The Tammivaara-Balaam Isle of Ely Corpus

A typical Fenland landscape

Irmeli Tammivaara-Balaam visited the Isle of Ely (pre-1974 Northern Cambridgeshire) in the summers of 1974-1977. She was instructed by Harold Orton, Stewart Sanderson and Clive Upton in Leeds and assisted by local helpers. She found her informants on information received from the village shop, local post office, pub or vicar, as well as from the interviewees themselves. Mrs. Tammivaara-Balaam visited more than thirty localities in the area, which was only represented by a single village in the SED. Tammivaara-Balaam provided very thorough background information on her informants.

"The Isle of Ely is a very rural area, old fen country, flat and fairly treeless. An important factor in its history is the draining of the fens. My informants often stressed the isolation and the bad roads in the old days, which helped to preserve the fen dialect."

The Tammivaara-Balaam Corpus was edited from the fieldworker's typewritten transcriptions, which were compared to the original recordings.

"I visited 29 villages, with an aim to cover the whole area (see map below). This had to be done by bus, as I had no car at my disposal, and this put serious restrictions on the time I could spend in some of the villages. I had to plan my trips carefully in advance, which was in many ways a good thing. By looking at the bus timetables I could plan a trip for each weekday and make sure I could get to all the places I wanted to visit."

The corpus

Map of the Isle of Ely and the localities visited.
1 Gorefield 6 Wimblington 11 Pymore 16 Witcham
2 Wisbech 7 Benwick 12 Little Downham (SED) 17 Witchford
3 Wisbech St Mary 8 Doddington 13 Prickwillow 18 Sutton
4 Wisbech Guyhirn 9 Manea 14 Coveney 19 Haddenham
5 Elm 10 Purls Bridge 15 Mepal 20 Aldreth

Sample #1

M.D. from Doddington.
Recorded in 1974.
Age, sex: 92, female.
Occupation: Housewife.
Description: M.D. tells about rabbit-catching and the hard times her family endured in her childhood.

Yes that were me dad that was = That was me dad that was when I were = %---% when we lived down the lane but = since I 'm had my children = we 've known what it is = I 've known what it is to want = and I know my husband he 's gone = down the fields and round the woods and they used to go him and another man = they used to go what they call trundlin' = with nets = of a night = in the fields...

Download the sound clip by right-clicking here and choosing Save As from the menu. MP3 1:47 1,43mb.

Sample #2

A.I. from Elm.
Recorded in 1974.
Age, sex: 86, male.
Occupation: Farm labourer and smallholder.
Description: A.I. tells about his experiences with tractors.

He got me to sell my horses an' buy a tractor = which I don' know whether it was the worst thing I ever done or whether it was the best thing I ever done I don't know I can't tell you that = 'cause I don't know = but I sold these horses = 'cause he couldn't work horses = he was brought up in the startee = sort o' 'prenticeship...

Download the sound clip by right-clicking here and choosing Save As from the menu. MP3 1:46 1,61mb.