A Canny Craik – Issue 1

Welcome to first issue of Canny Crack, an on-line magazine devoted to the dialects of Durham and Northumberland.

Back in 2014, while conducting some background research for the play, Geordie – The Musical, I came across a Newcastle figure by the name of Oliver Heslop who, among many other achievements, wrote Northumberland Words, a definitive glossary of the Northumberland dialect. Yet in spite of his many accomplishments the city, while remembering many of its sons and daughters, is largely silent on Oliver Heslop. The featured article in this issue tells a little of his life. The forgotten son? You be the judge. Also included in this issue: a film by that most famous Tynesider, Scott Dobson, a dialect essay from Cullercoats, an article about the WORD library’s Lost Dialect Project as well as our regular features.

Featured Article

Newcastle’s Forgotten Son

Richard Oliver Heslop is perhaps one of Newcastle’s most under-rated sons; a figure who was celebrated during his lifetime yet now largely unrecognized.  Perhaps because he never sought the limelight, his life was not one of public prominence. 



The Lost Dialect Project

The WORD in South Shields is billed as the National Centre for the Written Word. In keeping with its mission, the library has produced a series of exhibits aimed at highlighting the Northumberland and Durham dialects.


Dialect Essay

The Cullercoats Fishwife and the Census Man

Fishwives were a popular sight in Northeast fishing communities during the days of herring-fishing. This light-hearted essay was written by Fred M. Gascoigne and published in “Tyneside Songs, Volume Two (Third Edition)” by J.G Windows Ltd in 1929.



Click on image to view

This 25-minute film by Scott Dobson and Dick Irwin was made in 1975. It features some memorable footage of the Northeast during which we are entertained by several colourful Northeastern characters speaking in their wonderful dialect. The film is from the catalogue of the Northeast Film Archive. (see links)

View Film

Featured Word


Much, great, large.

Often used as a duplicative term to describe something impressive; “He’s a geet, big, muckle lad!”

Origin: OE micel, ON mikla.

Mickle (or more commonly, muckle) can still be heard throughout Tyneside. It’s one of those dialect words that has its roots in both the Anglo-Saxon and Norse languages, illustrating some commonality between the languages of the two peoples.

And Finally ….

Next to the old lifeboat ramp in North Shields, there is the remains of a long jetty protruding into the river, the former site of the Lloyds Hailing Station. It was the job of its occupants to keep track of all vessels entering and leaving the River Tyne. The story goes that a ramshackle old tramp ship, its name obliterated by rust, arrived one day and was hailed by the station watch master.
“Ahoy, there!” he called through his megaphone. “What ship are you?”
“Anna Freda,” came the reply from the ship’s bridge.
The watch master stood silently in thought for a brief moment before again picking up his megaphone.
“Wey, Aa knaa Freda as weel, she’s livin’ next door tiv us an’ a canny lass she is too. But what Aa really need ti knaa is the name o’ yer ship.”

Takin’ Pride in Wor Language!