Variation in the past tense paradigm of the verb be (e.g., I were, you was, we was) is widespread amongst English dialects, and is often considered to be the result of analogical levelling. Through an analysis of non-standard was in Buckie English, a variety spoken in a small fishing town in north-east Scotland, we show that the historical record provides the most relevant perspective on the variation. 2nd person singular you, 1st person plural we, plural NPs and existentials highly favour was, however, 3rd person plural they demonstrates categorical use of were. The constraint hierarchy across grammatical person and subject type reflect the most widely-cited patterns mentioned in the historical literature. These findings demonstrate that a relatively isolated community provides an imprint of the past in the present, the tracks of which have been strikingly preserved by longitudinal continuity of the idiosyncrasies of the verb be.