Thursday 28 July 2011

10 - 'Yous three're a pair, if ivver there was one'

By the River Lagan - fish sculpture, Odyssey Complex & H&W cranes behind
September 23, 2009

We've been exploring some of the talk and different accents and phrases in parts of Northern Ireland. You can travel only 20, or 30 miles in this part of the world and find a different accent and vocabulary. But the majority of people in the north of Ireland live in, or around, Belfast - where we do have a unique turn of phrase. It's more the way we string things together that confuses strangers.

For instance, we'll often repeat a conversation by saying, "Says he", or, "Says I". So you'll get a sentence like, "Says he to me, 'Is that you?' Says I, 'Who?' Says he, 'You!' Says I, 'Me?'. Says he, 'Aye!' Says I, 'No' and walked on."

Or ye might hear someone complaining, "Yous three are a pair, if ivver there was one! Last night yez came home this mornin'. An' if ye come home the morrow mornin' the night, yez can find somewhere else to stay, if ye wanna live here!" If you break that down into separate phrases, it actually makes a bitta sense!

'Sailortown' was actually the old name for the area of Belfast around the docks. Belfast has changed quite a lot over the last number of years. Now you'll find lots of immigrants around the city centre - playing Romanian, or Armenian, music as likely as not. But way back before the Troubles Belfast was a place where you'd find all sorts of unusual characters.

Back in the twenties and thirties there was a guy named 'Buck Alec' - a violent man, a boxer and wrestler, who got involved in a lot of dubious actions and spent some time in jail. He kept lions, which he may have acquired from a circus which camped behind his house, and was often seen walking around Belfast with a lion on a rope. Apparently he was told by a court that he had to have the lions' teeth removed, if he was going to walk around with them!

The lion was often fed on stray cats or dogs and the story is told of two men who had just robbed a house one evening and were stopped by a policeman, who asked what they were carrying in the bag they had with them. Quick as a flash, one of them replied that it was only stray cats they were taking to Buck Alec's lions. The policeman allowed them to carry on!

Buck Alec lived in Chicago for a while and his name is even connected with Al Capone, but things apparently got too hot for him there and he hastened back to 'the aul' sod'.

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