Jacob Poole Of Growtown
- And the Yola Dialect
Thy grave is deep in Forest side,
Unmarked by Cross or column,
Man's vain attempt to consecrate,
The sacred and the solemn.
Thus lamented R. D. Webb in a lengthy poem, shortly after the burial of
his esteemed cousin, Jacob Poole, farmer and extensive landowner of
Growtown, Taghmon. Contemporaries described Jacob as 'a kindly
charitable neighbour' and 'an unassuming scholar and nature-lover'.
He was the second son of Sarah and Joseph Poole, owner of lands at
Growtown and four surrounding townlands, whose Quaker forebearers
had been settled in Wexford since 1665.
Jacob was born in Growtown on February 11, 1774. His elder
brother, Joseph, born in 1769, died in 1785. In 1824, Jacob inherited
the family estate. Having resided for some years in family property at
Killiane, four miles south of Wexford town, he never remained aloof
from the locality and he became very interested in the manners,
customs and strange dialect of the Baronies of Forth and Bargy - an
area of 40,000 statute acres, supporting a population of 24,000 and
13,400 respectively. His fame rests mainly on the glossary (or mini-
dictionary) that he compiled of the strange vocabulary and phrases of
the people living there.
Jacob Poole's Charitable Disposition
By all accounts, wherever he went he endeared himself to friends and
neighbours because of his unassuming charitable disposition, as the
following oft-quoted incident exemplifies. Towards the close of the 18th
century the sole place of worship for the Catholics of Killiane was a
draughty box-like shed near Amen Cross. One wintry Sunday morning
in 1795, Poole chanced to pass by on horseback, as Mass was in
progress and he was utterly astonished at what he saw - an overflowing
congregation of bare-headed men and cloaked women, kneeling
devoutly in silent prayer, despite a chilling mist and sharp breeze.
Early next morning the local priest had a most unexpected caller in
the person of Jacob Poole who, expressing his sadness at what he had
seen, offered the priest the gift of his 'choice of any site on his lands,
free of charge forever' - for the building of a more fitting church for his
Catholic worshippers. Then, undertaking to provide most of the
building cost he placed 'ten golden guineas' in the astonished priest's
hands to open a subscription list. Within a couple of years a sturdy,
stone-walled slated church had been erected at Kilmacree at the 'angle
of Ballykelly townland'. The ruins of this building still stand in tribute
to this generous donor.
Poole's Historical Bequests
Poole also bequeathed numerous manuscripts of ecclesiastical and
military remains in the two baronies, including informative outlines of
botanical and ornithological life there, as well as comprehensive lists of
Wexford bird life in the busy Wexford Harbour of his day. In his
Gazette of 1823 he named all of the 41 'Teouns' (towns) in Forth and
Bargy amongst them being - Barrystown, Butlerstown, Cullenstown,
Fardystown, Grantstown, Johnstown, Neamstown, Redmondstown, etc.
Description of Forth and Bargy
We learn that the two baronies were pleasantly wooded and diligently
cultivated and 'the peasantry' were remarkably peaceful and
industrious. No other Barony in Co Wexford was freer of crime.
Agrarian outrages - so commonplace elsewhere, were quite unknown.
Yola was 'the mother-tongue of the poorer classes for generations'. The
local housewives revered their menfolk as 'masters of the household',
and always served them with the first share of broth or cut of meat
before the mistress herself, or female guests. Whenever the master was
absent his eldest son, or chief male servant, were first served. It was
customary for the older folk to have an 'enteete' (siesta) or 'nonteet'
(noontide rest) during the long hardworking days of the busy summer
season. Their weather seers were wont to stress:
Whenever Carrickadee wears a 'hat',
(a cloud over the highest point of the Forth Mountain)
let Forth and Bargy beware of that.
The earliest settlers were adjudged 'Wessexmen' from the Shires of
Somerset or Devon - because of the 'strong tinge of West-English'
noticeable in their dialect. Their descendants also managed to preserve
with singular fidelity much of the Old Saxon speech, as spoken along
the Bristol Channel.
We learn from a lecture given in 1857 by V. Rev. Dr. C.W. Russell,
then president of Maynooth College, that the first colonists were
followers of Strongbow, and of Robert Fitzstephens, who landed in
Wexford during the month of May 1169. The Annals of the Four
Masters, (compiled 1632/36) mention that amongst these were '70
Flemings in their Coats of Mail' led by Fitzstephens. Up to the 15th
century the surnames most predominant in the Baronies were: Roche,
Meyler, Barry, Walsh, Carew, Hay, Stacpoole, Russell, Barrett, Keating
The strange dialect of the Forth and Bargy inhabitants eventually
became known as Yola (meaning 'old'). It included numerous words
and phrases assimilated from other languages - notably, from the Irish
tongue (then widely spoken throughout Wexford), and from cross -
channel traders (e.g. Manx and Flemish), as well as from the works of
the leading poet of his day, Geoffrey Chaucer (1340 - 1400). His
famous 'Canterbury Tales' (written in 1387) set a literary headline for
others to follow, akin to the following descriptive extracts:
'It snewed in his hous of mete and drinke' (reference to the lavish
'Franklin'), and 'Have ye not seyn som-time a pale face among a
preese'(the 'felon'). Richard Stanyhurst (1541-1610), a noted Dublin
historian in his day, commenting on Yola asserted:
Yola only preserved the dregs of ancient Chaucerian English ...
Yola speakers have so acquainted themselves with the Irish, that
they have made a 'gallimaufrere' (or 'mingle- mangle'), of both
languages, so that the natives of Forth and Bargy speak neither
good English , nor good Irish'.
Nevertheless, Poole's Glossary is our sole guide to the study of the
Yola dialect. At best it is a mini-dictionary of 1700 words and phrases,
accompanied by a handful of folk songs of little literary merit. It first
appeared in print in 1867, forty years after its compiler's death, under
the editorship of Rev. William Barnes, author of a grammar on the
dialect of Devon, who appended some useful 'observations', - but with
'faulty etymologies', according to Wexford scholar Dr Diarmaid O'
Muirithe. It was printed by E. B. Webb of Dublin in collaboration with
Messrs Russell-Smith of Soho Square, London. In 1979 an 'amended
edition' was published jointly by T.P. Dolan and Diarmaid O'Muirithe
at the behest of the Ui Chinsealaigh Historical Society.
As Dolan and O'Muirithe aptly pointed out, Yola includes a number
of archaic words whose original roots are now impossible to trace e.g.
ihuske (a flock), palsk (a kind of cake), curkite (adverse or contrary). Its
inadequacy, even as a standard dictionary, may be gauged from the fact
that it contains only 1700 words, whilst the average Gaeltacht speaker
of Irish has an acknowledged vocabulary of over 3,000 words.
Moreover, the standard Irish-English Dictionary of Rev. Dr. Padraig
Dinneen, (published in 1924, soon after the establishment of Saorstat
Eireann), contains over 50,000 words and phrases. Besides, in its
present format the Yola-English Glossary is of little service to a
beginner or student of that dialect; and not withstanding the 26 letters in
the English language, words beginning with the letter 'x' are not listed
and barely a dozen words are included under the following letters;
i,j,o,q,u and y. Worse still, it provides scant guidance about the local
pronunciation, or essential rules of grammar.
According to Edmund Hore, a prominent Wexford antiquarian, the
Yola dialect should be spoken slowly. The vowels in words of one
syllable are usually 'drawled' or prolonged e.g. caake (cake), coorn
(corn), gooun (gun), maate (meat), chourch (church), nieght (night).
On words of two syllables the drawl or stress is usually on the ultimate
or second syllable e.g. baskeat (basket), markeat (market), comfoort
etc. Although plurals are usually formed by adding on 's' or 'es' to the
word, as in the English language, 'n' or 'en' is also added as in - ashen
(ashes), fleen (fleas), shoone (shoes), been (bees), toan (toes), treen
(trees), kyne (cows), pizzen (peas), etc.
Assimilation of Irish Words
Up to the Famine Years, Irish was widely spoken throughout Wexford,
and thus Yola inevitably assimilated numerous Gaelic words e.g.
bakoon (bacon), patroon (a patron), gorsoon (a lad), sneesheen (snuff),
poag (a kiss), borde (a table), stuckeen (a stocking), pucane (a goat),
usbaugh (whiskey). It is also noteworthy that 'f 'in words beginning
with the letter 'f ' is pronounced 'v' e.g. vire (fire), viesh (flesh), vew
(few), vill ( fill), voal (foal). The 's'in words beginning with 's'is
pronounced 'z' e.g. zea (sea), zhip (ship), zong (song), zound (sound),
zoot (soot) etc.
'Brief List of Familiar Things'
The following 'Brief Lists of Familiar Things' will provide a clearer
conception of the Yola language, now defunct for over a century:
More enlightening still are everyday sayings such as:
|The home ||hime, heouse, chaamer, sthiers,
|The family ||vamilee, vather, moodher, mistrace,
|Food ||breed, buththere, milke, caake,
|Clothes ||garbe, cooat, skoorth, shoone, stuckeen.
|Religion ||chourch, priesth, parieshe, Gud,
|Colours ||whit, bhlock, reed, yellou, gry.
|Days ||mondei, tuesdei, wennesdei, thorsdei, vreedei,
|Numbers ||oan, twye, dhree, vowre, veeve, zeese, zeven, aught,
|Animals ||dug, keouw, callef, garrane, voal,
|Birds ||burdes, croowe, sparroon, lereke,
Lhause a dher
Open the door.
Theene a dher
Close the door
How yarthe to die?
How are you today?
Hele an greve apa thee!
Health & Wealth to you!
Faade teit thee - zo lournagh?
What ails you, you're so sad?
Zo wough kisth an wough parthet.
||So we kissed and we parted.
Aar's no gazb in him.
||There's not a breath of life in
Aar's a dole o'sneow apa greoune
||There's a lot of snow on the
|Aar's dhurth a heighe!
||There's dirty weather above
(in the sky)
|Caules will na get to wullow to die.
||Horses won't be able to tumble
|A portion ich gae her was keow an
The dowry I gave her was a
cow and twenty shillings.
Also included in the Glossary is a small group of very simple folk
songs. The longest, entitled 'A Yola Zong', is regarded as 'the oldest
and the purest'. It recalls a hurling game played on 'the Commons' of
the Forth ... The second song, a satire called 'The Weddeen of
Ballymore', with a 'repetitive chorus sung to the well-known Gaelic
Air 'Thugamar fein an Samhradh Linn', is an unnamed Forth song
based on a rather flimsy theme -about a 'clouk' (a simple-minded
fellow) who married a 'slouck' (a slovenly person)... The shortest of
the group is an amusing ditty with an imaginative theme - the musings
of an old sow as it was about to be slaughtered. It might aptly be
named 'The Old Sow's Fate'. 'Casteale Cudd's Lamentation' bemoans
the loss of a sturdy cock that was swiped by a marauding fox one quiet
Good Friday morning. It is recorded that Tobias Butler recited it for
Poole in 1823.
An epigram, quoted in William Barnes's Introductory 'Observations'
is worthy of mention here:A maide vrem a Bearlough,
Aneure vrem ee Barke,
Eshoethet own anoree
Nich th' hia thoras a Culpake.
A maid from Bearlough,
Another from Bake,
Met one another
Nigh the tall thistles of Culpake.
According to local lore, one maid was bringing a young goat (a kid),
and the other a basket of eggs, as they headed for the town market.
Unfortunately, the frisky goat knocked against the basket of eggs and
broke the entire contents. A bitter verbal battle of abuse resulted.
The Death of Yola
Without a thriving literature the ultimate fate of Yola seemed
inevitable. It came about in a rather unexpected manner, however
following the enactment of 'Stanley's Irish Education Bill of 1830'.
This caused a gradual spread of literacy throughout Ireland. The
younger generation of Forth and Bargy soon became aware of the
obvious limitations of their 'home' language. Not only were their
newly-found friends and acquaintances unable to understand their
language, but were highly amused at their utterances. Thus Yola
steadily declined, and by the mid-1870s it had died out, following the
demise of the older folk.
Yola words still survive in the present-day speech of the older
generations living in Kilmore, Lady's Island and Rosslare - even though
it has been a dead language for well over a century now. Remote
Carnsore Point was the 'last retreat' of the dialect. Martin Parle who
passed away at the age of ninety years, was the last known speaker
Jacob Poole's Final Years
During the latter years of his life Jacob Poole was painfully afflicted
with rheumatics, and repeatedly sought relief while staying with his
sister, who then resided in Brunswick Street, Dublin. But on becoming
less mobile he eventually spent his final years in his native Growtown,
where he died on November 20, 1827. He was buried on the side of a
hill in the 'Burial Ground of Friends' in the townland of Forest,
Taghmon. Sadly his grave is now badly overgrown, neglected and
unmarked. But the Glossary will long remain a monument to his name
REFERENCES AND NOTES
Poole's Glossary (1867) -Ed. Rev. William Barnes (Editorial
Poole's Glossary (1979) - Ed. Dr. D. O'Muirithe & T.P. Dolan
Quaker Records (1650 - 1860) - Olive Goodbody (Poole Family)
The National Ideal (1931) - Joseph Hanley, F.R.C.Sc.I, (Irish Language
Chronicles of Co. Wexford (1877)- George Griffiths (Kilmachree
Church) P. 244-247)
Student's English Literature (1910) - A. Hamilton Thompson
('Canterbury Tales'- P.52)
Dictionary of Irish Biography (1988) - Henry Boylan (P.330)