A Devonshire poem about the Piskies.

Here is an amusing poem in the local dialect by J C Harding, who spent his final years in the ‘White House’, which I believe was the name of the Bideford workhouse.

Mr Harding filled an exercise book in his own copperplate handwriting with a collection of poems that he had composed on a number of topics. They are of considerable interest for their subject matter; one is about the sinking of the Titanic, their political attitude (strongly imperialist), and above all their local concerns, such as Appledore lifeboat men, historical events, and the beauty of the district. A few, like this, are in dialect. I hope that readers today can still understand it!

Fortunately the manuscript has survived, as Mr Harding passed it to my grandfather Mr Jack Elliott of the Swan Inn in Mill Street for safekeeping. (My grandfather retired in the early 1950’s). I have owned it for many years, and now that “Buzz” has made it possible to bring it to the notice of the public I am sharing it, and will then send it to the Bideford and District Community Archive.

John Davies.


How Zammy Dawe zeed the piskies.

Wat es et young maister, wat es et yu zay,

Du I think thare iz piskies? I du then ees fay;

En wat’s more then thet , I kin tull ee ver shure,

I zeed min wan nite, out pin tap Burden moare.

Aw ees yu kin laff, en zay tes all stuff,

Bit zeeins beleevin, ees, thet’s gude anuff.

Wat,tull ee the story? Wull kum rest yer bones

Bezide aw ma basket, thare, tap aw the stones.


Yes yurs ago now, close pin mikkymes dey

I wiz working tu Stickypule vaarm, Welkin wey.

New wan day the maister zed, ‘Zam I declare,

Ef temarra want be the West Kintry vaare.

I mist geet awver airly , the marnin,’ sez ee;

En yu kim awn arter wi dree bastes,dee zee,

Ess,mist try geet min een tu West Kuntry zaale

Ver I think thare’ll be chance ver a purty gude dale.’


Next marnin dree Bullucks I draw tu the vaare,

En vury gude bizness the maister din thare.

Zo he zed tu ma, ‘Zam, yew kin vinish the day

But mind be hoam airly, tu late dont ee stay,

Ver I mist geet awver tu Harton chuch town,

Zo taake thicky shillun, tu du yerzel down.’


Wul yu knaw, times like thet wan draps pin owld vriends

Tedden mutch thet ee drinks, er eet wat ee spends,

The time slippeed by vor I knawed ware twiz tu,

En twiz tain vor I thawt thet et hoam I wiz du.


Wul I staarted awf hoam, jist a little bit vrisky,

Not nawthin like boozed, tho I’d had leetle wisky.

Twiz a ruff, lownsum rawd, en I’d seven mile tu go,

Bit a bewtivil nite, wi the mune all aglow.


I got awn purty wul teal I got pin the moare.

New it zimeed I cudden geet no vaarder voare.

The harder I tried,the moar I wid vind,

Er at laist es I thawt, I got vurder behind.

Thinks IZammy Dawe yu mist be piskie laid,

Ver I’d yurd zim quare caapers they little vooks plaid.

I wiz thare pin the moare, een a purty owld plite.

Aw Zammy owld man yu wuz maazed zure thet nite.

I keept waalkin awn, altho I wiz zure

I wiz offaw ma rawd een the middle the moare.

New awl ov a zidden a lite sheened out claare.

Thinks I tu mezel, thare’s a howze awver thaare


Zo I made ver thick lite es well es I may.

But tha vaarder I vaint, et vaint vaarder away.

Then tha thawt et kim entu me fulush owld hed

Thet’s a Jack een the lantern, I’m mitey avraid.

Thare wiz I Zammy Dawe es tired es a dug,

Avraid evvry minit I’d stick een a bug.

Me poare legs wiz akeen, me hed een a buzz

Zo I draaed mezel down be a gurt clat a vuzz.

I cudden a bin thare a minnet I’m zure

Wen the zownds aw sweet mewsick kim awver the moare.


The zownds kim cloase up ta ma thare ware I lies.

Aw massy, the zight wen I awpened me eyes,

Thare wiz hunnerds a leetle vooks dansin around,

Es thick es vuzz blawzim they cuvvered the grownd.

Zum dressed een gowld traade, en urd cloathes hed zum,

But nat wan aw min thare wiz es high es yer thumb.

Thare wiz zum riding rown pin the back ov a toad,

En zum ver a grasshopper wadden a load.

Thare wiz zum playeen mewsick, en zum aw min dansed

Arown een a ring they all galloped en pransed.

Zum klimeed the grass stalks es if twiz a tree.

Zich quare owld minewvers I never did zee.

But I tull ee, I wished mezel vaarder away,

Ver I thawt zim ould kickshaw awn me they mite play.


New the comicalest crayter yu ever shid zee

Kim away vrim the rest and made vore toward me.

He carred een hees hand a gurt stinging nettle.

Aw I wished mezel back een Westcuntryeen settle.


Then vaure he cud raitch ma, the nez thing I knaw

Wiz zumboddy baalin, ‘Yurs owld Zammy Dawe,

Out yur een the cairt howze,rowled up een the straw.

But whare heeth a bin tu I’m zure I dun naw,

Ver he’s cuvvered in mire, en I’m purty wul sure

He’th bin rowlin abowt all the nite awn the moare.’


En twiz true, thare wiz I, curled up nice en snug,

Ees rowled een the straw like a vlaay een a rug.

Howevver they little vooks carreed ma thare

I dun naw tu these day, bit I’m raddy tu sware

Een the nite I lied down out pin middle the moare,

En they mist a carreed ma hoam tu vore door.


Wats thet yu zay maister, ‘twiz tu menny whiskies’?

Aw no zur, I’m zure twiz they dratted owld piskies.

Bit ef yew nevver zeed wan a course yu dun naw.

Bit zeeins beeleevin at laist tu Zam Dawe.


James C. Harding.


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One Response to A Devonshire poem about the Piskies.

  1. David Wensley says:

    Interesting, well done. It will keep me translating for the next fortnight!
    Remember your grandfather well.

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