Common Identity 2

In 1992, therefore, the year of Fréchet’s death, I published, under my imprint, Pretani Press, the three-volume Folk Poets of Ulster series [1], thus initiating the modern Ulster-Scots revival in Northern Ireland.

I had also suggested the new name “Ullans” for the Ulster-Scots Academy which I proposed in June 1992, and formally established in Northern Ireland following a meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, between Professor Robert Gregg and myself on Thursday, 23rd July that year. The Ullans Academy was to be based on the Frisian Academy of Sciences in the Netherlands, which I had visited in 1978, and again in 1980, with a group of community activists from Northern Ireland, including Andy Tyrie, then Chairman of the Ulster Defence Association, and now Patron of the Ulster-Scots (Ullans) Academy. The essential characteristic of the Frisian Academy was its division into three departments: Linguistics and Literature, History and Culture, and Social Sciences. This tripartite division was to become our model. 

The new Ullans Academy was intended to fulfil a need for the regulation and standardisation of the language for modern usage. These standards were to have been initiated on behalf of the Ulster-Scots community, Protestant and Roman 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 [2]. It seemed clear to me that it was fundamentally important to establish a standard version of the language, with agreed spelling, while at the same time maintaining the rich culture of local variants. Therefore in 1995, I published for the Ulster-Scots Language Society, a regional dictionary by James Fenton, The Hamely Tongue: A Personal Record of Ulster-Scots in County Antrim [3], under the imprint of the Ulster-Scots Academic Press, from my premises in 17 Main Street, Conlig, County Down. This was the most important record yet produced of current Ulster-Scots speech and is now, under the imprint of the Ullans Press, in its third edition. It was distributed by my friend David Adamson, who did so without remuneration. 

Like the Frisian Academy on which it was based, the Ulster-Scots or Ullans Academy’s research was intended to extend beyond language and literature to historical, cultural and philosophical themes such as the life and works of Frances Hutcheson and C.S. Lewis, and to studies of the history of Ulidia in general, especially Dalriada, Dalaradia, Dal Fiatach, Galloway and Carrick, not forgetting Ellan Vannin, the Isle of Man.

[1] The three titles in the series are: The Country Rhymes of James Orr, the Bard of Ballycarry 1770-1816; The Country Rhymes of Hugh Porter, the Bard of Moneyslane c. 1780; and, The Country Rhymes of Samuel Thomson, the Bard of Carncranny 1766-1816, all published by Pretani Press, Bangor, 1992. Series editors: J.R.R. Adams and P.S. Robinson.

[2] Unfortunately, this is exactly what has happened, to the detriment of the language itself.

[3] James Fenton, The Hamely Tongue: A Personal Record of Ulster-Scots in County Antrim, Conlig, The Ulster-Scots Academic Press, 1995.

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