Thursday, 25 February 2016

What did George Sound Like?

I've often tried to imagine the sound of George Cockram's voice.  Coming from Devon, he would have had a distinctive west country accent, and apparently, he kept it all his life.  His friend Zachary Hamilton, a journalist who wrote George's obituary, said "to the last, the accents of his native Devonshire still clung to his tongue".  And his daughter Prudence described his voice as having a "soft country burr".

If only I had a recording of George's voice - but I don't, so the best I can do is listen to other men with Devon accents - and that is easier said than done.  The BBC once had a great audio archive of various English dialects online, but all it gives me now is 'error 404'.

But I did find another source - the 'International Dialects of English Archive', which has a few examples of Devon accents.  The one that is probably most like George is a recording of a 49 year old man from Appledore in North Devon, just a little way from where George grew up.  This man spent his whole life in the same general area, unlike George - but it gives me an idea, nonetheless.  You can listen to it here:

In contrast, below is another Devon man, whose accent is nowhere near as strong.  He came from Widecombe in south Devon, and was a BBC radio presenter for 30 years - so he may have deliberately 'toned down' his accent somewhat.  Perhaps this is more like George would have sounded after many years in Canada.  Click on the photo to see the YouTube video.

By the way, Louisa, coming from Cornwall, would have had an accent very similar to George's.  Whether she kept it all her life, I don't know.

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