Claire Martin

Cockney Claire

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I’m a Cockney. I’m actually a “true” Cockney.. in fact I’m the only true Cockney in the family. And I’m very proud of it.

When you live in Canada, a country of immigrants, where you come from is a big deal.

So here’s my story.

I was born in Lambeth, at home, in a “two up two down” terrace row house within shouting distance of Guys Hospital, about 10 blocks from the River Thames.
Having been born in London is one thing.. but having been born within a highly specific limit of the core of London.. is something else entirely.

Not every Londoner is a Cockney (which drives my hackney-cab holding licensed brother NUTS!).

You can technically only be a Cockney if you were born in the East End of the city. within earshot of Bow Bells, the bells of St Mary-le-Bow in the Cheapside district of the City of London.

This actually gives more scope to being a Cockney than you might think, as the bells have been proven to have been heard six miles to the east, four miles to the west, five miles to the north and three miles to the south. Dick Whittington, according to legend, heard the bells in Highgate in North London before he turned back and came home.
The reason that hearing the bells was/is such a big thing in the nomenclature is because during the early London days (in the 16th century) fires would often run rampant through London. Church bells then tolled to draw in residents to help fight these fires. If you could hear the bells, you were considered a Cockney and were therefore expected to come help fight fire.

I love that the legacy of being a Cockney is not actually about the accent but about the community. Can you imagine if we installed that sense of “ownership” or “responsibility” to our own neighbourhoods? Say if you lived in Kits and a child wandered off and went missing around Cornwall and Vine, you’d be expected to help search for the lost child.

There’s something wonderfully “family’esque” to being a Cockney. Think Michael Caine. Think Mary Poppins. Think Adele.

I love that I’m a Cockney. I love being Canadian. There’s something ultimately uniting about being a Cockney’d Canadian.

What’s your story? What do you bring to Canada?


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  • Reply ghmanderson October 31, 2016 at 4:48 am

    My grandmother was a cockney and my mother always told me when I was a child that her mother was born within the sound of Bows Bells; of course it was a long time before I understood what that meant. Thanks for shedding some more light. Glenn

    • Reply Claire Martin November 4, 2016 at 4:27 pm

      You’re very welcome. You have a great heritage!

  • Reply Mary Miller October 31, 2016 at 7:55 am

    I am not. Younger son IS. Born at Guys I971. Thankyou for this.

    • Reply Claire Martin November 4, 2016 at 4:28 pm

      Very cool. Be sure to fill him in on what it means..

  • Reply Sandra Patricia Morrison October 31, 2016 at 9:22 am

    I too was born in Brixton, at home. I never got to be a Cockney because we moved away by the time I was 3. By the time I was 11 we were living in a little village in the Southern Counties, just before my parents decided it was time to move to Canada when I was almost 13.

    • Reply Claire Martin November 4, 2016 at 4:30 pm

      By my standards (!), that makes you posh!! I know Brixton Market well – you hear great calls from stall sellers yelling to the “punters” there. Thanks for the comment.

  • Reply evanshire October 31, 2016 at 9:50 am

    ‘cor blimey, me ole china. You really are a pearly queen.

    • Reply Claire Martin November 4, 2016 at 4:31 pm

      “I ‘is indeed, my man, I ‘is”!!

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