I’m a bit of a blow in to Wicklow. The accent fascinates me though. I’m talking about the real Wicklow accent here, the one that pronounces it Wickleh. This is very different from the South Dublin influx into parts of Wicklow where the accent has more in common with Foxrock than Redcross.
Today I realised the trick to talking with a wicklow accent… You simply don’t move your face. Not one little bit. You can’t even move your lips. Imagine if you will that you have dipped your whole head into a big bucket of botox. Then speak in a slow and measured way. There you have it in a nutshell. This is Wicklowese.
I won’t be popular with this post. But I’m not slagging the Wicklow accent off. On the contrary, I fully understand how it came about. Wicklow is cold and exceptionally windy for much of the year. Bitter winds rip up the verdant valleys and numb you to within inches of hospitalisation with hypothermia. Over years this numbness affects your ability to keep your face mobile. This is the botox effect. Botox is in the halpenny place when compared with the permanent effects of a Wicklow winter.
Rather unfairly, the Wicklow weather does not have the same wrinkle reducing features as botox. Instead the biting wind and inclement atmospheric conditions lead to faces that closely resemble the hilly landscape. At least though the hills of Wicklow, the garden of Ireland, are gentle and not the craggy landscape of Donegal.
Hold on a minute there Ian, did you just mention Donegal? Don’t they have even worse weather up there, and their accent is nothing like the Wicklow accent?
This is correct. But in the case of deepest Donegal the weather is so much worse as to be incomparable to the weather in Wicklow. A seasoned old man in Donegal has deep ravines carved into his face that rival the depth of the Mariana Trench. When they talk in Donegal they have to get the words out quickly to conserve as much warmth as possible, but even then it hurts enough to put a wobble into the pitch of the voice.
We in Wicklow and the rest of the country try to make them feel better about their strange accent by calling it a “lilt”. The reality however is that it is based on actual pain as a result of some of the harshest conditions on this little island. A wicklow man may feel a bit like an Egyptian Mummy, petrified by the cold and releasing sentences that sound like a low moan with some semblance, or attempt at diction. A Donegal man is hurting. The wind rips through the thickest of trousers and while they say that testicles are supposed to be kept at a lower temperature than the rest of the body, this does not mean the extremes that your average Donegal man is subjected to. Remember getting your finger stuck to the freezers in Dunnes Stores as a child? Well it’s a bit like that. It’s hard to talk evenly, in a measured way, without a “lilt” when your body is exposed to such radical experiences.
This of course does not explain the city dwellers with the same accents. The explanation is simple. Children learn from their parents, who in turn have learned from their parents and so on and so forth. This probably means that the average, tenement apartment dwelling, negative equity victim who has only ever driven through the countryside at speed rather than lived in it, but who comes from a Wicklow heritage is genetically conditioned to survival should they be released into the wilds of Glendalough.
What is your accent? Comment for a full in depth analysis of similar quality.