Tales From Northumberland (2013) s01e05 Episode Script

Episode 5

I'm Robson Green and I'm on a journey to discover how my home county of Northumberland shaped the Britain we know today.
Along the way, I'm experiencing a whole new side to somewhere I love.
(Cheering) - What a beauty! Look at that.
- That fresh enough for you? Forever will abide with me, this great kingdom, Northumberland.
(Applause) These are my tales from Northumberland.
The region we now know as Northumberland was once part of the most powerful ancient kingdom in Britain, with its own king, its own language and its own flag.
Even now it remains a county with a strong sense of culture and identity.
Its traditions are a product of its distinctive landscape, from the seafaring heritage of the coast, to the remote and rugged landscape that has inspired the region's poetry and music.
Today, I'll be exploring Northumberland's unique traditions, what made it the county I know and love.
In my view, there's nothing that quite sums up Northumberland like a tiny wooden boat that's been seen on these shores for centuries.
I was put on this world here, to be a fisherman in Northumberland, in my coble, catching salmon.
I'm good at it.
(Whirring) I am one of the last traditional wooden boatmen in the area.
I just love wooden boats.
I get quite a lot of cobles to repair.
But they are becoming rarer and rarer.
MAN: I can remember my first days with the salmon.
The smell.
I can nearly remember every fish.
FRED: The coble is one of the nicer boats to work on cos they've got such a lovely shape on them.
Very rounded on the bilge sort of thing, like a pretty lady.
For a small band of Northumbrian fishermen, the traditional wooden coble is much more than a boat, it's a way of life.
Anything to do with a coble, reminds us of my dad.
He instilled in me a work ethic that I don't come across with very many people these days.
He just kept saying, "The harder you work, you will reap the benefits.
" When you get two men in a boat working side by side, you practically live with each other and you've got to work as a team.
Its origins can be traced back to the 10th century.
But, within the next decade, it could disappear from these shores forever.
FRED: The history of the coble is coming close to being extinct.
There are very few working cobles on the Northeast coast now.
I don't think I'm ever going to get the chance to build a new one.
There's that few cobles now, you only start to realise how threatened your whole existence is, until you're actually working in a boat they've actually got one in a museum.
Said to have been inspired by Viking longboats, the coble is unique to the Northeast.
Its high bow and flat underside mean it's perfect for landing on beaches, but strong enough to endure the stormy North Sea.
While a few brightly-coloured cobles can still be spotted along the coast, it's in marked contrast to the mid 1900s when every Northumbrian harbour would have its own fleet of cobles.
Hundreds of fishermen set off each morning to seek out salmon, sea trout and lobster.
At home, their families would eagerly await their return and help land the catch.
Whole towns were supported by the fishing industry and part of this success was down to the boats the fishermen trusted with their lives.
Over the past 20 years however, changing fishing regulations and new technology has seen more and more fishermen opt for more modern boats.
There are now less than 20 coble fishermen left in Northumberland.
I've travelled to the fishing port of Amble, just east of Alnwick, to meet one of them.
Kevin Henderson's family have been sailing cobles out of Amble since 1860.
I wanted to find out why he was continuing the tradition.
Kevin, how are you on this fine fishing day? - All right, mate.
- Good to see you.
- I've heard a lot about you and your coble.
- That's the way it is, sir.
- Are we going to catch today? Confident? - I will try.
We've got you aboard, we can't fail! Everybody knows you're the best fisherman, so if you don't catch we'll look ridiculous! - My head's on the line here! - Let's do our talking on the water.
I'll get her started.
Let's away, then.
This kind of fishing is in Kevin's blood.
His granddad, dad and uncle - pictured here - all owned cobles.
A few years ago, Kevin had his uncle's 40-year-old-coble restored and now sails it with pride.
Have you always been a fisherman all your life? All my life, aye, even before I left school, I used to go with my uncle and my father and all them, when I was just a silly little kid, just knew nothing else.
Do you think the coble is the best vessel for salmon fishing? You couldn't get better.
It's like a disease, to be honest.
Once you've had one, you'll always have one.
You will.
It's like having some kind of a medical disease.
You cannot get rid of it! A hundred years ago, this type of fishing was a treacherous occupation.
Fishermen would risk their lives to bring home the day's catch.
Countless men were lost in the stormy North Sea.
Thankfully, today, it's looking pretty calm out there.
So, come on.
Let's go salmon fishing Northumbrian style, Kevin, yeah.
I want to be a help and not a hindrance so Another five yards.
(Both speak at once) Oh, it's two! Big salmon.
Oh, he's there.
Come here.
ROBSON: What a beauty! (Laughter) That fresh enough for you? How is that for one of the finest examples of my favourite fish? The salmon, caught here on my Northumberland doorstep.
What could be finer? Right at the bottom of my garden.
The Atlantic salmon is born inland, in rivers like the Tyne and the Tweed, before heading out to sea to feed.
In 12 months, it can grow from just a few ounces to a whopping ten-pounder like this one.
Salmon like these can earn as much as £50 apiece.
Although, these days, fishermen like Kevin have to work to strict regulations.
KEVIN: We got another one here.
Another one down here, I'm sure.
Are you all right? I thought it was a bigger one.
ROBSON: That's a good size.
And this That's a bit smaller.
But someone will enjoy that.
We're off to a cracking start but you know what they say - there's plenty more fish in the sea.
That is a sea trout.
You know what I am today? I'm your good luck charm.
If we hadn't got any fish, that would've been me! I'd have went into hibernation for a month! Another beautiful four-pound salmon.
That's a good day's fishing.
KEVIN: Thank you.
I've fished all over the world.
It's been a lifelong passion ever since I caught my first fish in the River Coquet at the age of seven.
But, today's experience of coble fishing in my home county has been up there with the best of them.
For some odd reason, Kevin has just assumed I can steer a coble.
So, here I go! It's an accident waiting to happen.
But I tell you what, there are many things in Northumberland that are good for the mind, body and soul, and this type of fishing is one of them.
(Gulls squawking) After a hard day at sea, there's nothing better than enjoying the fruits of your labour.
You're a lucky man, Robson Green.
If you're gonna have fish, have it fresh - and it doesn't come any fresher than this.
It's about two hours old.
If you're gonna eat salmon, have wild salmon.
It's really good for you.
Caught on my doorstep.
The best salmon restaurant in the world is right here in Northumberland.
(Traditional pipe music) Northumberland is a region steeped in centuries-old traditions, inspired by its coast and its rolling hills.
It's a landscape which has led to a unique sound in Britain's musical history and it's a sound that I adore.
WOMAN: Northumberland has many faces and many sounds.
But, the sound of the pipes really sums up the wild, lonely places we get right out in those hills.
Taking inspiration from the mystical landscape of the Cheviots and the Coquet Valley, the Northumbrian pipes are said to have been designed to resemble a lark singing over a buzzing bee.
This sound dates back centuries.
It's been passed down by generations of farmers and hill shepherds, and survives as one of the most ancient forms of music in Britain.
No-one has done more to preserve Northumbrian folk music than its biggest star, Kathryn Tickell who's taken it to concert halls all over the world.
KATHRYN: A lot of my family were involved in shepherding, so I was brought up very aware of that way of life.
As a little girl, I can remember people playing the pipes and fiddles and accordions and them all getting together and talking about the dances in the Cheviots they used to go to.
The village dance was a rare opportunity for this hard-working community to let their hair down.
KATHRYN: They loved it.
The music, if you could play the fiddle or the pipes or the accordion or the concertina, if you could provide the music to make that dance happen, then you were a person of standing in the community! These rural gatherings played a vital role for such a remote and sparsely-populated area, especially if a farmer wanted a wife! Sitting on either side of the hall, you know, you would think, "He looks a bit of all right!" (She laughs) He just came up and said, "Do you want to dance?" And you just say, "Well, yeah.
" It's been one long dance ever since! All the local shepherds from the valleys could go and meet up and have a crack and listen to some music and have a dance.
Just catch up on the gossip that was going on from other valleys.
(Music begins) The sounds of the pipe, fiddle and accordion remind Northumbrians like me where they come from.
Wherever I am, if I hear the music of Catherine Tickell, I'm immediately transported back to the hills of Northumberland.
KATHRYN: Everybody's heard of Irish music and Scottish music, the whole Celtic thing.
Not so many have heard of Northumbrian music.
You can take this music anywhere in the world and it stands up with anything that the world has to offer.
(Music ends) A hundred years ago, tunes like that would have been ringing out in every pub and village hall across the Cheviot Hills.
Times may have changed, but there's one town that, for three days every year, still comes to life with the traditional sounds of Northumberland.
Situated on the edge of the National Park, the market town of Rothbury is the setting for one of the most eagerly anticipated events in the Northumberland calendar.
(Marching band music) Founded in 1977, the Rothbury Traditional Music Festival brings together performers from across the region from marching bands playing on the high street to folk musicians jamming in the local.
(Lively music) I used to come here as a teenager, and the one thing you were guaranteed was a good day out.
But it's also now preserving another part of Northumberland history, and that's its language.
For the past two months, these primary school children had been preparing for a unique poetry competition.
Stop writing, please.
We're going to listen to Grace.
I'm ganning for a work and I'm deeking for some water.
Why you oot in the sunlight? You're nocturnal, aren't you? You should be oot at night.
They've been learning to write poems in Northumbrian dialect with the help of teacher, James Tate.
Can anyone tell me any dialect words? Anyone know any? Water, yes.
You can say "water".
Or up in the hills they say "witter".
It's one of the oldest and most distinctive dialects in Britain.
But, with each passing generation, words and phrases that were once common in these parts are being lost.
Who's heard of the word, to flit? Who's heard of "flitting aboot"? It actually means to move.
When I was at school, we'd get told off for speaking like this, but it's nice that it's assumed a different form and meaning, and it's just nice to preserve it and maintain our identity, really.
All through the day and night, I lain up high, I lain doon low.
(Applause) (Band playing) Northumberland has a strong tradition for poetry written in its native tongue - from poems inspired by its rivers and hills, to the border ballads of the Middle Ages that told tales of the bloody battles between the English and the Scots.
After weeks of hard work, the pupils will be reading their dialect poems to a panel of judges at the festival.
So let's see if Northumberland's got talent! Oscar, let's have a look at your poem.
- What's it called? - Black and White Army.
- Who is the Black and White Army? - Newcastle.
What do you like about the Northumbrian accent? - Some of the words are quite funny.
- Yeah? - What's the funniest word you like? - Netty.
- What? - Netty.
And what's a netty? - Toilet.
- It's a toilet! - Do you want to read the first few lines? - Yes.
Away the toon, it's time to get doon and scar a few goals.
That's a winner in my book.
That's an excellent poem.
Well done.
Don't leave me hanging here.
Other hand, man! (Laughter) Best of luck! Any poem mentioning Newcastle United is a winner in my book, but the final decision rests with the team headed by judge and dialect expert, Andrew Charlton.
What I want you to understand, my job is to be your judge.
It's a harsh title, but I have to pick a first, second and third.
It's going to be tough to pick a winner from this lot! I lain all through the day and night.
I lain up high and I lain doon low.
Almost silent except me and the wind rushing by.
I'm on me way to get ye.
All I need to de is slither into a hiding place and wait and wait until squeak.
I'll wrap myself around ye.
I found a magic box in my grandma's attic and I thought I'd take a look at what was inside.
The crystal "bal" that shines and a sweet poem for "al" to share.
(Applause) They've got more nerve than I had at their age, standing up in front of an audience like this.
But there can only be one winner.
ANDREW: The first prize goes to Max Armstrong.
Well done.
That was inspirational stuff.
So much so, I've decided to enter the adult dialect competition.
Andrew will be judging that as well, so I thought I'd ask him for a bit of advice.
(Applause) How long have you been a judge? You don't automatically become a judge.
You have to enter the competition a few times and get your name on the cup first, then you become a judge.
- So, you've got qualifications? - Absolutely, aye.
Why are you so passionate about the Northumbrian accent? People think it's keeping an accent, a dialect alive.
It's very much alive all the time.
If you go to weddings, funerals, any sort of party, you will always get somebody who gets up and does a verse so It's not a historic, old tradition.
It's part of wor DNA if you like.
Yeah, but, Andrew, why do we roll our Rs and say things like, "Ah, that was gay poor", which is, "That wasn't very good," or "I love your paffoom," which is your aftershave.
We shorten all our vowels, we speak really quickly.
And your proper accent, as you say, Rrr, Robson Green.
Yeah? So, just why do we Northumbrians speak the way we do? Well, the answer lies further afield.
Our dialect is a melting pot of words taken from invading Danish Vikings, the Norman French and the Celtic Scots.
You can tell exactly which part of Northumberland someone comes from by the way they speak.
There's more of a Scandinavian influence on the coast, whereas on the border, the accent is heading towards Scottish, and in the mining towns of the south, where my family come from, it's closer to the Geordie accent of Newcastle upon Tyne.
I'm no William Wordsworth, but I've written my poem from the heart and I can feel it beating ever faster as I wait my turn.
Goodness gracious.
I've never been so terrified in all my life! The place is packed.
Give it your best shot and enjoy it.
That's the main thing, OK? Nick Short.
(Applause) Oh, we will gan to Morpeth toon in order to catch the twain.
Climb into the twap, dear Emily, the pony will tek the strain.
Away doon a long un, the wee laddie ran.
I canna run.
I'm a very old man.
So into the current he did glide, with his net held loo and its mooth open wide.
Nae mare nooks for mister salmon to hide cos this run's got you working on the grassy bankside.
Oh, lad, if I was young again, bopping bombless doon a lane, fighting wild but bloodless war or catching tiddlers in a jar.
Onward sooth to the knuckle toon, the Geordie it was most grand, talking of agriculture and the beauty of Northumberland.
Thank you.
Even if you don't understand all the words, you can't doubt the spirit and heart of these proud Northumbrians.
I am way out of my league! - Robson Green, please.
ROBSON: Oh, no! (Laughs) Oh, no! It's like singing in front of your auntie! - It is.
- (Laughter) My Northumberland.
Me da he came from Ashington.
Forty year he worked that pit.
I said, "Da, is there mare to life?" He said, "No, son, this is it.
" I couldn't play football like wor Jackie, and I would na drive a tractor.
I couldn't get a proper job, so instead I became an actor.
But it's in this land that I belang, in its castles, hills and sand.
Forever will it bide with me, this great kingdom Northumberland.
Thank you.
Thanks very much.
There you go.
Thanks very much.
There you go.
Well, I need all the help I can get.
I've read other people's words on stage and screen around the world, but I found reading my poem in the heart of Northumberland a truly moving experience.
Let's hope the judges were equally moved.
Raymond Reid, you have won the competition this year.
(Applause) Ah, well, there's always next time, but there goes a worthy winner.
But, hang on, it's not over yet.
There's only one entry in the novice competition.
(Whispers) Excellent.
The person who has won the novice competition is Robson Green.
(Cheering) I know what you're thinking.
Yes, I was the only entry.
But no-one will remember that when they see this certificate hanging proudly on my wall.
We may live in an increasingly global society, but one of the things that makes Britain great, is that each region still has its own identity, traditions and culture - and nowhere more so than here - my Northumberland.

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