Dr Roy Hewitt: An Appreciation

Author: Clifford Smyth

Date: 2010

Source: Ullans: The Magazine for Ulster-Scots, Nummer 11 Ware 2010

Clifford Smyth


Dr Roy Hewitt passed away on 8 June 2009, in his 78th year. He had served as the Honorary Treasurer of this society for nearly a decade.

These were difficult and stressful years for the USLS. As Treasurer, Roy Hewitt had to contend with a series of complex issues which he addressed with a fine intellect, patience, and an unwavering loyalty to the Ulster-Scots language community’s best interests.

Roy was a difficult man to get to know, because he was essentially a very private person; yet the range of his interests and enthusiasms was such as to fully qualify Roy for the challenges that faced him as treasurer of the USLS.

Roy graduated in civil engineering, subsequently working for a time with my uncle, Victor Thompson, on projects connected with Armagh County Council and Craigavon Borough Council. Roy also spent time in Italy on civil engineering schemes, travelled to North America, and eventually took up a post in teaching civil engineering at Glasgow University. It was during his time in Glasgow that Roy apparently developed his enthusiasm for Scottish Country Dancing.

I encountered Roy at the Scottish Country Dancing in Belfast, but more significantly as my immediate contact with the committee of the USLS, following my temporary appointment to the post of Development Officer for the Society. It was in that capacity that I both observed and came to appreciate Roy’s unstinted contribution to the work of the language movement at a time when many obstacles and hindrances were deliberately being placed in the way of every attempt to move forward. Roy was well used to surmounting difficulties.

Unknown to me, Roy had a pilot’s licence and had been known to scatter flocks of sheep while landing at airstrips in the Scottish Highlands! A lovely story is told of one heroine who ventured aloft with pilot Roy and an instructor tasked with familiarising him with the controls of a small aircraft that he had never flown before. After half an hour, which included two practice ‘stalls’, the plane touched down at Newtownards to let the intructor out before resuming its scheduled flight. As the cabin door opened, the instructor hopped out only to find that Roy’s female passenger had hurled herself onto the runway too! With a cry of ‘Ye’r on yer own, ye boy ye!’, the lady vanished.

Roy Hewitt appears to have been something of a self-taught expert on genealogy, and those who found themselves in Roy’s car while in the environs of Portadown invariably found themselves trapped for ages, while Roy went in search of crumbling gravestones in abandoned cemeteries. His family had hailed from this area, and Roy owned a plot of land in the town.

Roy was also very knowledgeable about church architecture and would travel miles on a Saturday to tour churches and listen to lectures. He was involved with the church choir, and had a special love for the Psalms. On the other hand, he had strong opinions on the new Presbyterian hymnal, and the ‘modernised’ words of the older hymns came in for his strong censure.

A man like Roy, with such eclectic interests, was well qualified to enter into negotiations with the Ulster-Scots Agency, to bring himself up to date with employment taxation, to oversee staff and to undertake the task of re-locating the USLS from our premises in York Street to the centre of Belfast. These were all important administrative undertakings. Roy, however, had embarked upon a course in Migration Studies at the Folk Park in Omagh, being an enthusiastic believer in education, so it comes as little surprise to note that the greatest satisfaction Roy derived from his close involvement with the Language Society arose from his commitment to the funding and production of a growing range of quality publications.

With typical generosity, Roy threw open his home to the society’s committee when it found itself in need of a place to meet. Dedication to the Ulster-Scots language was only a part of Roy Hewitt’s remarkable life, but it was a part that he happily embraced with both affection and vigour.



The Ulster-Scots Academy has been an integral part of the Ulster-Scots Language Society since 1993. The name "Ulster-Scots Academy" is registered to the USLS with the Intellectual Property Office.

Ulster Scots Academy


A new edition of Michael Montgomery’s From Ulster to America: The Scotch-Irish Heritage of American English recounts the lasting impact that at least 150,000 settlers from Ulster in the 18th century made on the development of the English language of the United States. This new edition published by the Ulster-Scots Language Society documents over 500 ‘shared’ vocabulary items which are authenticated by quotations from both sides of the Atlantic. A searchable online version of this dictionary is now also available here.


The Ulster-Scots Academy is currently working on the digitisation of Dr Philip Robinson's seminal Ulster-Scots Grammar and the English/Ulster-Scots part (with circa 10,000 entries) of a two-way historical dictionary of Ulster-Scots. These projects are planned to be completed and available on the site in 2016.



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This site is being developed by the Ulster-Scots Language Society (Charity No. XN89678) without external financial assistance. USLS volunteers have been involved in preserving and promoting Ulster-Scots for more than 20 years. All donations, however small, will be most gratefully received and contribute towards the expansion of the project. Thank you!

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