The Year Clock

by William Barnes

Forty superb and evocative poems, in a 2 CD release, of country life selected from the Collected works of the Dorset Poet William Barnes [ 1801-1886] and read by local dialect speakers. The musical settings of some of the poems are by Tim Laycock.

William Barnes was born near Sturminster Newton in the North of the county, and spent his working life as a schoolteacher and a priest, mostly in the Dorchester area. In his leisure time he drew on his memories of a rural childhood on the banks of the River Stour, and wrote his poetry in the dialect of The Blackmore Vale. Here you will find beautiful and moving depictions of the passing seasons, lively descriptions of country celebrations, and intriguing stories of local triumphs and tragedies. Barnes’ great gift was the ability to make poetry from the everyday comings and goings of family and friends.

The recordings on this double CD first appeared as Lydlinch Bells [ 1978] and Blackmwore by the Stour [ 1981]. They were combined in 2001 into The Year Clock by WildGoose Records, and the musical settings by Tim Laycock were re-recorded. The album also contains Tim singing Linden Lea, using the tune composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams. The readers were all local people from North Dorset.

Poetry and Songs Performed by:-
Charlie Andrews
Ethel Gumbleton
Frank Hilliar
Margaret Knott
Tim Laycock
David Strawbridge

Music by:-
Jimmy Cooper
Nick Crump
John Holman
Robin Jeffrey
Sharon Lindo
John Timpany
Tim Laycock and The New Scorpion Band

William Barnes

‘To where, vor me, the apple tree

Do lean down low in Linden Lea’

William Barnes [ 1801-1886] was a very remarkable man. Born in Sturminster Newton in North Dorset and very largely self-educated, he became an inspirational schoolteacher and later a compassionate and caring priest. In his leisure time he wrote poems about his early life growing up in the Blackmore Vale, and chose the Dorset dialect as the best means to convey the essence and spirit of his native county. The poems are of such beauty, quality and humour, that they are still loved and performed to this day.

The voices you will hear on these recordings are all of people who lived and worked in the Vale. The initial recording, Lydlinch Bells, was very largely based on Giles Dugdale’s lovely selection ‘Poems Grave and Gay’, and this was the book that many of the local readers around Fontmell Magna used in the 1960’s. Favourites such as John Bloom in Lon’on, The Shepherd o’ the Farm, The Wold Waggon and The Geate a-Vallen To can all be found here. Many people also have cherished copies of ‘Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect’ [the collected works first published in 1879], where all the other poems in this compilation can be found, with the exception of The Young Rhymer Snubb’d.

In 1801, the year of William Barnes’ birth, at least 90% of the population of the Blackmore Vale would have spoken in a dialect that we would now have difficulty in understanding. It was a language rooted in the countryside, full of specialised terms for the techniques of hand-farming, for the natural flora and fauna, rich with local anecdote and story. It was an entirely oral language, with vowel and consonant sounds passed down over many generations; perhaps, as Barnes maintained, from the time of King Alfred and the Anglo-Saxons. 

Even in his own time, Barnes was very aware how the dialect was being weakened and diluted. The farmers and tradesmen who sent their sons to his school in Dorchester expected them to be educated out of a Dorset accent; for then, as now, a West country accent was snobbishly regarded as the lazy speech of country bumpkins who were too silly and slow to speak properly. It was to fight against this perception,, and to help his countrymen take pride in their native accent, that Barnes gave lectures on ‘The History of the Western English Folk Speech’, and then entertained his audience with readings of his poems.

We have all become very used to the all-pervading influence of television, with its marked preference for urban accents; but it is good to remind ourselves of the way our forebears spoke and thought, and of the close relationship that they had with the land. We should celebrate the Dorset accent, use it and cherish it as an integral part of the character of the area,  just as much as the Jurassic Coast, and Maiden Castle, and all the other spectacular landscape features that make our county so attractive. The language belongs to the landscape, and the poems of William Barnes remind us of what we still have, as well as the life we have lost.

Zoo now let none of us vorget

The pattern our vorefathers set…

This CD is dedicated to the memory of Charlie Andrews, Ethel Gumbleton, Frank Hilliar, Margaret Knott and David Strawbridge, whose voices can be heard on these recordings; and to Tom Fox of Sturminster Newton, who loved these poems, and farmed the land once worked by the family of William Barnes.

Tim Laycock, Littlebredy June 2020



Most of this poetry on this album was originally released on Lydlinch Bells and Blackmwore by the Stour and was recorded by Andy Jackson, Russ Barnes and Chris Hardcastle.

New recordings by Tim Laycock  were made and  edited by Paul Sartin, Rob Harbron and Doug Bailey at WildGoose Studios.

Cover photograph taken by George Laycock, with kind permission of Dorset County Museum.

Originally Produced by Tim Laycock for Forest Tracks c 2001.


  1. The Year Clock - Spring                     TL
  2. The Young Rhymer Snubb'd              DS
  3. Leady Day, an' Ridden Hous             EG
  4. Childhood                                           TL
  5. The Love Child                                   FH
  6. False Friends-like                                TL
  7. Blackmwore Maidens                         DS
  8. Don't ceare                                          TL
  9. The Leane                                           DS 
  10. May                                                     EG
  11. The Year Clock – Summer                  TL
  12. Whitsuntide, an' Club Walken            EG
  13. Woak Hill                                            DS
  14. White an' Blue                                                TL
  15. John Bloom in Lon'on                         DS   
  16. From The Veairies                               TL
  17. A Bit o' Sly Coorten                                       CA, EG    
  18. The Child an' the Mowers                   DS 
  19. Lullaby                                                TL
  20. Jenny's Ribbons                                  MK
  21. The Shepherd o' the Farm                   TL
  22. Evenen in the Village                          MK,EG


  1. The Year Clock - Fall                          TL
  2. A Zong ov Harvest Hwome               TL
  3. Picken o' Scroff                                  DS
  4. Nanny Gill                                          EG
  5. The Wold Waggon                              DS
  6. Wheat                                                  NSB
  7. Shrodon Feair                                     TL
  8. A Witch                                              EG
  9. The Wife a-lost                                   TL
  10. Our Fathers' Works                             DS
  11. The Year Clock – Winter                    TL
  12. Bells Ringing
  13. The Lydlinch Bells                              EG
  14. Praise o' Do'set                                    FH
  15. My Orcha'd in Linden Lea                 TL
  16. The Humstrum                                    DS
  17. What Dick an' I did                            TL 
  18. The Settle an' the Girt Wood Vire      MK
  19. The Giants in Treades                         DS
  20. Grammer's Shoes                                TL
  21. The Geate a-Vallen To                        CA
  22. The Year Clock                                   TL


Sample not available
The Year Clock Spring
w Barnes
Harvest Hwome
W Barnes
John Bloom
W Barnes
Lydlynch Bells
W Barnes
Praise o' Dorset
W Barnes