. Even now, Leeds people can tell I’m no local but an off-cummed-un.

  4. Frances says:

    The first 16 years of my life I lived in the USA. It is the only English speaking country I have lived in, although English is my mother tongue and was always spoken at home by my British parents. Our accents were totally different. My accent is a sort of mid-Atlantic. Americans think I am one of them but cannot pin down the area of the country I am from. Sometimes they think I am Canadian.

    I was interested to learn that Sandi Toksvig’s true accent is American, as she spent her early tears in the USA. She learned to speak with a British accent for personal and professional reasons but falls into the American one when tired or emotional. I cannot, for the life of me, do a British accent although I am British. Perhaps I should take lessons!

  5. John Griffin says:

    Broad NE Lancs/West Riding border that re-asserts itself on exposure, rendering some of my teaching a little problematic. “Sir, what’s the Rochdale Pioneers cope?”, “Sorry sir, you want a coak?”, having “no way” mistaken for Norway and so on.

  6. Helen Martin says:

    Canadian is weird. There are areas of strong accent – rural Ontario, parts of Nova Scotia & New Brunswick and rural Newfoundland – but as radio and television have penetrated those accents are fading. My father in law came from Nfld in 1922 straight to the Fraser Valley in B.C. It dawned on me that he had virtually no accent so I asked if the kids at school had teased him. “About what?” No, he couldn’t remember anything like that. Odd, because he’d have had a strong one with dialect add-ons as well.
    My Mother, born in Sask. of an American father and a Mother with English roots (I can’t find where those Paxmans came from), was accused of “talking funny” by school mates. The area was full of English and American people so who knows what they meant.
    My father, born in Vancouver of a Scottish born coal miner and a “genteel” Scotch English Ontarian had no accent I ever noticed or anyone ever mentioned. I can’t remember his father’s voice but his mother was quite precisely spoken, soft but precise.
    Accent was something we didn’t pay attention to, just whether a person was easy to understand or not. Mother said to speak properly, to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’, not ‘yeah’ and ‘nope’ so we wouldn’t sound like ‘country hicks’.
    In teacher training I remember a Swiss born student being told he should take a speech class to reduce his accent because , “You wouldn’t want the class copying your speech, would you?” He asked me afterwards if I thought he had a bad accent and I said that he did have an accent but I had no trouble understanding him. A fellow congregant asked me if I was born in England or had gone to a private school because of my accent. My mother’s stress on precise pronunciation?
    In the last years of my teaching career I had kids telling me I spoke too quickly and I was aware of reducing my vocabulary for them. Eighty per cent of the students were technically ESL, mostly from SE Asia or China. Some days I felt as if I had a rope tied to my tongue.
    Even teachers. Did you know there is now no difference between “less” and “fewer”? I find myself correcting television and radio people even as I listen to them.
    You have to use an illiterate level of usage or have a strong foreign accent before people think less of you, probably because people can move easily up and down the classes here. Upper class English accents rub people the wrong way probably from days when that accent was common in upper government circles and for a while on the CBC. These days I can even be heard saying “yeah” although my reading aloud is positively commented upon.

  7. brooke says:

    “…..I would quite like to learn all of them (words in English language).” Why? They won’t come when you call them, for all Humpty Dumpty’s claims about being mastery. They are illusions–combinations of 26 signs evolving over a long period of time. Tomorrow we will use different signs and combinations. Anyone read Anglo-Saxon or Old English?

  8. snowy says:

    The Paxman name seems to occur predominately in the Risbridge area of Suffolk [77], London [33] mostly Whitechapel area, a few in Essex [20] and then random scatters of less than [10].

    [Provisional based on Surname only – 1837-1911; a first name might narrow it down a bit].

    Learning all the words in English would be a folly, most of them are technical and of limited use.

  9. Dawn Andrews says:

    Bill Bailey did a sketch where Darth Vadar spoke in the voice of the actual man in the mask, broad Devonshire, Took the edge off the dark side.

  10. Roger says:

    Robert Newton in his pirate roles managed to give a dark side to a West country accent, Dawn Andrews.

  11. Dawn Andrews says:

    I’ll grant you that it works for pirates, Roger. Robert Newton was the best Long John Silver, ever.

  12. Helen Martin says:

    Snowy, instead of combing the rolls for the record of a known (presumed) marriage and a known birth, perhaps I should just have asked you! Well, I’ll go into it again as my genealogy friend urges me. When I did it before I read about the bullock in the London china shop, the theft of a roll of silk from a London shop and the hanging of an 18 year old for arson during the Captain Swing era. I couldn’t connect any of them, but who knows, perhaps a second time through will do it. Your interest in peculiar incidentals is incredible. Thank you.

  13. Peter Dixon says:

    Saw a sign in a charity furniture shop yesterday saying ‘Chester draws £30’. In the nearby greengrocer’s ‘Brokerley’ was £1.00 per head. Are these an example of accent, dialect, poor education or just total ignorance?
    Many people say that correct spelling is not needed these days but some words carry more weight than others. I would hate to have someone in power who can’t tell the difference between ‘unclear’ and ‘nuclear’.

  14. admin says:

    Surely the more words there are for us to spoke, the subtler our refinements in degree and being able to exactly describe what we want and feel – cf. reduction of language in ‘1984’.

  15. Brooke says:

    ” the more words there are for us…” Ah, Humpty’s argument again. Clarity (thought, logic and grammar) should precede profusion. Winston (1984) finds himself in Rm 101 because he starts to think for himself, to make connections, not because he has a broad, refined vocabulary. Orwell’s point is similiar to Hannah Arendt’s (banality of evil); give people a few slogans/memes to relieve them of the responsibility of thinking and you can control them. In the Age of BoJo and the Reign of Donald, one can appreciate Orwell’s thesis.

    “…describe what we want and feel..” For what purpose? Are our interactions with the world confined solely to expressing our individual wants and feelings?

    “…I would quite like to learn all of them (words).” Channeling Susanna Clarke/Piranesi? Funny– reviewers have not picked up on Jungian interpretations.

  16. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    My grandad was born in Bristol, but moved to London as a child and lived in Southwark for most of his life.
    He spoke Cockney, but the West Country sometimes broke through.

    ‘ One, two, three, four, five, six, sebm’

  17. snowy says:

    If you can tie your missing person into one of these three groups, then cross matching with Birth and Marriage will provide a Registration district and from there jump over to the census for Town/Village. [But you knew that already!]

    Ship: GANGES
    Port of Arrival: Quebec, Quebec; Montreal, Quebec
    Date of Arrival: 1870/07/13

    178327 PAXMAN David

    178363 PAXMAN Daniel 43
    178364 PAXMAN Elizh 46
    178365 PAXMAN Abraham 22
    178366 PAXMAN Marshall 20
    178367 PAXMAN Rhoda 13
    178368 PAXMAN Emily 11
    178369 PAXMAN Elizth 9
    178370 PAXMAN Arthur 6
    178371 PAXMAN Eleanor 3
    178372 PAXMAN Alice 1

    Ship: HANOVERIAN
    Port of Arrival: Halifax, NS
    Date of Arrival: 1883-05-00

    1077690 Paxman James 42
    1077691 Paxman Emily 32
    1077692 Paxman Fred 24
    1077693 Paxman Albert 11
    1077694 Paxman Mable 2

    Ship: CANADA
    Port of Arrival: Quebec City
    Date of Arrival: 1907-06-00

    2591201 Paxman Fredk 30
    2591202 Paxman Mary 26
    2591203 Paxman Mary 7
    2591204 Paxman Fredk 6
    2591205 Paxman Albert 3
    2591206 Paxman Charles 1

    [It could be your one snuck over the border from the US and isn’t listed above at all].

  18. Peter T says:

    Of all the people that I’ve known, one of the most articulate men with a perfect RP accent was far from the most able. He did quite well for himself, though most who were close to him knew his failings. I’ve met a Merseysider, a Glaswegian and a Black Countryman who were brilliant, in spite of their incomprehensible speech. The Merseysider used the verb ‘after’ even in written English. To after = must or have to.

  19. Johannes says:

    Dear Mr. Fowler

    Another word, Americans complain about would be “schedule” 🙂
    To be honest: I’d really like to ask something totally unrelated to this article:
    You mentioned in another comment section, that you designed the “Johnny Mnemonic” lenticular quad poster back in ’95 and long story short:
    I love lenticulars and would love even more to be able to make an offer to your friend to whom you gave this poster.
    I know this is rather unusual but I wanted to try nonetheless.

    All the best to you

    Johannes

  20. admin says:

    Johannes, my pal Roger had been coveting the poster for many years so I presented it to him, and now it’s on his living room wall along with his other collectables (including an astonishing SF poster of his wife).

  21. Helen Martin says:

    Snowy, your generosity knows no end. Have your usual sources of detailed research failed you? The Hanoverian Paxmans are mine. James and Emily are husband and wife and Mabel is their daughter. The other two are alleged to be James’ young brothers, coming out to help in the settling in and getting a look at this strange world. They were urban people (so I’m not thinking village types) to the extent that leaving Regina with an oxcart the “boys” tried to whip the oxen up to a trot. It must have amused the locals no end. This end of the story is clear but there is no reference on the ship manifest to any place of origin other than “England” and the quarterly rolls don’t show either Mabel’s birth or her parents’ marriage. Rumour has it that they ran some sort of iron mongery and were burned out twice. You’d think that would put them in public news but there doesn’t seem to be anything so far. I’m mostly following this up out of curiosity and to validate what research skills I have but you find such fascinating things along the way that it’s hard to pull away from it, especially now that so many things are on line.

  22. Helen Martin says:

    My apologies to the community for this muttering on the side of the group.

  23. Peter T says:

    Helen, Don’t worry. We’re all following the the story with great interest. Beats soap opera.

  24. snowy says:

    Well 20 mins flicking around databases yields a little more, but the notes are long and messy.

    A short version:

    Mabel Anna Paxman was registered in the Sept 1879 quarter in Plomesgate Suffolk, [the only Mabel between 1840-90].

    You could try looking at Mabel in the 1881 Suffolk census, that places her among relatives/family context, the bit I can see from the outside of the paywall is limited to:

    Name: Mabel Paxman
    Age: 1 [Note: Ages were rounded down to whole years, she could have been almost 2]
    Born In: 1880 [Note: If YoB was derived from rounded age, may not be entirely reliable]

    Emily is more likely to be a sister than a wife, [but the distinction gets a bit… blurry when you get out Norfolk/Suffolk way… allegedly].

  25. Andrew Holme says:

    Lovely photo of the two Ronnies and Cleese, who seems to be desperately holding in the giggles. After he left Python and before Fawlty Towers Cleese did a series as Les Dawson’s straight man, ( we all know this, right?) and some of their sketches together are very funny with both performers, sometimes, on the verge of hysterics.

  26. Dawn Andrews says:

    Chester draws made me chuckle, a bit sadly though. My great grandmother was Cornish, my grandmother had a hybrid Cornish/Welsh accent that was very musical and great for belting out hymns. She was very Chapel.

  27. Johannes says:

    Hi there

    Totally understand of course! and I bet it looks awesome (especially when backlit.)
    Well if you should ever come across another one…I’m here ☺️

    Best

    Johannes

  28. snowy says:

    Mabel is a bit strange, [Yes… somebody got bored!]

    Name: Mabel Paxman
    Age: 1
    Estimated Birth Year: abt 1880
    Relationship to Head: Daughter
    Father: George Paxman
    Mother: Eleanor Paxman
    Gender: Female
    Where born: Wickham Mkt, Suffolk, England
    Civil Parish: Wickham Market
    County/Island: Suffolk
    Country: England
    Street Address: White Hart Yard
    Registration District: Plomesgate

    Household Members:
    Name Age
    George Paxman 34
    Eleanor Paxman 34
    Louisa Paxman 11
    Ann S. Paxman 8
    Alice E. Paxman 6
    George E. Paxman 3
    Mabel Paxman 1

    Could be a different Mabel?

    Could be ‘Mabel on the boat’ is a family name ie. not the name under which she was registered?
    Could have been adopted unofficially from a relative overburdened with children?

  29. snowy says:

    LOOK! LOOK! There is a new post about books and films!! Over there ->

    *Looks around — nobody here*

    Oh! Mabel where are you hiding?

    1901 Can Census

    Household Members:
    Name Age
    James Paxman 62 Head
    Emily Paxman 49 Wife
    Mable Champion 20 Dau
    Earnest J Paxman 17 Son
    Annie Paxman 11 Dau
    Rembler P Paxman 9 Too blurred
    William Harrison 1 Too blurred

    Apparently Mable/Mabel was married, but the records are ropier than Chatham Dockyard in the 1830s.

  30. Helen Martin says:

    (If I can stop laughing long enough.)
    These are my Paxmans. Oh. dear the truth will out. Mabel is always fluid in spelling and looking at those census records you will note the variety of writing styles/pens/ink – an education in itself.
    Annie Paxman is my grandmother, born and raised on the family homestead farm near Rouleau, Northwest Territory – later Saskatchewan (1905).
    There is some confusion about her marriage(s) since the Champion name belongs, I think, to a RNW policeman who didn’t have permission to marry (unless the Harrison was). Whichever it was it all got confused for me and I don’t know where the story of the man being found dead by the side of the road comes in. Mother kept a connection with the Champions – her cousins – and I think they ended up in B.C. near the Adams River. The Harrison boy is Mabel’s son. She came home with the baby at that point. Don’t ask me about Mr. Harrison.
    The Paxmans arrived on their homestead in June and that September Earnest was born, note the spelling. The Riel Rebellion came along a couple of years later but it was all north of them so I haven’t any stories.
    The rule was that a son could preempt land near his father and makae one large farm for the whole family – 140 acres, I believe. Ernest did that and joined the two together when his father died of a heart attack before 1900. Ernie farmed that land until he died. He never married but had a housekeeper named Mrs. Mink. She had a child when she came – a “widow”, but then it seemed she was separated from her husband so she rejoined him a few years later for a few months, then came back to Uncle Ernie with a baby. When Ernie died our family said the farm should go to the Minks. End of tattle.
    I always thought, once I knew he’d existed, that the name Rembler might have been a maiden name for Annie, since I couldn’t find information on her, but there are no stories because Rembler died of sickness of some sort in his early teens.
    Emily died of a strangulated hernia in the 1920s
    And that’s the family.

  31. Peter T says:

    Can you imagine Fred Dibnah with the voice of an old BBC news reader? Would the great man have had more impact?

  32. snowy says:

    Helen

    Do the middle names Doig Winnifred mean anything to you?

    I’ll let that hang there, I’m sure thousands of people are waiting for the latest Hot Mabel News!, [or most probably not].

    Mable seems to have been not shy with her favours, [if this source is to be believed, I’m not 100% convinced, but you take what you can get in this game].

    17 old year Mabel apparently had a…. liaison with William George Harrison in 1898.

    9 months later in the usual course of events, she produced a son William [2 Aug 1899].

    10 November 1899, William George makes her an honourable woman by marrying her.

    7 days later on the 17th he turns in his lunch pail for the final time, dead. [Add your own jokes about not surviving the Honeymoon].

    Flash forward to 4th April 1901, her widow’s weeds cast aside and decked in bridal finery Mabel now 19, marries Albert Edward Champion.

    Let joy be unconfined, for their union is blessed in January the following year [1902] by a son Albert.

    1904 her father dies.

    Something happens, for which there is no record, but her next 6 children bear the surname Todd. [the period 1906-1916]

    The very next record lists the death of her third husband: Charles Lee Todd [28 Dec 1922]

    [Treat with caution, this data comes from a tree compiled by somebody else, some of the links are not quite as firm as they could be.]

  33. Helen Martin says:

    Todd does not ring a bell, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t so. The Harrison stuff all fits and sounds right. I know I would find it in my research. I always thought she was more than a little risque and totally unlike the rest of the family (Great Uncle Ernie not excepted).
    Winnifred was Annie Paxman’s middle name and she gave it to her eldest daughter Elsie as a middle name. I don’t have my research handy at the moment but there is a memory of Doig from somewhere – a cousin?
    If you are reading on-line family trees one does have to be careful. An American somewhere tried to have my husband dead in Florida and must have got there by just seizing a Kenneth Martin of the right age at random.
    In any event, you have given me a few hints to be going on with.
    My husband reminded me that my grandmother was attending school on the Northwest Mounted’s Regina post when Sitting Bull and his entourage passed through heading to the U.S. border where they would be handed over to the U.S. cavalry.

  34. snowy says:

    It comes from a tree, [it even has pictures, the ladies all have strong square jaws.]

    There is a line for Annie, [I’ll just trim it to the very barest of details for here, should be enough for you to judge if it’s a match or not].

    Born 1889
    Husband’s first name is Martin aka Mark married 1908
    Children’s first names in order: Elsie, Mabel, Florence, Frederick
    Died 1975

    [New Para]

    “Dead by the roadside”

    Could this be G W Harrison? He died very suddenly, [perhaps a big gust of wind got under his massive Mountie hat and the strap strangled him??]

    Constable Wm. G. Harrison – Regimental #3010 N.W.M.P. Died November 11, 1899, Age 29

    There is a reference to a Coroners inquest, but it is only a 4 line summary [without source and the only attribution is to ‘Jack White’].

    1899

    “Supt. Deane was called to give evidence before the Coroner and said that criminal charges were pending against a member.

    Supt. Deane also said that the member had no reason to anticipate the charges.

    Supt. Deane was speaking about Reg. #3010 Constable Harrison.

    Constable Harrison was married on the afternoon prior to his sudden death”.

    [His DoD varies between 11 and 17, probably a transcription error].

    Gravestone: NWMP Field of Honour, Union Cemetery, Fort Mcleod, Alberta.

    [New Para]

    Running up this tree might throw light on why finding English records for ‘James Paxman’ is difficult. It’s not his name.

    Apparently he was born William James Stocks, he raises one family, his wife dies and he gets itchy feet.

    At some point he goes walkabout, marries Emma/Emily Summers, possibly goes under the name of Mr Summers for a bit, then Mabel is born.

    It’s on the boat going across? that he becomes James Paxman, [Paxman is his mother’s maiden name].

    [Usual disclaimer: this far back the records are flakier than the ‘Singing Detective’s’ socks, so big pinch of salt.]

    Poodle-Tip

  35. Ian Luck says:

    The great Fred Dibnah talking in capital letters like wartime newsreader John Snagge? Hmm.
    (and I understand that if you are not familiar with Fred Dibnah, then I apologise. He’s worth finding out about, though)
    A HUGE CHIMNEY CRASHES TO EARTH IN A CLOUD OF DUST. From the dust emerges a man in a flat cap and a dinner jacket. He holds two things: an old car horn, and a microphone which he handles expertly. It’s Frederick Dibnah. He addresses the watching crowd:
    “Did you find that sufficiently entertaining?”

  36. Ian Luck says:

    Fred used to drop chimneys, and would honk on an old rubber bulbed carhorn when it was about to fall. When the chimney was down, he’d usually emerge from a choking cloud of dust, and ask the watching crowds, without fail:
    “Did yer like that?”

  37. Helen Martin says:

    Regardless of the Singing Detective’s socks I will look into my (suddenly) strange Great Grandfather.
    I now have a verifiable source of info regarding Const. Harrison.
    So, I will also have to check into those brothers going around in their Mother’s maiden clothing. I might be able to find them later, too, because they went back to England.
    Martin Steen, my Grandfather, was Annie’s husband. He came from a German/Irish family.
    Your generosity is wonderful.

  38. snowy says:

    All the above should be treated with the usual caution, but you know that already.

    There aren’t many things left on the back of my envelope.

    I can’t link you to the tree directly, it is on a website called ‘Ancestry’ your friend will know it if you don’t.

    ‘James’ and Emily are apparently in Hampshire when Mable greets the world.
    [Birth 25 JAN 1882 Bournemouth, Hampshire, England]

    The account of the Coroner’s inquest sounds/looks like it has been culled from a newspaper, so Canadian Newspaper Archive? – there must be one/several.

    [A piece of info on UK records, Civil Registration only started in 1837, before that there are only Church records and they only start in 1637].

    And a side note, in May 1776: The French, ‘American’ and British armies are having a punch up over who gets to claim bits of would become Canada; meanwhile… one of the Paxman clan is doing saucy things with a woman in Calcutta.

    John Paxman, Constable of the Supreme Court, married Maria King at the Mission Church Calcutta on 17 May 1776. The climate and the exercise seemed to agree with him, they didn’t bury him until 22 Jan 1788. [Courtesy of India Office Records].

  39. Helen Martin says:

    I’m sure everyone else is long gone from here, but you have my thanks. I am taking my plum gin, mixing it with tonic water and having a slap up celebration tomorrow. Care to join me?

  40. Ian Luck says:

    Helen – I’m waiting to try something my brother’s partner’s mum is making: Greengage Gin. She has a Greengage tree that fruits prolifically – I love the fruit, but you can only munch through so many whilst reading a book. I’ll let you know what It’s like, when it’s ready, around Krampus time.

  41. Helen Martin says:

    Ian, my plums resulted in a very strong plum flavour. The tonic water was definitely the way to go. I had tried sparkling water and drinking it straight previously. Straight was too strong a plum and the sparkling water did nothing much. The husband is not particularly enamoured. I’ll be interested to hear about the greengage.

  42. snowy says:

    Too plummy?

    Add… add…moregin!

    Wassssssthequestionagain?Ivefoggotten.

    Hic!

    *slides under table*

  43. Helen Martin says:

    No, the tonic water gives a nice, mildly plummy drink and I’ll stick there. It’s beautifully red, too.

  44. snowy says:

    I can’t quite decide, [in my head], if it would would work with Ginger Ale as a mixer?

  45. Helen Martin says:

    Yes, we think that might work as well. Ian, there should be lots of ginger ale around when the greengage gin is ready. You might want to try it.

  46. Ian Luck says:

    Helen, that sounds a damn good idea. I prefer ginger beer to ale, but that might overpower it, so I’ll try the ale first.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *