Betty Stogs on modern life

The legend of Betty Stogs comes from a Cornish folk tale. Betty preferred to visit friends and gossip than stay home with her baby. One evening she returned home to find the baby gone, only for him to be later discovered in the grass, having been washed by faeries, who having been disturbed hid the child and flew off. The shock of the event mended Betty’s ways. Today her name is lent to my favourite beer, but now for dverse she comments on modern life:


Well, I never, you could blow me over wiv a f’ver,
that be ‘free I’ve seen: “Early Childhood Education Centre”.
You say you cans go leave ‘me all day –
bless me soul, it won’t like this in my day.
I’ves never seen anything like it, I can tell ya, be left wiv all these strangers.
Muvers workin’ – you be pullin’ me leg right?
“Gender equality!”, I’ve ‘eard too much tonight,
and to fink, back in the day, I caused such a furor,
‘coz of that time when the faeries came to my door.

I ‘ears there be these “latch key kids”
coming home alone – well, I never did!
We never even had a latch, you’d just walk right on in.
Mind you, if I’d a latch ‘twould never been the ‘appening:
I’ll give ’em this, those faeries knows ‘ow to wash a baby,
found ‘im in the grass all sweet scented like a ‘oneybee.
Oh I, they did bathe ‘im well, ’twas proper job –
don’t look at me likes I’m a bad ‘un, just shut your gob.

I ’twere a time when fairies came by,
now there’s no sign, not even in the sky.
‘Stead you got perverts and neighbourhood fiends,
well, I can tell you I knew nothing but friends.
The thought of women workin’, makes me rather sad –
I reckons, I waz a good muver, I didn’t do bad.

The poem is a very rough attempt to capture the accent, but you can listen here (though my accent here is more Devonian than Cornish):


36 thoughts on “Betty Stogs on modern life

  1. smiles…sometimes i wished that some fairies turned up to do a bit of the housework in my place…smiles..really cool weave into our modern times, touching a delicate topic in a very humorous way…and love the accent as well

  2. oy i wish more had those to watch over them…it is a bit of a scary world these days..and kids home alone is a right target for them as well…ack…the dialect through out is great in this…a bit of humor on a very hard subject you know…

    • When I was a young girl, my Gran used to read the papers and swear these things didn’t happen in her day. My Mum used to get mad with her, because, as she pointed out, in her day the phrase: “gone off with the gypsies” was used to account for disappearances, rather than confront the colder, harsher truth. But faeries, they’re something else altogether!

    • Given her lax ways at home, I can’t imagine full time work plus child rearing would have appealed to her…it’d probably come as a shock, and wouldn’t necessarily be seen as women’s liberation.

  3. Oh, I really loved the dialect in this one. And the discussion of how things used to be vs. how they are today. I laughed about never having a latch, just walking right in. I remember doors left open when I was a kid. Thought nothing of it. And I’d say those fairies taught the mom a good lesson. I loved the picture of the beer stein. This was a great write all around.

    • Thanks Mary.
      I keep a supply of BS in my fridge, so I do use the beer stein. I also have Cornish Knockers (another beer named after the equivalent of Cornish leprechauns who would knock to warn of an impending collapse in the tin mine).

  4. …an interesting read Rowan… i am not sure if i get right but other than that i enjoyed the accent… the technical aspect in your poem appeals so intriguing well enough to me for now… i guess i’ll have to read more about B.S. to fully understand her character & the modernization you produced from her… smiles… happy easter…

    • When I went to school some of the children had such strong accents I could barely understand what they were saying, and I was from the same place. I wouldn’t expect you to be knowledgeable in West Country accents, so if you got anything from it that’s great.

  5. Great cultural/linguistic tour and fun exploration of leavin’ the kids at home alone!
    ‘Twas done to me, and I do it to mine. We shall all come out just fine. Hope to see thee visiting other writers.

  6. That’s a corner of our country that I’ve yet to visit, so I know nothing of the tales and traditions of Devon and Cornwall. Your re-telling of the story has me intrigued.

  7. Lovely stuff Rowan and your reading superb.

    I remember those innocent days too, going to bed with doors unlocked, friendly neighbours – and we looked out for each other…

    Anna :o]

    • Thanks Anna.
      I’ve been fortunate to move to a small rural town (part of greater Auckland) that still has that feel…though I remind myself not to take the apparent safety for granted.

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