An Ulster-Scots Anthology

Author: Professor Michael Montgomery

Date: 2004

Source: Ullans: The Magazine for Ulster-Scots, Nummer 9 and 10 Wunter 2004

Professor Michael Montgomery

Editor’s note: This is the text of the speech delivered by Professor Michael Montgomery at the launch of A Blad o Ulstèr Scotch in the Linenhall Library on Monday 11 August 2003, reproduced with his kind permission.

A Blad o Ulster-Scotch frae Ullans

The book being launched here at the Linenhall today (August 11) is A Blad o Ulstèr-Scotch frae Ullans: Ulster-Scots Culture, Language, and Writing. Blad is a traditional Ulster-Scots word meaning ‘choice’ or ‘selection’, indicating that the volume is an assemblage of articles from four centuries of Ulster-Scots culture, language, and writing. The book features contributions on pipe bands, music and dance, sports (the bowls, curling, golf), Ulster tartan, place names, Belfast editions of Burns’ work, and a variety of historical and linguistic topics. It also has a selection of poetry, stories, and prose in Ulster-Scots from the Plantation period of the early 17th century to the work of the Rhyming Weavers right down to the present day.

A Blad o Ulstèr-Scotch is truly a collective effort of the Ulster-Scots Language Society to celebrate its work and to share it with others. The Society has a membership of more than 200 from Northern Ireland and beyond as far away as Australia, people who come from all walks of life, native speakers or otherwise. Collectively they defy the image frequently imputed to the Ulster-Scots movement as only a small band of activists. Nor do they live in a fading past. This book shows them to be instead a movement of people having many backgrounds and trainings who take interest and pride in their heritage and are increasingly self-confident. That many of them have been doing their part to document and revive Ulster-Scots culture is clear from their contribution to the present volume.

The Ulster-Scots Language Society sees as its mission two things in particular that this book highlights. One is the use and promotion of the Ulster-Scots language through publication, writing, and other means. Its annual magazine Ullans, from which the chapters in this book have been drawn and edited, has been the primary vehicle for this effort for a decade. Anyone who picks up this book or issues of Ullans will be mystified by how inconsistently writers of Ulster-Scots spell even common words. The English word with, for example, has five counterparts in Ulster-Scots: wae, wi, wi’ wie, with. This seeming chaos tells us that Ulster-Scots has been primarily a spoken medium. Anything written in it will become much clearer when read aloud. This is why when its speakers begin to write in Ulster-Scots, they have different ideas about spelling it. I am reminded of the comment of Andrew Jackson, the first of the Scotch-Irish Presidents of the United States, when asked one day why he spelled some words, including his own name, in more than one way. After a moment of reflection, he quipped that he never thought a man was very smart who knew only way to spell a word. At present Ulster-Scots is undergoing a period of experimentation with spelling, a natural process paralleled by many other regional languages in western Europe, and in some ways it is exemplary in its efforts to publicize and develop an agreed spelling system.

A second mission of the Society is to conserve and document traditional Ulster-Scots culture and heritage as both distinctive from and shared with others in Ulster and beyond. Through its work the Society has been a primary organ for making these known. The documentation of Ulster-Scots culture is of necessity a bottom-up enterprise, one that grows from the knowledge and experience of people on the ground. Whatever lectures, conferences, research reports, and the like they organize, academic initiatives not resting on the foundation of the traditional community run the risk of remaining in an ivory tower and insulating themselves from the primary bearers and interpreters culture.

Much has been made, for instance, of links between Ulster and regions across the water settled by emigrants who left local shores in the 18th and 19th century. These places include my own native East Tennessee, the land of Davy Crockett and Dolly Parton. The anthology launched here today reminds us that there is little point in comparing the music, language, or traditions of Ulster to Appalachia or elsewhere without doing one’s homework first with the folks back home. What are the authentic traditions in Ulster-Scots areas today? What were they two hundred years ago? Retracing the pathway that emigrants and their culture took to America requires exactly the kind of documentation that the Ulster-Scots Language Society is embarked upon.

The editors, Anne Smyth and I, take this opportunity on behalf of the Ulster-Scots Language Society to thank the assistance of the Ulster-Scots Agency for enabling the publication of this book.



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)