Our decision to publish a double issue of Ullans (Volumes 9 and 10) was taken mainly to compensate our members and subscribers for their patience in waiting for such an inordinate length of time for the appearance of our ‘annual’ magazine. The delay was inevitable as the vulnerability of our purely voluntary organisation was tested to the limits. First we had the long-term incapacity through illness of our principal editor, and, secondly, we were stricken by a tragic accident in Australia in February 2002 that took the life of Martin, son of Clifford and Anne Smyth. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the entire family circle, and particularly to our Chairman, Anne.

In retrospect, the past three years have had many highs and lows for the Ulster-Scots language movement. Despite all the frustrations, the progress we have made is remarkable.

‘Future Search’

One of the many fruitless diversions into which we were enveigled was the waste of everyone’s time known as ‘Future Search’, an ‘exercise’ conducted over two days at the end of November 2002. Perhaps the title should have told us something, as one usually only searches for what is lost.

In a letter of response to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure’s invitation to participate, it was pointed out that the Edmund Report had set out clearly a strategic plan for the promotion and development of the Ulster-Scots language, receiving the approval of the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure in the summer of 2000.

In the event, all our comments about Future Search were vindicated. It was indeed a total waste of public money. During the two days of incarceration, the civil servants concerned were left in no doubt about the wishes of the Ulster-Scots community; but those wishes are still being disregarded. After much humming and hahing, implementation groups comprising representatives of DCAL and the appropriate Ulster-Scots organisations, together with other stakeholders, were set up, only to disintegrate when civil servants stated that they were not authorised to effect that implementation. The only good thing to come out of Future Search was the heartening degree of unanimity displayed by the Ulster-Scots activists who participated and who deserve the Society’s thanks and congratulations for their commitment and determination.

That determination led to a unanimous call for an independent public inquiry into what they believed to be an anti Ulster-Scots ‘caucus’ within the public bodies. While DCAL representatives said that they had no authority to order an inquiry, they did admit culpability for the non-delivery of the language programme and made a number of promises, none of which has been kept. One general undertaking was to engage with the representatives of the Ulster-Scots Language Society.

DCAL also agreed to:

  • full and immediate implementation of the Edmund Report’s recommendations for strategic development of the Ulster-Scots language;
  • core funding for a fully functioning Ulster-Scots Academy which would deliver the language development programme;
  • equality for both Irish and Ulster-Scots languages throughout both jurisdictions on the island of Ireland. Equality was specified as relating to the four Rs: Resourcing, Respect, Recognition and Representation.
  • measures to be taken by government to ensure Part III status and ratification for Ulster-Scots under the terms of the European Charter, within a three to five year period.

We are still waiting for even the smallest indication that any of this is likely to take place.

The Ulster-Scots “Boord”

Tha Boord o Ulstèr-Scotch (the “Board” of the Ulster-Scots Agency) is appointed by the relevant Ministers in Belfast and Dublin (four from Northern Ireland and four from the Republic). The Chairman is also appointed by government from among these because the Ulster-Scots Board operates as one half of the North/South Implementation Body on Language (Irish and Ulster-Scots).

The disappointment and frustration that was exacerbated by Future Search was multiplied exponentially by the removal of the two Ulster-Scots Language Society representatives that had remained on Tha Boord o Ulstèr-Scotch after the resignation of Dr Philip Robinson. They were replaced by two political appointees, neither of whom has any Ulster-Scots language skill or interest — quite the reverse, in fact. The Society sent a letter of complaint to Lord Laird as Chairman of the ‘Boord’, but he was unable to give the requested information as to the mechanism by which these gentlemen were appointed, nor a positive response to our concerns, which at that stage included the failure to appoint a replacement for Dr Robinson after a lapse of approximately a year. The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, in response to another letter of complaint, stated that the decision to make these appointments was taken by the North/South Ministerial Council, but of course this begs the question at whose instigation and acting on whose advice.

Dr Ian Adamson was appointed, with effect from the Board meeting of 19 September 2003, and we welcome this as providing one member with some knowledge of the language. However, according to our information, there were no changes to An Foras na Gaeilge at the end of that Board’s first term, and the Society cannot understand why active and committed members such as John Erskine and John McIntyre (the ‘Twa Johns’) were removed, following the resignation of Philip Robinson.

Further, the Society cannot understand why the Irish language body is twice the size of its Ulster-Scots counterpart. We look for equality of treatment in this as in other areas.

The Ulster-Scots Agency

The Ulster-Scots Agency should in no way be confused with any of the Ulster-Scots community-based groups. It is the administrative arm of the Ulster-Scots part of the North-South Implementation Body on Language (Irish and Ulster-Scots). Tha Boord o Ulstèr-Scotch operates as a governmental body, with a Chairman (Lord Laird, until his resignation) and seven other appointees — 3 more from N Ireland, and 4 from the Republic.

The Ulster-Scots Language Society welcomes the fact that at last a permanent Chief Executive of the Ulster-Scots Agency, Mr George Patton, has been appointed. However, in regard to those whom he directs, our members will be aware that the recruitment criteria for Agency staff are simply the general Civil Service entrance requirements, which cannot be expected to produce specialist, committed and interested staff.

Incidentally, on the subject of the Interim Chief Executives of the Agency, the Ulster-Scots Language Society would like to reiterate, for any readers that have been on Mars for the past three years, that Mr Stan Mallon is not, and was not ever, an Ulster Scot, by any definition of the term. He was a retired civil servant from West Belfast, who was brought out of retirement by DCAL to act as interim Chief Executive at the Agency, with no record of any activity to do with Ulster-Scots language or culture. A letter to this effect was sent jointly by the Chairmen of the Ulster-Scots Heritage Council and the Ulster-Scots Language Society to the media in Northern Ireland, and, although it received some coverage, the press and broadcasting media continued to refer to him as ‘the (former) Ulster-Scots chief’ and so on.

The Ulster-Scots Academy

In the period covering late autumn and early winter of 2002 through to the spring of 2003, civil service functionaries were giving every indication that funding would be available at long last for the proper establishment of the Ulster-Scots Academy, another plan proposed in the Edmund Report and not implemented. The Language Society views the core funding of its sister organisation, the Ulster-Scots Academy, as an essential element in creating the infrastructure the language needs for its healthy growth and promotion. Unfortunately, local politics intruded, and the Academy became a bargaining ingredient in the Weston Park talks. This political diversion has itself been side-lined by electoral mandate changes in the party-political scene within the Unionist community. Indications are that this new dispensation will be better informed.

Heralding the initiation of yet another ‘consultation exercise’, an advertisement was placed by Deloitte Touche in the Belfast Telegraph on 5 September 2003, inviting parties to register their interest, apply for assistance in making their case, and/or nominate individuals to form a Consultation Panel in regard to the establishment of ‘an Ulster-Scots Academy’. Although Deloitte had been engaged on a consultancy basis by DCAL, Language Society representations elicited the information that the department was acting on the instructions of the Secretary of State. The Ulster-Scots ‘translation’ of the advertisement, alongside the English version, was execrable, and produced a reaction from the native speakers that varied from hilarity to rage. The ‘eeksie-peeksie’ factor strikes again!

Government justifies itself by citing its responsibilities in regard to the expenditure of public money, but the continual outpouring of finance on consultation after consultation to ask the same questions and receive the same answers is in itself a scandal. We are reliably informed that Future Search cost the taxpayers approximately £27,000, presumably before taking workers’ time into consideration, for no result whatever. Expenditure on the Deloitte ‘exercise’ was £28,000+, part of which was in respect of DCAL’s consultee ‘advisors’, whose main function seem to be peddling the line that equality between Irish and Ulster-Scots is not an appropriate agenda.

Attempts have been made to equate the creation (or re-creation, since it has already been done, with public money) of a ‘business case’ for ‘an’ Ulster-Scots Academy with the ‘business case’ required before proceeding with the disbursement of £12 million on Irish, in relation to film and television production. This is not a valid comparison. Irish, with large infusions of public money, has upwards of a dozen organisations already in place, with full-time workers to promote the language. The infrastructure for Irish is already there, well established, and projects like that connected with film and television, while no doubt highly desirable to the Irish lobby, are far from essential. On the other hand, the Ulster-Scots Academy has struggled along for eleven years on a voluntary basis with no premises, no paid staff, and virtually no funding. Assistance with putting the Academy on a formal footing is essential in providing the support needed to progress the language development programme.

Further, the Society would see public support for the Academy as simply an outworking of government’s obligations under the European Charter, which requires it to be proactive in support of Ulster-Scots. In our view, the matter of an Academy should never have been used as a bargaining counter in any inter-governmental negotiations. It is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at Westminster that has the ultimate oversight of compliance with the Charter. Political meddling has again proved disastrous to the interests of the language.

However, the Ulster-Scots Academy, in spite of the lack of proper funding and recognition, continues to progress the main language projects — the tape-recorded survey, text-base and bible translation — ‘on a shoestring’.

The Stalled Language Development Programme

This heading is really misleading, as it is only possible to stall something that is moving. The Language Development programme has never been allowed to move an inch. £500,000 a year for the financial years 2000 to 2003 (£2 million in total) was earmarked for work on:

  • a “full” English to Ulster-Scots dictionary
  • a tape-recorded survey of native speakers
  • the creation of a text-base (a computerised archive of Ulster-Scots literature)
  • a translation service that would also address issues of standardised spellings and new terminologies.

Almost five years later, governmental expenditure on this approved programme and budget has not been initiated. Of course, lack of progress is inevitable when there is a refusal to engage with the only people capable of delivery. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that we are facing institutionalised discrimination.

The Ulster-Scots Curriculum Development Unit

In September 2002 the Agency’s education project to introduce Ulster-Scots into the curriculum at Key Stages 1 and 2 began at Stranmillis College. Its remit was to teach awareness of the language, but not to cover the language itself.

This project continues, and we are delighted that one of our own members is working on Key Stage 3, but the real needs in education have yet to be addressed. There is a great need for accredited courses to enable people of all ages to learn Ulster-Scots as a language, both formally and informally, and at all levels.

Valuable as the Stranmillis project has been, in the longer term it is vital that Ulster-Scots be embraced within the education system itself, not held at arm’s length, as has been possible when the funding is sourced from the budget of an entirely separate government department. When Department of Education figures for Irish-medium schools and other schools with Irish language units are examined, the contrast with Ulster-Scots is stark: not one ‘coul shillin’ has been expended on Ulster-Scots, a situation that has obtained for years, and continues despite the government’s obligations under the European Charter.

The Schools Competition

The Schools Competition took place in the period January to March of 2003. In 2002, our then Treasurer, Mr Lee Reynolds, applied to the Agency for sponsorship funding to enable us to run a pilot competition modelled on the one administered by the Scots Language Society. The idea was that we would restrict the competition to the North-Eastern Board area for one year to test the response, and then extend it further afield in the next academic year. By the time sponsorship money had been granted, Lee, to our great regret, had moved on. However, the Society then engaged Mr Martin McNeely to undertake the necessary organisation. ‘Marty’ established good contacts with the schools, and looked after a comprehensive mail-shot that informed them the competition would be based on the theme ‘Ate Up, Ye’re in yer Grannie’s’. Entries were accepted in a wide range of formats, and in the event we had a good variety including videos, PowerPoint presentations and cookery books.

The entries were of a very high standard, which created a dilemma for the adjudication committee, and in the end they could not separate Buick Memorial Primary and Balnamore Primary when awarding first prize. Third place, too, was a tie: this time between Damhead Primary and Longstone Primary. A surprise was Glynn Primary, in second place, with an entry that displayed an unexpectedly wide Ulster-Scots vocabulary. Our congratulations go to all prizewinners, and a selection from the entries is included in this edition of Ullans.

The Development Worker

For a short time from May of 2003 onwards, the Society had a temporary Development Officer in post. After her departure to pursue further education, a recruitment exercise was initiated to appoint a permanent replacement. We are delighted to report that our new Development Officer, Diane Hoy, took up her post on 1 December 2003, and we have already seen an enormous improvement in the running of the organisation. This is not to detract from the efforts of the committee members who have worked, and continue to work, so willingly on a voluntary basis, but simply to acknowledge that we were not physically capable of doing properly all that needs to be done for the benefit of Society members and the language itself, without full-time professional assistance. Heartfelt thanks are also due to our Society treasurer, Dr Roy Hewitt, for the undaunted way in which he tackled the intricacies involved in the Society’s new status as an employer.

The Society’s members have already heard from Diane several times, but we take this opportunity putting our warm welcome to her on the printed record.

The Development Worker’s Endeavours

Not since the days of Kintra Sennicht has the Society been able to keep its members informed in the intervals between issues of Ullans. Diane, however, has initiated publication of Newins, which has been invaluable in drawing members’ attention to issues of major concern to us.

Some of these concerns are ongoing, such as the publication of a despicable cartoon in the Irish News, portraying the audience at the ‘Eagle Wing’ production as Nazis and thereby demonising an entire community. Letters to the Press Complaints Commission and a number of other supposed watchdog bodies have failed to elicit any favourable response.

In March, an apology was received from Anna Carragher, Controller of BBC NI, in regard to a ‘Talkback’ programme last October which mentioned the translation of the words ‘Special Needs Children’ in an advertisement for a specialist teacher as ‘Wee Dafty Weans’. Immediately after the broadcast, the BBC was challenged to produce documentary evidence of this ‘translation’, and could not do so. It now appears that no-one had bothered to check the information and that the words quoted were part of an urban myth.

During the summer, the Language Society had a presence at two open air events, the Ballyclare May Fair, and the Border Reivers Festival, Kilkeel.

Diane has also been very busy on the representation front, attending EBLUL meetings, and newly-established tripartite meetings with the Heritage Council and George Patton of the Ulster-Scots Agency. She is also keeping up contact with NILGA (Northern Ireland Local Government Association) with a view to ensuring equality of treatment for the Ulster-Scots Language at local government level in the framing of policy.

Coming from a background in the Library Service, Diane has been well-placed to bring about the first USLS Exhibition at Belfast Central Library from March to May of this year. Further migrations with the exhibition are planned, to Donaghadee, Saintfield, Dundonald and Ballynahinch, over the autumn and early winter.

Diane’s salary has been reduced to part-funding by the Agency, with the Society now having to try to find the other 25%. Naturally this puts the post at risk, especially as there is certainly work for at least one other employee. The Society will continue to press to have this matter resolved as soon as possible.

Progress to be Proud of

Mainly, the projects that flourish are those in which our own members get the bit between their teeth and steam on with the job, regardless of all opposition. Among these are the following.

Teaching materials: A sub-committee of the Language Society has commenced work on an Ulster-Scots beginners’ course, and materials for these lessons have already been completed.

Tape-recorded Survey: This project has been successful in turning up many recorded gems. Around fifty tapes now await transcription. Our intrepid interviewers, the ‘Twa Wills’ and Elizabeth McLeister, deserve our best thanks for all their hard work. The interviews they have captured have re-emphasized, if that were necessary, how essential it is that the interviewer be able to speak to the person whose speech is being recorded, in his or her own tongue. It is the only way that folk can be put at ease and encouraged to lose their inhibitions.

Bible Translation Project: Similarly, the Ulster-Scots Academy’s Bible Translation Project is proceeding in a way that greatly encourages us. Of course, the value of a good Bible translation to the status of Ulster-Scots cannot be overstated. One has only to look at the effect of W L Lorimer’s Scots New Testament on perceptions of Scots to know that we have to say with Nehemiah, as he replied to those that would distract him from rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, ‘I am doing a great work and I cannot come down’.

The team is headed by Philip and Heather Saunders, who have vast experience of Bible translation work with the Wycliffe Bible Translators, most recently on the Ivory Coast in West Africa. As in the case of the Tape-Recorded Survey, we have seen how essential it is that this work be undertaken by a team firmly based in the Ulster-Scots speaking community, which is the basis on which we are proceeding. Nothing else will do the project justice.

A Blad o Ulstèr Scotch: This publication was launched in the Linenhall Library on Monday 11 August 2003 in the presence of a surprisingly large number of well-wishers given that it was right in the middle of the holiday season. The book is an anthology containing selected pieces from the past eight issues of Ullans, produced with the objective of introducing Ulster-Scots writing to a wider audience. Some copies of this very attractive publication, a ‘snip’ at £8.00, have gone to America and Australia. We would recommend the book as a most acceptable gift.

Sincere thanks are due to Crawford Gribben, who did the ‘launching’, and to all the others who took part. Joanne Crockard, who organised the launch, was indispensable, and we warmly thank her for taking on this burden.

This issue of Ullans contains the very informative speeches of both Crawford Gribben and Professor Michael Montgomery at the launch, and we are indebted to them for permission to publish their material.

Future publications: We are fortunate to have in course of preparation a short series of books that are the fruits of the labours of Charlie Reynolds and Charlie Gillen. These will focus on material from the North Antrim and Coleraine areas. A third edition of Jim Fenton’s Hamely Tongue, undoubtedly an Ulster-Scots Language Society best-seller, is ready for publication. Also on the way is a third novel from Dr Philip Robinson.


No other special interest group in Northern Ireland faces the extremes of hostility aroused by the Ulster-Scots language within the cultural establishment. It is a tribute to the basic health of the movement that we are still standing after more than a decade of virulent opposition. Although there is much that would disappoint us and tend to send us off course, there are also things happening that are greatly heartening. Our thanks are due to our hard-working supporters. However, we would call upon all you other folk that think of yourselves as Ulster-Scots to throw your weight behind the work of the Ulster-Scots Language Society.

Remember, as Rushdoony said: ‘A society not convinced of its own value is incapable of its own defence’. And if we have no vision of the worth of our own Ulster-Scots tongue, we will be incapable of ensuring its survival and growth. The task ahead of us is enormous, but our achievements over the past decade have been little short of miraculous. All has been done in spite of, rather than because of, the levels of “top-down” support. The result is a greatly strengthened grassroots movement with an unstoppable momentum.

A dozen years ago, when the Ulster-Scots Language Society was being formed, there was hopeful talk at our inaugural meeting of the potential for future governmental support. One sceptical voice then piped up: “Government support? The kiss of death!”. Perhaps, then, therein lies the secret of our success?



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.



This site is being developed on a purely voluntary basis by the Ulster-Scots Language Society at no cost to the taxpayer. 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!

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!

(Friends of the Ulster-Scots Academy group)