Rob Mason: Ha'way the Lads

Club historian Rob Mason attempts to disentangle the apostrophe in ‘Ha’way the Lads’.

Occasionally the club is contacted regarding the apostrophe in the word Ha’way – as it appears on the north seating in ‘Ha’way the Lads'. Sometimes people argue that the apostrophe should not be there.

Apparently, the origins of the word ‘Ha’way’ stem from mining. It is said that miners would be called from different points in the mine, for example ‘all the way lads’ or ‘half-way lads.’ The accuracy of the origin of the word is open to question.

While rarely heard now, what is certain is that in days gone by supporters at the match would yell – after a deep breath – ‘Haaaaaaaway the Lads!’  How many a’s you would put in that spelling would depend upon how long the supporter was able to shout for before needing a breath!

In my time of supporting Sunderland, which goes back to the 1960s, such a heart-felt shout of ‘Haaaaaaaway the Lads!’ would often come from a random single supporter. It would almost invariably be screamed during a quiet passage of play and equally, invariably, it would rouse the supporters around the person yelling to raise the volume and get behind the team.

Given some of the attempts at a record length of shouting ‘Haaaaaaaway the Lads’ if the seating included all of the a’s it might even wrap all the way around the stadium, not just the North Stand! To my understanding that is why the apostrophe appears, as an apostrophe of omission, accounting for the varying number of a’s in such a shout.

Chants of ‘Ha’way the Lads’ tend to go for the single ‘a’ version of the word but in the chant Ha’way the Lads, Ha’way the Lads, Ha’way the Lads, Ha’way’ (and repeat) the first ‘Ha’way’ tends to see the opening syllable held a little longer as in ‘Haa’way’. No doubt people will have varying views on all of this, but hopefully this attempt at an explanation helps you to understand the purpose of the apostrophe in this context.

People who stopped reading this article part-way through were probably bored by it.

If you’re still here, you probably have a view on it. The eminent playwright George Bernard Shaw was one who wanted to abolish the apostrophe which, as ever, continues to create debate.

I wonder what John O’Shea, Yann M’Vila, Martin O’Neill, John O’Hare or Luke O’Nien make of it?

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