Tom Essery

Unlike the other people in this ‘Voices’ section, Tom Essery is not a recent interviewee. He was born in Turvey in 1879, and at present these sound clips represent the earliest recordings of a Turvey resident of which we are aware.

Tom was interviewed as part of The Survey of English Dialects, a groundbreaking nationwide survey of the vernacular speech of England, undertaken by researchers based at the University of Leeds under the direction of Harold Orton. From 1950 to 1961 a team of fieldworkers collected data in a network of 313 localities across England, initially in the form of transcribed responses to a questionnaire containing over 1300 items. The informants were mostly farm labourers, predominantly male and generally over 65 years old as the aim of the survey was to capture the most conservative forms of folk-speech. Almost all the sites visited by the researchers were rural locations, as it was felt that traditional dialect was best preserved in isolated areas. It was initially the intention to include urban areas at a later date, but this plan had to be abandoned on economic grounds.

It is, to date, the most comprehensive survey of dialects ever undertaken, and there are plans to extend its reach further. You can find out more about it from the University of Leeds.

Tom, a retired farm labourer, was interviewed by Mr. Stanley Ellis in 1958, when he would have been 78 years old. He was the son of John and Mary Ann Essery and was born in Turvey on 2nd July 1879. His father was an agricultural labourer who changed to railway work when the railway came to Turvey. John and Mary had 7 children, all born in Turvey and baptised at All Saints Church. Tom’s brother Albert was killed in World War 1 and is commemorated on the war memorial.

Tom was a member of the Congregational Chapel, where he married his wife Esther in 1906. After his wife died in 1947, Tom moved from their home in 2 Mill Green to live with his daughter and her family in Tandys Close until his death in 1971, at the age of 92.

Tom remembers local lacemaking traditions and Bakehouses in Turvey.

Audio clips used with permission of the University of Leeds, with thanks to the British Library.

Tom Remembers watching the Mill burn down in 1885

Audio clips used with permission of the University of Leeds, with thanks to the British Library.

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