HAAK’S MEN

This delightful and humorous short-story tells of how a group of Geordie workmen from the old Gateshead engineering firm of Hawkes & Company, threatened and eventually vanquished Napoleon Bonaparte, thereby winning the Battle of Waterloo. Written by John Atlantic Stephenson (1829-1916?) it is thought to have been first published around 1890 when it appeared in Allan’s, Tyneside Songs. The version included here is from a later manuscript, Tyneside Songs, Volume 1, published in 1911 by the Newcastle music company, J.G. Windows.

John Stephenson was a Tyneside businessman who gained popularity through his writing and painting. He was a founding member of Newcastle’s Berwick Club, a pioneering school of art and design named after Thomas Bewick, (1753-1828), the Northumbrian wood engraver. Stephenson’s water-colours showed various landscapes and street scenes in and around Newcastle and today, his work may occasionally be seen in mass-produced posters.

He was highly regarded for his humour and was a popular speaker at local events, delighting his audiences by mimicking Tyneside, Wearside and other local dialects in presentations which were often described in contemporary publications as ‘racy’. He authored several dialect essays including: A Tow for Nowt, A Recollection of Ned Corvan, The Postponed Goose and Adam and Eve, all of which were published in 1891.

His rather unusual middle name stems from his birth aboard a ship in mid-Atlantic during his family’s long voyage to India, where his father was taking up a new post with the East India Company. He spent twelve years in India before the family returned to Tyneside. Appropriately, for this story at least, John Stephenson was born on Waterloo Day, 18 June 1829.

The tale is written in typical Tyneside vernacular that may not be so different as that spoken around Newcastle and Gateshead today. Most of the spelling is phonetic, derived from the accent rather than from archaic dialect. Thus, the story’s title, ‘Haak’s men’, is how ‘Hawke’s men’ would be pronounced. Similarly, words such as Aa (I), knaa (know), aad (old) and hoose (house) are all phonetic spellings. A glossary showing the meanings of highlighted words can be accessed by clicking on the word.


Aa wes cummin’ doon the road there, cheps, wen Aa fell in wi’ aad Ned Wright.  Ye knaa it wes aad Ned Wright an’ fower an’ twenty o’ Haaks’s men that won the Battle o’ Watterloo.  Aa ses, “Gud mornin’ Ned.”
He ses, “Gud mornin’, hinney, what fettle the day?” 
     Aa ses, “Wey, not se far amiss.  Cud ye de wi’ a drop?”
     An’ he ses, “Wey, darsay Aa cud.”
So we caalled in at one or thor hooses – Aa divvent knaa which one, thor’s that mony o’ them. An Aa ses, “What are ye gan te hev?” 
     An’ he ses, “Mine’s a bittor,”
     An Aa ses, “Aye, an mine’s a Borton.”  So we gat the drinks in ye knaa, an’ supped in yooshil way. “Yor gud helth, Ned.”  
“Same te yorsel.”
    Then Aa ses, “Ned de ye mind the time ye wor at Watterloo?”  
    He ses, “Div Aa mind the time Aa wes at Watterloo?  Aa think Aa de.”  
    Aa ses, “Did ye ivver see Wellin’ton when ye war oot there?”
    He ses, “Did Aa ivver see Wellin’ton?  Wey man Aa knaaed ‘im.  Him an’ me wes weel acquent.   He caalled me Ned an’ Aa caalled him Nosey.”  
   “Wey,” Aa ses, “Mevvies ye’ll tell us aall aboot it.”  
   An’ he ses, “O Aa see what yor wantin’ te be at noo, let’s heh the drops in agyen.”  
   So Aa caalled in the lass an’ gat the drops in, an’ he started te tell us aall aboot it, summit like this.

“The mornin’ o’ the battle o’ Watterloo, Wellin’ton sends for us an’ Aa gans tiv ’im. He ses, “Gud mornin’, Ned”. 
Aa ses, “Gud mornin’, Nosey, yor luckin’ varry dour like”. 
   “Man, he ses, Aa’ve gettin’ a varry big job on.”
   “Ay, Aa ses, what is’t?
He ses, “Well d’ye see aall yon men o’ the top o’ thon hill thonder?”
   Aa ses, “Wey, ma canny man thor not bad to see, with thor cockit hats an’ one thing an’ anuther.”
   He ses, “Well, Aa want them shifted.  D’ye think ye can manish the job?”
  “Div Aa think Aa can manish the job?”
   He ses, “Mind Aa divvent want them josselled, Aa want them shifted a’ tegither.”
   Aa ses, “Wey mistor, ye can consider the job aall deun but the shootin’.  When Ned Wright puts his hand te the plew, he nivvor torns back.”  So Aa went doon te where the lads war an’ Aa caalled Bob Scott tiv us.  Noo Bob Scott wes the clivvorest judge of a crood ye ivver saa.  At a greyhoond coursin’ or a rabbit meetin’ or when the Northumberland Plate was on the moor, he cud elwes tell the crood te one man, an’ nebody contradicted him – not even the ‘Daily Chronicle.’  So Aa ses, “Bob, hinney, hoo mony men is thor on the top o’ thon hill thonder?”
He ses, “Fower hunder.”
  An’ Aa ses, “Hoo mony o’ wor lads will it tyek te shift them?”
  An’ he ses, “Fower.”
  Aa ses, “Wey aad Nosey wants us te tyek all the fower an’ twenty.”
  He ses, “Nowt o’ the sort, fower’s plenty.”
  “Well,” Aa’ ses, “Just to humor ’im, Aa’ll’ tyek 10, an’ ye an’ me’ll be 12.”

So Aa gat the lads tegither an’ we started off doon the lonnin at the double—tappy lappy doon the lonnin.  An’ just as wor tornin’ a corner, whe did we meet but Napoleon he’s sel’ on a cream lily-white powney wiv‘ a cockt hat.  It was a bonny un.
He ses, “Hallo, Ned.”
Aa ses, “Hallo, Napoleon, what fettle the day?”
  Aa ses, “Haad on a minute Ned, hoo did ye knaa hoo te taak French to Napoleon?”
  He ses, “Hadaway man, onybody can taak French ower there, aall the bits o’ bairns taaks French ower thonder.”
“Well,” he ses, “Where are ye gan wi’ the lads?”
  Aa ses, “Wor gan te shift thon men off the top o’ thou hill thonder.”
  He ses, “Gan on, yor coddin’.”
  Aa ses, “Thor’s ne coddin’ aboot it.  And Nosey wants them shifted and shifted thor gan te be.  Get oot o’ the road.”
  He ses, “Haad on bit man.”
  So Aa caalled “Halt?” te see what the man wanted.  
He ses, “D’ye not knaa that’s flooer o’ ma army?”
  Aa ses, “If that’s the flooer o’ yo, army, they’ll be varry seun beyk’d’ when huz gets in amang them.”  Wi’ that that he puts spors intiv his powney an’ rode reet in amang them, an’ ye cud heor ‘im shootin’ at the top ov he’s voice.
“Reet aboot torn, hinnies, tyek yor skite get off the grass.  Heor’s Ned Wright an’ fower and twenty o’ Haak’s men; ye hevven’t a happorth o’ chance.”

“Did Aa ivver see Wellin’ton?  Wey man, Aa wad think shyem?”