Offbeat Video

By Dan Coles

A 22-year-old who lost his voice as a child in a horror accident has been given a new one – with a Black Country accent.

Jack Smith, from Wombourne on the outskirts of Wolverhampton, was forced to use a ‘posh and boring’ robotic standard generated communication aid throughout his childhood after a car crash paralysed him and robbed him of his ability to talk.

But he always felt part of himself was missing until he recently began able to use a new voice, recorded by another man called Jack, which captured hundreds of phrases in the distinctive Black Country dialect.

Wheelchair user Jack, who now lives in Woodseaves, Staffs, can now speak more than 650 phrases in an accent which matches the rest of his family.

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The avid Wolves fan was even able to read out the team names in his new voice at the Premier League team’s 2-0 win again Cardiff on Saturday [March 2]. 

Jack said: “I’m chuffed to bits with my new voice. 

I didn’t know jack before all of this, but he gave up his time to give me my accent – I’ll be forever grateful. 

“Everyone loves my new voice. It’s bostin’. 

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“It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time and now I sound like the rest of the family.

“Thanks everyone, and a big thank you Jack for giving me his voice. 

“If I could talk, I think this is how I would sound. 

“I’ve been using the voice much more since having the new accent which represents my identity.”

Jack was only seven when he lost the ability to speak and the use of his legs and left arm after he was knocked over by a taxi at a crossing in Telford in 2004. 

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The youngster was airlifted to hospital but suffered a brain injury and has been in a wheelchair ever since. 

Jack is currently studying sport at the National Star College in Cheltenham, a residential college where he lives, but comes back to the Black Country at weekends to see his family. 

After deciding that his communication aid had a boring voice since starting college in 2016, Jack wanted his original accent back.

This was made possible by fellow Black Country resident and drama graduate Jack McBride, 23, from Brierley Hill, Dudley, who spent around seven hours recording a host of words and phrases for the speaking aid after he spotted an appeal on BBC’s The One Show. 

Jack’s mum Jo Smith, 49, a prison worker, said: “It’s like listening to a real person, rather than a computer, it’s brilliant. 

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“The fact that five people turned up to offer their voices was just brilliant. We can’t thank Jack McBride enough.”

Jack’s dad Andy Ball added: “Jack’s over the moon with his voice. When he used the device, it sounded just like our local accent.

“Jack uses the buttons to access the Black Country phrases.

“When they are in a classroom, if six people have communicators you don’t know who said what.

“We listened to a radio show and it was four students speaking using communication devices, but you didn’t know who was talking.

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“Now you know it’s Jack right away. He definitely has got a part of himself back.”

Actor and forklift truck driver Jack McBride was one of five people who auditioned for the chance to have the voice.

Jack Smith liked his voice the best, so the 23-year-old then attended National Star College to have it recorded. 

Jack McBride said: “I had seen The One Show were looking for to record someone with a Black Country Accent for a project. 

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“I applied and auditioned, It was a bit like the voice – Jack and some others listened to me talk and Jack liked my voice the most so I got the offer to do it. 

“I felt bad for the recording staff, as the first time the day we did it the recordings didn’t work so they had to get me back in and listen to my voice again all day. 

“I hadn’t even thought about people with communication aids losing their accents, it really made me think, and I think It’s really given Jack his character. 

“It was for a good cause, so I was happy to do it, and his family are lovely. 

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“Jack’s dad called me to thank me for what I had done for his son, but it was a pleasure.”

When avid Wolves fan Jack read out the teams in his new voice on Saturday, the players had to be pre-programmed into the computer – with captain Conor Coady proving the hardest to say.

Andy added: “With his talk box, what a lot of people don’t realise is that it’s all pre-programmed so we’ve had to programme the whole teams.

“Sometimes it doesn’t sound like what the player is called – Conor Coady was one of the worst – it just would not say ‘Coady’.

“The Portuguese players were fine, but it didn’t like saying Coady.”