Looking back at Oldham (written in the former dialect of the region)
Looking at Oldham in 2003 and remembering how it was more than a hundred years earlier.
By Heck, in't it all grand, an' in't it all changed too. Thur's no chimneys, so I spose thur's no mills an' nowt to do fer t' folks as live in Owdham now.Things curtanly 'ave changed. I dunna know what me an our Sarah ud do today, 'appen we'd walk out an look at yonder 'ills like we did when we 'ad time off us wark, which weren't so often i’ them days.Them hills are t' same though, jus' same as ever thi were back then, aye an' t' weather too, that’s jus' same, wi clouds rollin' in from t' West to cover our mucky town an' wesh it too nearly every day of our lives. I reck'n Owdhamers today know all about t' weather o' our days, cept 'appen they've getten better clothes on thur backs an' better shoes on thur feet an aw.Them as worked alongside me an our Sarah ivery day of our lives ur o gone now, but we miss 'em, tha knows. Oh, aye, we do that. Why we even miss t'folks as owned t' mills an' made us all wark so 'ard fer so long fer so little. Ivery now an' then they'd lay us o off, jus fer a bit till everything picked up again, but they needed us jus like we needed them. We didna think so at t' time, but we did.That wer't secret o them days, yuh know, it were what kept us all goin' through thick an' thin, mostly thin, I can tell yuh. What kept us goin were each other, an' knowin' that everybody i’ t' town had summat to do, summat that contributed like to t' prosperity an' t' welfare o them as lived under those grey, cloudy skies. An' you know what I'm tellin' thee, knowin' that we were all like children playin' in some dirty back yard somewheer, appen i' Hell it felt like at times, knowin' that kept us from goin' mad, an' it kept us o together.We sent all us cotton all over t' world to them places we saw in picture books at schoo, wi them as 'ave dark skins like our collier lads comin' up from a days wark three 'undert feet below, an' we allus wondered what thid be like as were wearin' our cloth an our cotton. An' now we can see 'em walkin' about Owdham. That's summat, that is, seein' folk us we used to only know i' picture books, an' appen they're glad to be 'ere even though they don't see 'alf as much sun as they're used to seein' where they were browt up.But still, jus' you listen to what I'm tellin' thee, don't go argifyin' an' gettin' upset wi 'em jus' because thur different, because they look different and talk different. They're all God's childer, aye, each an' ivery one o 'em, jus like me an' our Sarah, jus' like them lads goin' 'ome from t' mills an' t' pits over theer. Them lads is black faced an' all, an' thur proud t' 'ave black faces, let me tell thee. Black faces means wark an' wark means brass, a bit anyroad, an' they o live in t' same sort o' houses close to thur wark like ah suppose you all do what's 'ere today, drivin' roun' in yon motor cars 'stead o' walkin' iverywheer like me an our Sarah used to do back in those days when life were simpler un we allus knew exactly who we were an' exactly what we 'ad to do t' get t'eaven.
I wrote this after seeing the photograph of Oldham hanging here on the walls of the Art Gallery. After I had visited the gallery, I sat on the terrace outside and had a cup of tea and looked at much of the area I had just been looking at in the photograph. It was this that prompted me to write the piece.
In the summer of that year, Oldham Municipal Art Gallery displayed the work on their walls, to accompany an exhibition of local photography of the town.
Robert L Fielding
University of Bahrain