for Marty Smyth, by Adam Smyth


He’s gane, he’s gane! He’s frae us torn,

The ae best fellow e’er was born!

Martin Andrew John Smyth was only nineteen years old when he was killed in a car crash in the Australian bush while on a gap year between school and university. His death left his parents Clifford and Anne, his brothers Adam and Alan and his sister Rebecca heartbroken, and the wider family circle and his many friends bereft and disconsolate. To be honest, I would struggle to rhyme off a list of Martin’s accomplishments. His name doesn’t appear on any fancy certificates, nor did it ever appear in the hallowed columns of the school prize register. At first sight the pinnacle of his achievements was a few trophies for his football, a game he loved and played with gutsy commitment and determination (though always for the ‘wrong side’ — the underdog). But this poor memorial would be to underestimate the huge impact this young man had on so many lives. Rabbie Burns’s Elegy on Captain Matthew Henderson, which is quoted at the beginning of this obituary, captures this sense that our worth is about far more than our worldly accomplishments. As Burns says:

Go to your scultur’d tombs, ye Great,

In a’ the tinsel trash o’ slate!

But by thy honest turf I’ll wait,

Thou man of worth!

And weep the ae best fellow’s fate

E’er lay in earth.

Martin Smyth, or ‘Marty’ as we called him, was indeed a ‘man of worth’. He was a member of the Ulster-Scots Language Society by reason of family membership. He loved literature, films and music, not in any academic way, but with a young man’s earnestness. He was a passionate advocate of his culture and heritage amongst his peers, but his big battles had yet to be fought. His opinions and abilities were, perhaps, half-formed; not yet developed enough to propel him into the spotlight, but evolving nonetheless in preparation for the great calling which, we all believed, inevitably lay ahead. His sense of humour was infectious and is sorely missed by all who knew him. At Sunday lunch he’d take an awful hand out of his mum and dad on account of their love of Scottish Country Dancing. Funny comments about kilts and sporrans and dad’s two left feet would criss-cross the table and soon he’d have everyone in stitches. But Marty’s comic touches were never barbed: he held his parents’ love of Ulster-Scots culture in far too high a regard for that.

The affection and esteem in which Marty was held brought hundreds to his funeral. He was such a faithful and loyal friend and loved meeting people. His concern for others, especially those dismissed or cast aside by society, was unending. All of us have a huge hole in our lives because he is gone. I’m terribly conscious that it does Marty a tremendous injustice to condense his nineteen love-filled, joyous years into these few short pages. Instead, the greatest tribute which I can pay him was made by one of his friends and quoted at his funeral: ‘He never took a backward step’.

Finally, our family would like to put on record our thankfulness to so many people who have shown such kindness to us during this terrible ordeal. In all of this we have also known the ever-present love of God who gives us the strength to carry on when our legs give way beneath us. The words of the one hundred and thirty-ninth Psalm were a great comfort to us while we waited by Marty’s bedside in Melbourne; one of our friends has been good enough to translate it into Ulster-Scots. The Psalm shows how intimately God knows and cares for us, and we believe that although it’s hard to distinguish what His purposes are, it’s through Him that we will one day be reunited with our beloved Marty:

Afore a wurd gets tae ma longue

Or ocht gets oot ma mooth,

Ye ken it aathegither Loard

Like guardin, listenin tooth.

Ahint, afore, an roon me lapped,

Ye pit on me yer haun.

Sic knowledge is owre heich fur me,

Owre haird tae unnerstaun.



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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