Month: October 2019

Our Heritage, Traditions & Culture

In Northumberland we are undoubtedly proud of our history, however we are equally passionate about our heritage and our culture and you will find Northumberland is steeped in many traditions. From our own tartan to our unique small pipes, from our flag to our sword and clog dancing, and not to mention our well known accent and dialect!

Our wonderfully colourful and distinct yellow and red flag dates from the 7th century, it has a chequered history and the pattern is thought to represent the interlocking stones of Hadrian’s Wall. The flag is quite rightly, only allowed to be hung within the County of Northumberland!

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Northumberland flag

A lesser known of our traditions is the Northumbrian Rapper Sword dance with the dance originally performed by miners in the pit villages of Northumberland and County Durham, however this traditional dance is now performed and can be seen worldwide. The Northumbrian traditional clog dancing was first performed by mill workers back in the 19th century and mimicked the noise of the looms going back and forth and then subsequently taken up by miners where it became a more distinctive ‘pedestal style’ dance with little upper body movement meaning that sometimes the top of a beer barrel would used as a tiny stage.

It’s smart and it’s ours! The black and white Shepherd or Border plaid is the official tartan of the Northumberland. It was actually originally woven with natural black and white sheep’s wool, before natural plant dyes were later used to produce the distinctive check we see today. The pattern itself is thought to be one of the oldest known tartans and is even thought to date back to roman times. You will find some lovely Northumberland Tartan gifts in many local shops….the perfect keepsake to take home to remind you of your visit!

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Proud of our Northumberland tartan

The Northumbrian small pipes are a melodious bellows-blown bagpipe, and they have been an important factor in our local musical culture for more than 200 years. They are rather quiet and more softly spoken in comparison to other bagpipes and are normally played indoors. The full history to this small part of our heritage can be found in the Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum

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Northumbrian Small Pipes

I’m born and bred Northumbrian and I have the accent and the dialect that goes with that. Officially, the Northumbrian dialect was one of Old English spoken in the Anglian Kingdom of Northumbria. It is today a dialect with a long tale to tell which is full of tradition and now even with it’s own Society to ensure that part of our culture doesn’t disappear.

We know that to many we’re just Geordies or Scottish and I’ve even heard it confused with Irish, we are however most definitely Northumbrian. Following a couple of confused looks from guests wondering what I meant by “you’ll need to wear your boots because the gateway is clarty”, I’ve put together a small selection of local words and phrases in the hope that they’ll help you when you visit us!

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  • Canny – pretty, nice or good
  • Clarty – muddy
  • Howay – come on
  • Howay man – general term of encouragement to hurry up
  • Hoy – pass or throw (not to be confused with Gannin’ on the Hoy which is to going out to consume vast amounts of alcohol)
  • Bubble – to cry
  • Hinny – wife or female
  • Gadgie – adult male
  • Stott – to throw an object (not to be confused with stottie which is large flat bread used to make a large sandwich
  • Clamming – really hungry
  • Hacky – dirty
  • Haddaway – go away
  • Plodge – wade, splash or paddle (often in the clarts)
  • Chocker – full
  • Bait – food
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Our daughter proudly demonstrating plodging in the clarts

Of course across Northumberland the dialect, the sounds and pronunciation alter, and there are four main dialects you will find across our region. Tyneside the classic ‘Geordie’, Southern which is known as Pitmatic and heard around Ashington and south-east Northumberland. There’s Northern which is North of the Coquet through Alnwick and up to Berwick, and of course our own area, Western, which is from Allendale through Hexham and up to Kielder.

Our history and heritage is rich, our culture is unique and we hope when you visit us, you enjoy all Northumberland has to offer. Each year in April, our heritage and culture are celebrated, The Morpeth Northumberland Gathering is a true gathering of people who come together to enjoy the traditional culture of Northumberland and the wider NE region. It features concerts, dance, crafts, battle re-enactments, dialect, stories, drama, workshops, sessions, singarounds, competitions, stalls, bell-ringing, orienteering, tours, walks, talks and street performances. The 2020 event will take place from 17th-19th April and will be a true Northumberland spectacle…why not join us and revel in our heritage and culture…’Howay man, BOOK NOW, it’ll be a canny good weekend!’