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Monday, 20 March 2017

Clearing Up This Cockney Confusion

Many London people call themselves Cockneys, but you only get the real stamp of approval if you were born within the sound of Bow Bells. 


Figure1 .Cheapside_and_Bow_Church_engraved_by_W.Albutt_after_T.H.Shepherd_publ_1837_edited

I can do that.  I was born at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital well within the sound of those bells. Neither my mother or father or my three siblings can do so. That’s not surprising since the bells are located in a built-up non-residential area of London and Barts (as it is affectionately called) no longer provides neo-natal services.  In 1993 it was recommended that hospital service should be delivered closer to where people lived. Barts was identified as a hospital with a catchment area that had a low population and the hospital was threatened with closure

This would have been tragic for a hospital that was founded in 1123 and is the oldest hospital in Britain.  Its long and colourful history deserves more space than I can allot to it here.


Figure 2 The King Henry VIII Gate at Barts was completed in 1702

So, I’ll exercise my legitimate right to call this blog “A Covey of Cockneys”, because the person telling the tales is me and the people I’ll be “Telling Tales” on (mostly my family) who all consider themselves Cockneys.

So, I might as well start out by filling in a little background on what it means to be or think oneself to be a Cockney. As I’ve had to explain to many a person over the years the term has nothing whatsoever to do with roosters or genitalia.  Like so many other words in the English language it is ascribed to many different sources. Not surprising when it’s said to have been around for hundreds of years.  It’s probably derived from the word “Cockayne” or a similar French word which was applied to the city dwellers, mainly Londoners I guess, and its meaning was not exactly flattering.  So, let’s leave that and move on to map out Bow Bells.

Because of its name, the district of Bow is often labelled as being the Cockney designator, but it can’t be because it sits 4.6 miles east of London’s centre.  Whereas, the church of St. Mary-le-Bow is in the city centre and St. Bartholomew’s Hospital where I was born is considered to be within the sound of the church’s bells.

Here's a link if you would like to hear the Sound of Bow Bells.  Not sure if this counts as a Cockney designator if played as a baby is born?

So now that we’ve got that settled, the question arises: Why am I doing this?  This telling tales out of school, this public airing of the family linen?   The answer is very simple: I’m getting old.  Soon it will be time to relinquish my space on this marvellous planet to make room for someone yet unborn.  But, before I go I’d like to leave a little record to show that I did pass through. Although these tales will mainly be of interest to my immediate family, if you’ve strayed this way by accident or design – please come in – you’re welcome to read about our lives, perhaps you’ve had similar experiences.

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