THE TOWN COUNCIL OF LOWER BORNAL
A SERIES OF SKETCHES ABOUT THE BLACK COUNTRY
|Boosting up Bornal||Ructions at the Rose and Crown||The Lords of Lower Bornal|
Black Country is the industrial region to the west of Birmingham in the Midlands
of England, made up of most of the four Metropolitan District Council areas of
Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton. It gained its name in the
mid-nineteenth century due to the smoke from the many thousands of ironworking
foundries and forges and the nature of the countryside which had been spoiled by
the working of shallow and relatively thick (30ft) coal seams.
The region was described as 'Black by day and red by night' by Elihu Burritt, the American Consul to Birmingham in 1862; other authors, from Dickens to Shenstone refer to the intensity of manufacturing in the Black Country and its effect on the landscape and its people and, not least its dialect and humour.
This site presents a little of the distinctive Black Country character in the form of a series of sketches, first performed in the 1940’s and compiled by Gerald Price (my father) from jokes and anecdotes in circulation during the period. These pieces are set up as meetings of the Town Council of Lower Bornal, a name derived from the district of Lower Gornal which lies at the heart of the region, and which still (unfairly) figures as the butt of many jokes.
The names of the council members, Aynock (Enoch), Ali (Eli, pronounced a-lie) and Isaac reflect the influence of the Old Testament, arising from the dominant Non-Conformist religious culture. The chapel lay close to the heart of community life, as reflected by several of the jokes. The sketches on this site however recall a more particular type of humour, one which generally arises from the distinctive but expressive use of language characteristic of the region. Sometimes it derives from the extraordinary dialect:
'Bist thee coming or bist thee baint?' / ‘Bist thee gooin to Clent again, cos if thee bist, I baint’
‘Bay winders? They bay bay’s bin um?’ / ‘ They bin bays bay um?’ / ‘They’m welly booth alike bay um?’
More often is comes from a perversely illogical, yet transparently clear use of words:
‘When did he die?’ / ‘Well if he had lived till tomorrow he would have been jed a fortnight’
‘At this time of year, an hour’s rain does more good in five minutes than a month’s would in a week at any other time of the year.'
And is perhaps best illustrated by this particularity succinct and cutting obituary:
‘Poor owd Ali. He wor one of the wust at his best.. Well, let’s all hope he’s gone where we think he ay.’
Links to the sketches, which have been featured in the weekly newspaper The Black Country Bugle, are at the top of this page.
Black Country Dialect: Vocabulary
Black Country Museum: Museum
Black Country Bugle: News
Black Country Society: Society
Black Country Shop: Shop
Black Country Community Forum: Gob
COMMENTS to: John Price