John Kett: Respected Norfolk dialect poet

PUBLISHED: 08:32 17 December 2010

John Kett, the Norfolk dialect poet who has died - pictured when he retired as head of Cawston primary school in 1978

John Kett, the Norfolk dialect poet who has died - pictured when he retired as head of Cawston primary school in 1978


A well-known and respected Norfolk dialect poet John Kett has died at the age of 93.

The retired teacher and countryside enthusiast captured everyday Norfolk life in the native tongue in books such as Tha’s a Rum’un, Bor!

Dialect champion and writer Keith Skipper paid tribute to Mr Kett as a poet of repute who sought subject matter that was well above the “bit of a larf” level.

“His place is secure in the Norfolk Hall of Fame when it comes to cherishing and sharing our precious dialect,” said Mr Skipper, who also used to host him on his
programmes on BBC Radio Norfolk in the 1980s.

Mr Kett was “up there” with other renowned Norfolk writers such as Sidney Grapes, who did the Boy John letters, Dick Bagnall-Oakeley and Jonathan Mardle.

In a preface to his first book Mr Kett said putting the dialect down in print was not easy, adding: “It is not intended these verses should be browsed over in silence.

“They should be read aloud in good company – Norfolk company.”

They often were, at dialect events such as the Norfolk Dialect Festival at Cromer, where Mr Skipper said Mr Kett had performed, and his work was regularly read out by others. Tha’s a Rum’un Bor includes verses such as Feedin’ the Baads, Lijah’s Hosses, Norridge Traffic and the Poost Orfice Strike.

A foreword by Dick Bagnall-Oakeley said Mr Kett was a “countryman through and through ... a keen observer of the changing life and landscape around him” whose poems about events such as wedding, fetes, and funerals, caught the feel of country life.

Born at Wereham in West Norfolk, he was a teacher at Shipdham and Holme before his longest service as head at Cawston from 1952 until his retirement in 1978.

His interest in poetry was sparked through his Scottish wife Mary, who introduced him to the work of Robert Burns and saw him pen his first Norfolk verse in the 1950s.

His books Tha’s a Rum’un, Bor!, Tha’s a Rum’un Tew, Wotcha, Bor and A Year Go By sold more than 20,000 copies. After Mrs Kett died in 1994 he wrote another book in her memory called A Late Lark Singing which also contained poems in standard English set in other parts of the country.

Mr Kett, who was a committed Christian and lay reader and had two sons, also wrote for the EDP, and did a Know Your Norfolk column for its sister paper, the Evening News, under the by-line “JK, He Say.”

A service of thanksgiving will be held at a date to be announced later.

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