Obituary — J R R Adams (1946-1993)

The tragic death of J R R (Ronnie) Adams on 20 December 1993 will prove an enormous loss to the Ulster-Scots Language movement. Formerly Librarian of the Linen Hall Library, he had been the Librarian at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum for the past 13 years. Ronnie, with his wife Amber, jointly edited and introduced the first volume of the ‘Folk Poets of Ulster’ series. This was on Hugh Porter, the Bard of Moneyslane in county Down, and he also was Series Editor for two subsequent volumes in this series. His knowledge of the Ulster-Scots poets and Ulster literature generally was extensive. As a member of the Belfast Literary Society, he prepared a paper on the works of Robert Huddleston, the Bard of Moneyrea, and some of this work was published in the Linen Hall Review.

He was a native of county Donegal, and had a particular interest in the Ulster-Scots poets of that county. One of the articles he contributed to Ullans (Nummer 1) was entitled: ‘Scotch Poems from East Donegal in 1753’. In the introduction to this article he observed that this collection “of Ulster-Scots verse represents the first substantial collection in print in that language, published before Robert Burns was born. As a native of that area of Donegal myself, this is a matter of some pride.” It had been Ronnie’s intention to introduce more of these Donegal Ulster-Scots bards in a future volume of the ‘Folk Poets Series’.

However the most significant and lasting contribution made to our movement will undoubtedly prove to be the ‘Bibliography of Ulster Dialect’ he had prepared. In this he had listed hundreds of publications containing writings in whole or in part of Ulster-Scots and Ulster-English. From his extensive knowledge of early printed matter, this bibliography has brought to light many hitherto rare and unknown works in Ulster-Scots. With over 800 printed works included, it stands as a testimony to the contribution Ronnie has made, and it will remain for years to come the corner-stone of our Society’s work in proclaiming the richness of our literary tradition.

Needless to say, all of us who knew him as a friend will also miss his good-humoured and level-headed counsel. Only a week before his death, Ronnie had agreed with a cheery “nae problem” to prepare a short feature for Ullans 2 — on early Belfast printings of the classics of Scots literature.

The other article written for Ullans 1 by Ronnie Adams was one on Ulster-Scots surnames: ‘Jack Stewart, Jamie Boyd … and Friends. Subscribers to Ulster-Scots poetry 1793-1824: a name survey’. This was an initial study of the names of 7000 ‘subscribers’ to eleven different books of Ulster-Scots poetry which he had brought together into a single, alphabetical list. The books containing these subscribers’ names were published between 1793 and 1824. The potential of this list for future work on family names and the distribution of readers of Ulster-Scots is enormous. The concluding sentences from this pioneering article are worth repeating:

“Much more work needs to be done on these names. For instance, they are almost invariably located in a townland or town, and even a preliminary examination reveals that the readership of these volumes closely corresponds with the Ulster-Scots speaking areas of Antrim, Down, and the Foyle basin.

It is quite possible that this list of subscribers will prove to be the nearest obtainable to a past census of Ulster-Scots”.



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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