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?