The first Christmas – A Black Country Tale
14 DECEMBER, 2018
The Black Country is a unique part of the United Kingdom: it has its own flag, has its own dialect, and over 1,000,000 citizens describe themselves as from The Black Country. However, you won’t see it named on any map and there is no main town.
The Black Country gets its name from the Victorian furnace-filled landscape of ‘black by day and red by night’ that was the inspiration for JRR Tolkien’s land of Mordor in the Lord of the Rings. It is famous for its beer and pork scratchings, faggots and peas and of course Slade.
Today, in the area around Colour Cubed, you can still hear the Black Country dialect which preserves many archaic traits of Chaucer’s English and can be very confusing for outsiders. When Londoner Michael Prescott came to the Black Country in the 1960s he discovered this unique dialect while teaching the children at Sunday school.
Every week he would encourage the children to tell stories from the Bible in their own words, leading him to put together this unique Black Country version of the Nativity story, which he said used most of the children’s own words.
There was this girl called Mary and er lived in a place called Nazareth.
One day er mom went out an er was left do do the ousewerk.
All a sudden the room went all bright and when er turned round er saw somebody stondin by the winder. Er wor arf surprised and nearly fell off er chair.
“Oom yow?” er asked, “yow day arf gie me a tern.”
“Doh be scared,” answered the bloke. “I wo urt ya. Me name’s Gabriel, an arm an angel.”
“Yo ay, am yer?” said Mary.
“I am, an I’ve cum to tell yer summat. Yo’m gooin ter av a babby,” said the angel.
That shook er, and er looked at im an said: “Doh be saft. I ay marrid.”
“That dow mek no difference,” ee answered. “If God says yo’ll av a babby, yo’ll ava a babby, yo will an that’s it. Yo’ve got ter call im Jesus.”
The chap what Mary was engaged to was called Joseph. When Mary told im about the babby er was having, ee day know what ter think. Ee said: “Yor mum wo arf kick up a chow row. Er’s bound to blame me. An they wo arf rattle down our street. It ay good enough.”
Any road, ee day get is air off, an when ee went ter bed that night, an angel cum to im in a dream.
“Doh get mad at Mary about the babby,” ee told im. “It’s God’s son er’s avin, an is name’s Jesus. Sumbody’s got ter av im, or ee wo get born, an yower Mary was picked. So just yo marry er, me mate. There ay nuthin ter worry about.”
Soon after they was married, Joseph cum in an told Mary: “Arv ad a letter from the tax mon, and that Ceasar of Rome says as we’ve got to goo to wheer we was born to be taxed. So we’ve got to traipse all the way to Bethlehem.”
So Joseph got the donkey out, put Mary on, an away they went.
“Cheer up, our kid. It ay far now,” Joseph told er. “Yo can see the lamps in Bethlehem down the road. We’ll soon av a rest. I shore be sorry neither. I keep gettin bricks an sond in me sandals.”
When they got into town, Joseph knocked on the door of an inn an asked for a double room.
The bloke what answered said: “Oi cor elp yer. There’s that mony on em eere they’m avin ter sleep in the passage.”
The next un was like it an all, but Joseph said to the chap: “Ain’t there anywhere we can goo? Mar missus is out theer on a donkey, an er’s gooin ter av a babby soon.”
The chap scratched his yed, then ee ad an idea. Ee said: “We cleaned the stable out after tay, so it ay mucky. If I shift a couple of osses an a camel, you could kip down theer.”
Joseph day even bother to ask Mary. Ee said: “We’ll tek it,” straight off.
In the noight, Mary woke Joseph up an said: “The babby’s ere.”
So Jesus was born, an they wrapped im up tight an put im in the manger what the osses et out on. Mary an Joseph wor arf proud. the innkeeper cum with is missus an brought Mary sum ot milk.
Up in the ills, there was sum shepherds luckin after the sheep. It was cold, so they was sittin by the fire lettin their dogs do the werk while they ad summat to eat an a smoke.
Suddenly the sky lit up loike bonfire noight, an an angel cum. They day know owt about angels and they was that frit they all fell on the ground.
“Yo’m a silly lot,” said the angel. “I shore urt yer. I got a message for yer. There’s a babby bin born in Bethlehem. Is name is Jesus an ees God’s son. Goo an ave a look at im. Ee’s in a stable lyin in a manger.”
The shepherds cum down the ill into Bethlehem an they kep on about the angels.
One said: “Fancy angels cummin to we. We ay nobody. It ay as if we’m important.”
Another agreed an said: “It wor arf a good tune what they sung, but I cor remember the words, con you?”
“Summat about glory an God in the ighest,” answered is mate. “When we get back we’ll try an get it writ down between we.”
They must av or we wouldn’t know it today.
Any road up, they cum to the town. One on em said: “It’s or roight im sayin we’ll find the babby in a stable, but they’m all over the plairce. We cud be looking for wicks.”
Is friend snapped at im: “Why doh yo shut yer moanin? Us two’ll look this soide, an yo pair look the other.” Another said: “It ay much use lookin in stables what’m shut. An if there’s a new babby, they’ll a the loight on.”
Then they eard their mates whistle an they fun em outside a stable built in a cave. Someone whispered: “Doh mek such a clatter. We’m ere.”
One knocked on the door and Mary called: “Come in.”
They took off their ats an went in on tip toe. The chief shepherd said: “Adoo missus. A angel tode we ter cum an see yower babby.”
Mary smiled and beckoned them in. Joseph said: “Eere ee is. Cum an look.”
The shepherds knelt down round the manger an looked. “Ay ee tiny?” said the youngest. “An ay ee got little onds?”
“Course ee’s tiny, yo saft ayporth,” said the leader, “ee’s new, ay ee?”
Then the shepherds turned to goo, an little Jesus smiled. The leader said after as it was wind, an all babbies did it, but ee wor as sure as ee med out.
While all this was a-gooin on, three wise kings was in a country far away lookin at stars. Suddenly, one on em put down is telescope an called: “Cum eer yo lot. Oi’ve fun a star wot wor theer afore, and it ay arf a big un.”
“Yo’m roight mate,” they said when they looked. “Oil bet it’s that one what’s to tell us a new king was born.” They checked up an it was.
One day, they cum to Jerusalem an went up to the Palace an knocked on the door.
A sentry opened it an they asked: “Is the King in?”
The sentry said: “Arf a mo, Oil goo an see.”
The King’s name was Erod, an ee was in. “There’s three kings to see yo,” the soldier told im. “Oh ar?” said Erod. “Weer?” Ee ad a fit when the soldier told im “Outside.”
“Yo cor leave kings stondin on the step,” said Erod. “Get em in.”
So they all come in, an Erod said ow noice to see em, an wot cud ee do fer em. They said they was looking fer a new king, and wondered if ee was theer.
Erod said: “Ee ay ere, but when yo’ve fun im, drop in on the way back so’s Oi can goo anay a look meself.”
They said “Righto,” an off they went.
When they’d gone, Erod said to isself: “Theer’s ony room fer one king ere, an Oi’m it. When Oi know weer the new un is, Oi’ll have im killed.”
The star stopped over the ouse where Jesus was, an the kings day worry cos it wor a Palace.
They went in an knelt down by Jesus an gid him their gold, frankincense and myrhh.
Mary looked at the presents an said: “Thank yo, they’m smashin, but Oi’ll keep em till ee’s bigger, if yow doh moind.” The kings took off their crowns and bowed.
Then they said: “Tarrah abit” an went all the way back wum.
But they day goo back past Erod’s palace cos a angel ad told em what a awful bloke Erod was, an ow ee wanted to kill the little Jesus.