From a Broadland 'rhond' bed Aug/Sep 1984
These stories by Nigel Royall first appeared in a free publication printed in the 1980’s called ‘Broadland Welcome’ under the heading ‘From a Broadland ‘rhond’ bed’. We have reproduced them along with the drawings that accompanied them. For those not familiar with this style of writing, they are written in Norfolk dialect so please read them with a Norfolk accent!
Come the week afore bank holiday August, them wherries was a racin down Barton, start preparin for the big doins o’ the year. Charles aboard Hilda, layin down agin Ludham Bridge for the week, paintin an sortin gear out so’s when she go on show come racin day old gals a lookin her best. Hilda would sail round wi a load o’ people, they catchin the bus home artewards. ‘Shoddie’ Clark would scrub Hope’s hold out, then put in a grit long table an seats so’s the poshuns on that there committee kin hiv a sit. Come race day an them boats o’ all types gather atop the water, amakin a rare picture. Hope an the bandstand wherry take up positions and start all the races an doins a goin, whole o’ the broad a mass o’ sails dartin and flutterin ullover. Durin latter part o’ the time 1924-37 mostly, number o’ wherries racin was three, though occasionally as few as one, or as many as four took them rounds. Seein as the prize money was suffin goodly them old timers fair raced to win, thus makin sure of a goodly turnout most years. Hilda, Cornucopia an Dispatch was most regular with, of an occasional time, Ella, Stalham Trader an even that grit old varmint Lord Roberts. Though she was too big roundin the buoys proper so losin valuable time. Startin was allus sails down an moored, hangin off on a mud weight. Comin the signal to start, seeins as there might be as many as ten aboard, each hid his own job. One haul the weight aboard, two on em hoistin the cloth, wi much rattlin o’ ratchets and chains, while the others yell rude remarks to foreign skippers. The grit gaff an sail swing crossed the hatches an soar into the air, fillin wi wind. Old girls hitch up their skirts and take off, romping crossed the broad. If there was enough wind, the normal was three rounds o’ the broad, takin round hour an half, though wi no wind just one round could take a goodly bit longer. Wi all them cloths, gaffs an lines swingin bout, was only natural some on em should git hung up an tied together. This allus caused a grit stir, followed by swearin an cussin, blamin each other, so’ them in the committee boat be suffin took back. Eventually the knots untied an away they romp, still shoutin the odd cuss crossed the water. Of a normal race was only a matter of seconds tween each on em, an usin every trick, an bit o’ wind it made for excite doins. So hard was some on em pushed that gaffs broke, the skipper hivin to giv up, though a hat was passed round for donations, helping to pay for a new un. The skipper’s younguns would sit down again the cabin fillin mugs o’ beer an tea, only arter a few years was they allowed up top to watch. Perhaps cause on her size, an bein built of light, Cornucopia and Jimmy Cox was most successful though Hilda showed some fine form, winnin a few too. As the winner heeled over an sped crossed the line, Stalham Town Band on the wherry by the committee boat played ‘See the Conquiering Heroes’. Was normal for a piece of silver as well as money to be given to the winner, a tea pot, shut knife or plate. In place o’ the winners wane was hung the cup flag, it bein of white colour and blue cup. Come evenin time all the skippers retire to the local, arguin an fightin over the finer points o’ wherry racin. Course weren’t only at Barton these was held, Wroxham, Acle and Potter Ham all hid their own races along wi them held out at sea. Old Gedge sailed the transom sterned wherry Elizabeth. An being due to race off the coast her owner Mr Press went aboard. Whilst they was millin bout at sea, getting in position, a goodly wind sprung up, sendin waves high an threatin to sink the wherries. Old Gedge thought it an idea to git the tug out to haul all the boats in, an whilst this was a bein done, Press turns to Gedge an says, ‘Just nip below and get my life jacket, in case we sink!’ Old Gedge nips below an thinks to himself, ‘I’ll nip below alright, but do we sink you shant be wearin it’.