The extinct dialect of south Wexford

Mar 26, 2017, 01:14 PM

Audio clip from the free Norman Way GPS audio tour:

The Earl of Musgrave, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was a man used to hearing speeches wherever he went. However, the speech he heard in Ballytrent, Co. Wexford in 1836 was unlike anything he had ever heard before.

There he received ‘The humble address of the inhabitants of the Barony of Forth, Wexford' or, as they put it, ‘Ye soumissive Spakeen o'ouz Dwelleres o' Baronie Forthe, Weisforthe.' The address, read by Edmund Hore, was neither Modern English nor Irish; the Lord Lieutenant was listening to one of the last speakers of an almost forgotten dialect – Yola. Its origins lie with the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in the 12th century. As the newcomers established a foothold in Wexford and the south-east they brought their medieval Middle English language with them.

Yola was the unique, distinctive badge of the Norman culture as spoken by the isolated inhabitants of Forth and Bargy. As Richard Roche observed, 'there are elements of Norman French and Flemish in the dialect reflecting the presence of those nationalities among the early colonists and from the 16th century, when the English language was on the decline in Ireland Irish began to influence the dialect also. Yola helped preserve traditions, customs, a way of life for many centuries and to make Forth and Bargy a truly alien enclave in Ireland. The stay-at-home disposition of the people of the region and the fact that they rarely married outside their own districts helped to preserve the dialect'.

Brian Mathews tells us a bit more about this intriguing dialect in our audio piece.

Anyone seeking further information on Yola should look for 'Poole's glossary of the old dialect of the English colony in the Baronies of Forth and Bargy' edited by T.P. Dolan and Diarmaid O'Muirthe. Ask for Celestine Murphy in Wexford Town library for further information.

Narrator of this audio clip: Brian Matthews.