The Ullans Saga, Part 5

Continued from Part 4:
In 1992, therefore, the year of Fréchet’s death, I published the three-volume Folk Poets of Ulster Series, including the “Country Rhymes” of James Orr, Samuel Thompson and Hugh Porter, thus initiating the modern Ulster-Scots Language movement. In line with the Scots magazine Lallans, I suggested the use of “Ullans” as the name of the magazine the Ulster-Scots Language Society first published in 1993. The term appeared particularly useful, not only as a contraction of “Ulster Lallans”, which I had first used in my book The Identity of Ulster in 1981, but of the word “Uladh”, Gaelic for Ulster, or “Ulidia” and “Lallans”, Scotch for Lowlands, as well as being a acronym for the Society’s aims in its support for the “Ulster-scots Language, Literature and Native Speech”. I had also suggested the new name for a proposed Ulster-Scots or Ullans Academy which I founded in July 1992, following a meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada between Professor Robert Gregg and myself. The Academy was to be based on the Friesian Academy of Sciences in the Netherlands, with its three departments of Linguistics and Literature, History and Culture, and Social Sciences, which I had visited in 1978, and again in 1980, with a group of community activists from Northern Ireland.

The Academy would fulfil a need for the regulation and standardisation of the language for modern usage. These standards would be initiated on behalf of the Ulster-Scots Community, Protestant and Catholic, Nationalist and Unionist, and would be academically sound. What we didn’t need was the development of an artificial dialect which excluded and alienated traditional speakers. Furthermore, the term “Ullans” was not to be restricted to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, since as a variety of Central or Mid Scots, it is also spoken in south-west Scotland, an area south of the River Nith, including the country of Robert Burns, and in Galloway and Carrick – corresponding roughly to the Old British Kingdoms of Rheged and Aeron – where it is known as “Galloway Irish”. The Ullans Academy was to be based in Belfast, which was at the epicentre of all three jurisdictions. It was also to be used to explore the relationships with Ulster Gaelic which I have termed “Ulidian”, which was formerly spoken in all three areas, and had been first brought to south-west Scotland by the Kreenies or Cruthin of Dalaradia in Antrim.

In December 1992 I facilitated the formation of the Ulster-Scots Language Society (USLS) in Craigavon House, Belfast and at a meeting of the Society on Friday, 28th May, 1993, I suggested that the Ulster-Scots Academy might be required to act as a teaching and resource centre for the newly formed Language Society.

The first formal meeting of the Academy was held at my home on Monday, 10th January, 1994. The following month, I asked Mr Jim Nicholson MEP to raise the issue of an Ullans Academy in the European Parliament at Strasbourg. This was followed up by the Reverend Dr Ian Paisley MP. In December 1995, I asked Dr Paisley to arrange for Members of the USLS, including myself, to meet the Northern Ireland Office Minister, Michael Ancram, to put forward a comprehensive proposal for a core-funded Academy. The costed and itemised proposals included details of a language development programme and an Ulster-Scots Language Resource Centre. Without any funding being awarded, the Academy managed to complete some aspects of its agenda on a purely voluntary basis.

It was clear to me that establishing a standard version of the language was of fundamental importance while at the same time maintaining local variants. To this end, in 1995, I had published, under the imprint of the Ulster Scots Academic Press from my premises in 12 Main Street, Conlig, County Down, a regional dictionary by James Fenton, The Hamely Tongue which was the most important record yet produced of current Ulster-Scots speech and which is now in its third edition.

To be continued

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