The roots of the Ullans (Ulster Scots) Academy go back to the establishment of the Ulster Dialect Archive established at Cultra Manor, the headquarters of the Ulster Folk Museum and to the pioneer work of G. B. Adams, J. Braidwood, P. L. Henry and R. J. Gregg. Following a visit to the Friesian Academy in 1978 and again in 1980 with a group of community activists, including my friend Andy Tyrie, who came with me, I used their book Ulster Dialects (1964) to form the basis of the chapter “The Language of Ulster” in my Identity of Ulster (1981). I followed this up throughout the 1980’s as Secretary of the Farset organisation. I liased with the Ulster Folk Museum and the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s University, Belfast in order to develop an interest in language and oral history in the local community. This work was supervised by Réne Frechét, Professor of Irish Studies, Université de Paris III, Sorbonne Nouvelle. The intended object was the creation of an Ulster-Scots Academy at Cultra Manor. The Ullans (Ulster Scots) Academy was eventually founded in July 1992 following a meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada between Professor R J Gregg and myself. In December of that year the Ulster-Scots Language Society (USLS) was founded in Craigavon House with myself as Chairman.
At a meeting of the USLS in Craigavon House on Friday 28th May, 1993 I suggested that an Ulster Scots Academy might be required to act as a Teaching and Resource Centre for the USLS. The first formal meeting of the Academy Senate was held at my home on Monday, 10th January 1994 with myself as Founding Rector, this position being immediately offered to Prof R.J. Gregg. At this meeting I suggested that my publishing concern could distribute James Fenton’s regional Dictionary of Ulster Scots, with the help of my friend David Adamson. Since then the Academy has continued to exist as a community based voluntary organisation. Despite its close founding links with the USLS, it was represented separately on the Executive of the Ulster-Scots Heritage Council established by Nelson Mc Causland. The Academy’s prime aims were to campaign for academic research into Ulster-Scots and for equality of status as a European “Lesser-Used” or regional language as well as to establish Craigavon House as the centre of excellence for Ulster Scots studies in Ireland.
Craigavon House was the former home of James Craig JP, MP who became Lord Craigavon, the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and has been associated historically with the beginning of the Northern Ireland State. Apart from Parliament Buildings, Stormont, it is perhaps the most important heritage site from a Unionist standpoint in Northern Ireland. Craig also thought of himself as an Ulster Scot in the broad sense and, as an indigenous Ulster person, was conscious of his Ulidian heritage, deeply rooted in Ireland. Craigavon House is presently owned under lease by the Somme Association, of which I was also the founder and Chairman, now Vice-President. This Association grew out of Farset, following a Press Conference arranged by my friend Rev Dr Ian Paisley on 1st July 1986.
In 1992 I published under my imprint Pretani Press the “Folk Poets of Ulster” series to bring before the public some of the finest pieces of literature in the Ulster-Scots language by James Orr, Hugh Porter and Samuel Thompson. In February 1994 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 Mr David Trimble MP. In December 1995, I also asked my friend Rev Dr Ian Paisley to arrange for members of the USLS including myself to meet the NIO Minister, Michael Ancram, to put forward a comprehensive proposal for a core-funded Academy. The costed and itemised proposal then included details for a language development programme and an Ulster-Scots Language Resource Centre. Without any funding being awarded, the Academy managed to complete some aspects on a purely voluntary basis. These outputs included the regional Dictionary (Fenton, 1995), which was published under the imprint of the Ulster Scots Academic Press from my premises in 12 Main Street, Conlig, Co Down and is the most important record yet produced of current Ulster Scots speech. In association with the USLS, numerous contemporary Ulster-Scots writings and re-prints of traditional literature have also been published, including an Ulster-Scots Grammar book (Robinson, 1997).
My progress in promoting the Ulster-Scots Academy is fully documented in press reports and correspondence throughout 1993 to 1997. (East Belfast Herald and Post July 22, 1993 (Helen Carson); Irish News January 25th 1994 (Conor McCauley); Belfast Telegraph 1994 (Vincent Kearney). On 9th November 1998 he raised the issue in the New Northern Ireland Assembly (Official Report Hansard, Volume 1 page 235). In 1998/9, Government funded the USLS to produce a development plan for the Ulster-Scots Language. The “Edmund Report” was produced in July 2000 by a consultant, John Edmund, “Strategic Plan for the Promotion of the Ulster-Scots Language”. It provided an updated, detailed language development proposal as a model for the work of the Ullans Academy. This Report again provided detailed costings for a core-funded Academy. The language development proposals in the Edmund Report re-emphasised the following priorities:
· Progress a tape-recorded survey of native speakers by native speakers (long identified as the most urgent priority).
· Create an electronic text base of Ulster-Scots literature.
· Develop a comprehensive two-way Ulster-Scots/English dictionary programme.
· Develop a process for agreeing standardised spellings and an accredited translation service (including a translation of the Authorised Version of the Bible).
· Set up an Ulster-Scots Language Resource Centre.
· Develop Ulster-Scots Language courses and classes.
· Conduct research programmes.
· Publish and broadcast in Ulster-Scots.
With the establishment of the Ulster-Scots Agency and Tha Noarth/Sooth Boord o Leid under the Belfast Agreement of 1998, and the formal recognition of Ulster Scots as a European Regional Language by the UK government in 1999, the implementation of the Academy’s Language Development Plan has become a government imperative. The resourcing of the critical elements of the Academy’s Language Development Plan was agreed by government and approved in the 2000-2003 Corporate Plan for the Ulster Scots Agency. However, after three years operation of the North/South Body, none of the agreed £1,500,000 expenditure on the language plan was processed.
In September 2002 the Agency held its first formal meeting with the Ullans Academy. It was agreed that the Academy would re-constitute itself as a Company Limited by Guarantee, in order that the existing voluntary programme of the Academy and USLS could be properly resourced and established.
In October 2002 the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Michael McGimpsey, responded to the repeated representations from the Ulster-Scots community for resolute action by government to promote Ulster-Scots more effectively. His Department (DCAL) organised a three-day “Future Search” conference to agree the way forward between statutory bodies, government and the Ulster-Scots community. A number of language-centred policies were signed up to by all present, including:
· Full and immediate implementation of the Edmund Report recommendations for strategic development of the Ulster-Scots language.
· The establishment of a fully functioning Ullans (Ulster Scots) Academy.
· Equality of Resourcing, Respect, Recognition and Representation for the Ulster-Scots and Irish languages throughout both jurisdictions in the island of Ireland.
· Measures to be taken by government to ensure Stage 3 status and ratification for Ulster-Scots under the terms of the European Charter for Regional Minority Languages, within 3-5 years.
The purpose of the Ullans Academy therefore was to conserve, develop and promote the Ulster-Scots language in the context of its attendant history, culture and moral philosophy. The Ullans Academy would be capable of delivering:
· A regulation and standardisation of the language for modern usage. These standards will be agreed by and for the Ulster-Scots community, and be academically sound.
· The previously agreed but delayed language development programme.
· Progress to stage 3 for Ullans (Ulster Scots) under the terms of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages.
· Equality of status and respect with the Irish language.
· An Ulster-Scots Resource Centre to make Ulster Scots materials accessible to researchers and the community.
· Accredited language classes and courses for speakers and non-speakers.
· Status-building measures for the language.
· Expert advice and an authoritative linguistic service to the Ulster-Scots Agency, Government and Statutory Bodies.
In the context of Ulster-Scots as a recognised “European Regional and Minority Language”, the Ullans Academy was modelled on the Friesian Academy in the Netherlands. However it would also promote the interrelationships between Ulster Scots, Ulster English, including Belfast English, and Ulster Gaelic (Gaeilic), as well as the study of Northumbrian English in general. The Academy’s research interests would also extend beyond language and literature – to historical, cultural and moral philosophical themes such as the life and works of Francis Hutcheson and C S Lewis, and studies in the history of Ulidia in general, especially Dalriada, Dalaradia, Dal Fiatach and Galloway. The Scotch Irish Diaspora also provided a particular focus on the American dimension, but emigration studies would also be necessary for the countries of the Commonwealth and other countries.
The Academy was closely associated with a “Heirskip Bilfawst” project, which is a proposal to reconstruct a living history and traditional crafts centre based on the 18th century Ulster-Scots town of Belfast at the time of the American war of independence. This project has many parallels with the leading American attraction at Colonial Williamsburg. It is significant that another philosophical model for the Academy is the College of William and Mary at Williamsburg, Virginia (founded 1693).This project was envisaged to be the first of several ” Heirskip Villages” throughout Ulster.
In 2003 I was instrumental in ensuring that the Joint Declaration of the British and Irish Governments would indicate that the British Government would take steps to encourage support to be made available for an Ulster Scots Academy. However, differences in philosophy continued. The original Ullans Academy wished to be associated with An Culturlann McAdam/O Fiaich and the Gaeltacht quarter of West Belfast. It was envisaged that the Heirschipe Village concept, initiated by the Ullans Academy, with its focus on cultural tourism, should also be developed under the remit of the Ulster-Scots Agency.
The Ullans Speakers Association of Ballymoney, County Antrim, the United Ulster History Forum and Portavogie Culture and Heritage Society of the Ards Peninsula, County Down and the Monreagh Project, County Donegal, were encouraged to be Friends of the Academy and an Ullans Centre of Academic Excellence would be established between the University of Glasgow, Queen’s University, Belfast, and the University of Ulster. Dr Paisley and I first travelled to see Professor John Corbett at Glasgow University on Saturday, 21st June, 2008 to facilitate this. Relations with the Sorbonne were maintained through Professor Wesley Hutchinson. Ideally, however, a prestigious location in Belfast was still required for the Ullans Academy but that is a continuing story.
Some six years ago, the Ulster-Scots enthusiast Liam Logan requested information from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure regarding further developments in the saga of the Ulster-Scots or Ullans Academy, which we had established in 1992. This was precipitated by the setting up of an Ulster-Scots Academy Steering Group by Nelson Mc Causland, who had become the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure in the Stormont Assembly.
Our Ref: RFI 118/10
Date: 10th December 2010
Dear Mr Logan
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000
In your correspondence dated 17 November 2010 regarding the Ulster-Scots Academy Steering Group, you requested the following information under the Freedom of Information Act:
1. Identity of the Chair of the Steering Group.
2. Membership of the Steering Group and dates of their appointment.
3. Date of the appointment of the Chair.
4. Criteria used for the selection of the Steering Group.
5. Selection process used to identify members of the Steering Group and if it was done by open competition, the dates and locations of advertisements.
6. What consultation was undertaken in relation to the creation and appointment of the Steering Group.
7. Were the CAL Committee consulted and if so when did it take place.
I am writing to confirm that the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure has now completed its search and can provide the following information.
1. The Chair of the Ulster-Scots Academy Project Steering Group is Wilfie Hamilton, a retired Civil Servant.
2. Letters of invite to the Steering Group were issued by the Department on 2nd April 2010 and its membership consists of:
• Keith Gamble
• Dr Ivan Herbison
• Lee Reynolds
• Dr William Roulston
• Anne Smyth
• Mark Thompson
3. The Chair of the group, Wilfie Hamilton was appointed on 2nd April 2010
4. The Steering Group falls outside the scope of “Public Appointments” regulated by the Commissioner for Public Appointments NI as the Ulster-Scots Academy is not yet a formal public body. Therefore appointments to the Steering Group can be direct Departmental appointments and do not need to go though normal board appointment processes and are not subject to the merit principle.
5. The Group is an interim arrangement which was set up to advise the Minister on an Ulster-Scots Academy approach and to progress the refreshed business case. The members of the Group were direct Departmental appointments as open competition was not necessary.
6. The Steering Group was selected by the Department on the basis of their knowledge of Ulster-Scots and their contacts and influence in the Ulster-Scots community. There was no public consultation carried out.
7. This is an informal group, established to update work previously completed on the Ulster-Scots Academy. Once a clear way forward has been identified the CAL Committee will be advised.
If you feel the information that we have provided does not fully meet your request, please write to:
Information Management Branch
Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure
20 – 24 York Street
Telephone: 028 9025 4256
If you are dissatisfied after completion of the internal review you may appeal to the:
Who will undertake an independent review.
If you have any queries about this letter please contact me. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.
Direct Line: 028 902515049
On 23rd March 2010, as Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister Nelson unveiled his plans for the way forward of the Ulster-Scots Academy. Speaking at North Down Museum in Bangor – home of the Raven Maps, a key artefact from the 1600s – in a speech cleverly written in Departmental language, Nelson emphasised how important Ulster-Scots is as one of Northern Ireland’s main cultural traditions. I attended on the invitation of the Ulster-Scots Agency, of which I was a member.
“Last year, a major independent survey showed that Ulster-Scots continues to be widely recognised, across both sections of our community, as an integral part of the cultural fabric of Northern Ireland,” Nelson said.
“As such, and as part of a shared future, it is only right and proper that we continue to support and promote this important aspect of our culture.”
He outlined “a number of measures to ensure the evolution and enhancement of Ulster-Scots, as well as ways of recognising and maintaining its history and heritage.”
“Among a range of plans are the establishment of a Ministerial Advisory Group to develop an Academy strategy and priorities for the CSR period. Alongside this there are various Ulster-Scots projects which reflect the diversity of the sector. My aim has always been to build confidence, capacity and credibility within the Ulster-Scots community and the way it is perceived in the wider society. I believe these plans are the way to secure mutual respect and growth at the wider community level.”
“The initiative has three strands: Language and Literature; History, Heritage and Culture; and Education and Research. I believe great damage has been done to the development of the sector by opponents who have sought to characterise this as being all about the status of the Ulster-Scots language. Clearly, it is about much more than that – this is a rich and vibrant culture which has shaped many aspects of life in Northern Ireland.”
And so it came to pass that Nelson announced the appointment of a Ministerial Advisory Group for the Ulster-Scots Academy.
Following open competitions for the appointment of a Chairman and four new Members, these were appointed with immediate effect for a period of up to four years. Yet another four members to “represent the Ulster-Scots Sector” were appointed by the Minister himself. As it turned out, however, the group was actually a very good, indeed excellent, one, although whether it was capable of producing a statutory Ulster-Scots Academy remained to be seen.
The Chairman of the Ministerial Advisory Group was Dr Bill Smith, and the Members of the Ministerial Advisory Group were Dr Caroline Baraniuk, Dr John McCavitt, Dr David Hume MBE, Dr Ivan Herbison, Tom Scott OBE, Iain Carlisle, and John Erskine.
At the launch of the “ MAGUS”, Nelson thanked the Chairman and Members for agreeing to sit on the Ministerial Advisory Group, and added: “This group has been established to provide advice on the strategic development of the Ulster-Scots sector and to rapidly build confidence within the sector by progressing projects under the three streams of activity for the proposed Ulster-Scots Academy, i.e. Language and Literature; History, Heritage and Culture; and Education and Research.
“Each of the new appointees has skills and experience which will make a valuable contribution to the work of the Ministerial Advisory Group.” Appointees are to serve for a period of up to four years with immediate effect.
Bill Smith was an independent professional adviser on issues of public policy, strategic planning and governance. He has worked extensively with a range of organisations in the public and voluntary sectors. He was a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Politics, International Relations and Philosophy at Queen’s University Belfast, and has recently completed a major research project for the US Institute of Peace. He was a member of the Parliamentary Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland; Board Chairman of Early Years, the organisation for young children; and a non-executive Director of Volunteer Now. No political activity was declared.
Dr Caroline Baraniuk had a doctorate in Ulster Scots literature, from the University of Glasgow, which focused on the poetry of James Orr. She worked in the Ulster-Scots Curriculum Development Unit at Stranmillis University College for four years. The Unit produced school curriculum materials designed to teach Ulster- Scots language, history and culture. She had also published essays on Ulster-Scots literature in academic journals. Dr Baraniuk had taught extra mural courses on the history of the Ulster- Scots community, contributed to radio and television programmes and had presented papers on Ulster-Scots literature at academic conferences. No political activity was declared.
Dr John McCavitt was a teacher with almost twenty five years experience. He has engaged in research on early seventeenth century history, a “formative period” for the “Ulster Scots”. He was historical consultant to the Ulster Scots Agency for the Hamilton and Montgomery commemoration, 2006. Dr McCavitt’s first book was a biography of Sir Arthur Chichester, often referred to as the ‘Architect of the Ulster Plantation’. He had since authored books on The Flight of the Earls and was an historical consultant to BBC N.Ireland’s three part television series on the subject. His current research focused on General Ross, a famous British soldier from Rostrevor, who fought with and against many of his fellow countrymen in the USA during the War of 1812. This conflict highlights the extraordinary contribution of the “Ulster Scots” during what has been termed as the ‘Second War of Independence’. He had also worked with a number of councils on cultural heritage. No political activity was declared.
Dr David Hume had been involved in Ulster- Scots community activities for many years and was co-founder of the Broadisland Gathering Festival in Ballycarry, Co. Antrim, the longest established Ulster- Scots festival. He had published books and research papers on Ulster- Scots history, people and events as well as contributing to radio programmes and journal and delivering talks on Ulster- Scots language and heritage. These include the Plantation of Ulster and Ulster- Scots emigration to America among others. Dr Hume had devised and delivered courses on the Ulster- Scots history and related topics, including community development in Ulster- Scots communities. In 2007 Dr Hume was awarded an MBE for services to the community in Larne and Ballycarry, including Ulster Scots activities. No political activity was declared
Dr Ivan Herbison had nearly thirty years experience as a university lecturer. Dr Herbison had been engaged for many years in researching the poetic traditions of Ulster- Scots, with particular reference to the work of the weaver poets.He had a special interest in the revival of the Ulster- Scots literary tradition, including contemporary poetry. He had written extensively on Ulster- Scots poets and their expressions of cultural identity. Dr Herbison had worked collaboratively towards the establishment and refinement of an orthographic policy for Ulster- Scots and had contributed to an elaboration of the principles upon which it is founded. No political activity declared.
Tom Scott was the Chair of the Board of the Ulster-Scots Agency. He was until 2005 a Northern Ireland senior civil servant latterly with Department for Employment and Learning with responsibility for skills, management development and youth training policy. In November 2005 he became Chairman of the Greater Shankill Partnership Board in Belfast leading the partnership on neighbourhood regeneration strategy. Tom was a board member of Ormeau Enterprise Ltd, a local enterprise agency, a board member of Intertrade Ireland and is involved with several private and public sector bodies. He was also involved in youth issues through Scouting, Belfast Activity Centre and the Gerry Rogan Initiative Trust. Tom was awarded an OBE in the 2008 New Years Honours List for services to the community in Northern Ireland. No political activity was declared.
Mr Iain Carlisle was currently the Acting Director of the Ulster-Scots Community Network (the successor of Nelson’s Ulster-Scots Community Council). He had acquired a comprehensive knowledge of the Ulster-Scots community through close involvement with a wide range of projects and events. No Political activity was declared.
Mr John Erskine was currently the Acting Head of Library and Learning Resources in Stranmillis College. He was a member of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. Mr Erskine research interests included aspects of Scottish cultural influence in the north of Ireland and the bibliography of Irish Presbyterianism and of Ulster Scots language and literature. His external interests include membership of Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland and of the Ulster-Scots Language Society, although he is not a native speaker. He was a former member of the cross border language Body. No political activity was declared.
The remit of the Ministerial Advisory Group on Ulster Scots (MAGUS) appointed by the former Minister Nelson McCausland was “to produce a coherent strategy for supporting the development of the Ulster-Scots sector”. The group was further invited, however, to advise the then Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín, on the use of her department’s academy budget ” to complement the activities of established organisations”. “Members were thus afforded the opportunity to contribute to widening and deepening knowledge, understanding and celebration of our Ulster-Scots heritage; to maximising its economic benefits; and to reinvigorating the pride and confidence of the Ulster-Scots community”.The MAGUS members met for the first time on May 12, 2011 and they agreed on the broad aims and principles which were to guide their work.
“We will promote excellent research, authentic information and good appreciation of the Ulster-Scots tradition, including its international and contemporary impacts. We will identify and support actions which will make a lasting difference.
“We strongly believe in the importance of culture in a shared society such as ours. We are working not only to record the ways and values of our ancestors but also to grow mutual respect between the various cultural traditions in this place; to challenge damaging myths and misunderstandings; and to play our part in building a pluralist, egalitarian society.
“We are committed to strong community engagement; full and open collaboration with the Ulster-Scots Agency and our other partners; and making the outputs from our investments widely accessible.
“Our vision is to retain the language priority at the heart of the Academy approach, but not at the expense of the attendant tradition, history and heritage. Down through the years the Ulster-Scots have contributed enormously to social, cultural and economic development in Ireland, the United States and elsewhere – arguably beyond their numbers – and it is imperative that this contribution is recognised and understood.
Over the next four years, we want to see a transformation in the standing of the sector.”
Success will be judged by:
• The sector’s confidence, credibility and capacity;
• Progress with the language agenda;
• The quality and quantity of translations and publications;
• The development of a substantial Ulster-Scots tourist trail and quality visitor attractions, including ancient settlements;
• A growing and accessible archive of documents and artefacts;
• A greater focus on authentic music and dance;
• An expanding research agenda;
• Eight quality educational products for all ages;
• The quality of our partnerships with other bodies and research institutions which share our strategic objectives;
• The quality of our community and international connections;
The role of the Ministerial Advisory Group would be:
• to produce a development and research strategy for the sector;
• to oversee the implementation of the strategy;
• to progress the Ulster-Scots Academy approach;
• to identify and support discrete projects under three streams of activity: language and literature; history, heritage and culture; education and research.,
The group would pursue these strategic objectives:
• to contribute to building broad understanding of the Ulster Scots tradition in Ireland, Scotland and further afield;
• to maximise the impact of the resources available to the Ulster Scots sector;
• to promote coherence in the sector;
• to secure the broadest possible support for its work across the community.
The group’s actions would include:
• commissioning research into all aspects of the Ulster-Scots tradition;
• supporting projects which carry the strategy forward and which cannot be fully funded elsewhere;
• supporting the translation, publication and promotion of significant texts in relating the Ulster-Scots story;
• supporting work to catalogue and improve access to archives, significant collections, and historical sites;
• supporting the development and promotion of innovative educational products and services.
As for the original Ulster Scots (Ullans) Academy which we established in 1992, it continued to promote aspects of shared heritage, common identity and community relations between the nationalist and unionist sections of our community in Northern Ireland, with particular reference to Belfast. The group was established with the idea that bringing people together through their shared cultural heritage would raise awareness of those things that bind us together rather than divide us and thus foster a sense of mutual tolerance and respect, and this it has achieved.
The management committee of the Ullans Academy consists of a core of hardworking and dedicated volunteers who meet on a weekly basis and this committee is completely inter-community in its nature. Members of the management committee have significant experience working in the sphere of community development, education and researching the history, heritage and common identity of Northern Ireland. Indeed the make-up of the committee has a number of politicians, professional personnel and community development workers within its ranks.
We felt that having an experienced and proactive committee was key to our future success and ultimately the ability of the Ullans Academy to have an impact upon a greater awareness of the shared cultural heritage, both of Ulster Scots (Ullans) and Ulster Gaelic (Gaeilic). Furthermore the promotion of awareness of those aspects in our heritage and culture which bind rather than divide our communities will lead to the development of stronger inter-community relationships in future years.
Thus the key objectives of the group are: To encourage and promote the shared Ulster Gaelic/Ulster Scots heritage and to raise awareness throughout Northern Ireland for our shared cultural heritage through delivery of high quality and engaging events and activities particularly our Saint Patrick’s Breakfast and the Feast of Columbanus. To go into the community and encourage inter-community activity and exploration of the diversity of community learning as an extension of education.
As Northern Ireland moved further into the post conflict period there were still a large number of people who are struggling to develop and are still experiencing minimal inter-community contact. These “hard to reach” areas, both nationalist and unionist, Protestant and Roman Catholic, are some of the key areas that the Ullans Academy has sought to engage and will continue to do over the next number of years to facilitate the ongoing development of a more prosperous and peaceful society in the local community across Northern Ireland.
Furthermore the educational and capacity building programmes which the Ullans Academy have delivered within and between some of the most affected areas as a result of the Troubles, will improve the confidence, self esteem and personal development of participants. Additionally the programmes help to build upon skills that are paramount to other aspects of life such as employment and education. We wished the MAGUS group well and hoped that it would eventually deliver us a statutory Ulster Scots or Ullans Academy.
In November 2014, on the Feast of Columbanus, the Ullans Academy, in accordance with its Memorandum of Association, published two initial volumes of the Bible in Plain Scots or standard Ullans. Until this time the Bible has not been completely translated into Plain Scots. In Scotland, prior to the Reformation Parliament of 1560, church services were usually conducted in Latin. The Vulgate version used was also a Latin translation, because using the vernacular languages was regarded as heresy by the Roman Catholic Church, particularly so after the attack by Martin Luther on the Papacy from 1517. The register chosen was defined by the fact that Ullans, by a process called “colonial shift”, is a purer form of Scots than that spoken in Scotland itself, but readily useable throughout the Scots-speaking world. It is therefore not a dialect, but a unique and precious remnant of the language itself.
Sometime before 1539, Murdoch Nisbet, from the parish of Loudoun in Ayrshire, produced a Scots translation of the New Testament. Nisbet was associated with a group of Lollards and worked from John Purvey’s 1520s revision of the famous John Wycliffe version of the fourteenth century. However, because of initial fears of religious persecution, that work remained an unpublished manuscript known only to his family and Bible scholars until it was edited and printed by the Scottish Texts Society in 1901-5, under the auspices of Lord Amherst of Hackney.
The Scottish Parliament briefly enacted in 1543 that people were permitted to own a Bible in Scots or English, but that dispensation was repealed soon after. Only in 1560, when Scotland became Calvinist, did a vernacular Bible finally become legal. The new Scottish Church adopted the English Geneva Bible because it was the only full translation available which was ideologically acceptable to them, and also since it was in a language so close to the vernacular that it could be commonly read. Nisbet’s Bible would in all probability not have been acceptable to Calvinists, and that is the reason why it remained unknown outside his family. In 1579 the Scottish Parliament passed an Act which said that every householder of substance should own a Bible in the vernacular, and the Bible in English, with a preface in Scots, was reissued.
In 1601 the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland met at Burntisland, and discussion took place regarding a new version of the Bible being produced in the vernacular of Lowland Scots. However, that came to nothing because in 1603 King James VI succeeded to the British throne as James I. James was keen to bring about conformity in culture, language and religion across his kingdoms, based on court practice in London. Instead of Scots, therefore, he commissioned the King James (Authorised) Version (KJV), in English. That is not to say, of course, that Scottish sermons and preaching were conducted solely in English from 1560. Indeed, there is evidence that Scottish Presbyterian ministers commonly preached in Scots well into the nineteenth century.
On occasion, there were complaints about the drawbacks of using texts in English. In the 1630s the Church of Scotland wrote to Charles I about his new Prayer Book. Objections were made to many of the terms which were unknown to the ordinary people. Later, after 1703, the Reverend James Kirkwood commented “Does not everybody know that in our English Bibles there are several hundred words and phrases not vulgarly used nor understood by a great many in Scotland, who have no other Translation?” However, because Scottish ministers often paraphrased texts, and because of the increasing impetus towards Anglo-Scottish political union, the idea of a Bible in Scots did not seem an important enough issue, especially among the aristocracy.
Indeed, by the 1750s the so-called Moderate Party, which now dominated the Scottish Church, chose to preach in English. Certainly, by 1800 the idea of a Bible in Scots would have seemed increasingly irrelevant to many among the upper classes. Despite that, academics and others continued to take an interest in Scots translations. For instance, Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte (1813-91), nephew of the former French Emperor, was a keen linguist who commissioned translations of parts of the Bible into various languages, including Scots, during the 1850s and 1860s. However, those translations were made from English rather than Greek, and the largely literary translators would often choose to retain many features which were not Scottish.
It was William Laughton Lorimer (1885-1967), a native of Angus and celebrated classical scholar, who finally translated the New Testament from the original koine Greek (and other sources) into Scots during the 1950s and 1960s (though when Satan speaks, he is quoted in Standard English). Lorimer’s son completed revisions, and the result was finally published in 1983 to instant acclaim. It has justly been recognised as one of the great works of literature in Scots in the modern era, during which time the beautiful language of the KJV has become increasingly archaic.
Most Scots Bible translations have traditionally taken English texts as their source. A translation of Old Testament texts from the original Hebrew would require a substantial investment of money, time and expertise over as long as a generation, probably involving generous state backing and the expertise of one or more university departments. It is a distinct possibility that no such translation will ever be completed, and it was to plug the resulting gap that the present project was conceived.
The source text for the current translation was the Bible in Basic English (BBE), which first became available in the 1940s. Published without any copyright notice, it immediately and irretrievably fell into the public domain and is today available to download freely from the Internet.
In this translation, the word order has in many cases been changed, and the core 1,000-word vocabulary used in the BBE greatly expanded. Circumlocutions used to reduce the number of distinct lexemes (for example, using phrasal verbs or combinations of verb and noun) have been replaced with fewer words but employing a larger vocabulary (for example, a single less common or higher-register verb). For those reasons, the text now being published bears only limited relation to the BBE and may stylistically be regarded as a translation in its own right.
The Ullans Academy was formed prior to the Ulster-Scots Language Society in July 1992. One of its prime objects was the undertaking of a Bible translation into Scots supportive of and appropriate to the other language development work of the Ullans Academy. I have outlined the history of this movement in three articles, viz.: “The Ullans Academy” in Legislation, Literature and Sociolinguistics: Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and Scotland, edited by John Kirk and Dónall P. Ó Baoill (Belfast: Cló Ollscoil na Banríona 2005); “The Ulster-Scots Movement. A Personal Account” in Language Issues: Ireland, France, Spain, edited by Wesley Hutchinson and Clíona Ní Ríordáin ( Brussels: P.I.E. Peter Lang 2010); and “Common Identity” in Ulster-Scots in Northern Ireland Today: Language, Culture Community / L’Ulster-Scots en Irelande du Nord aujourd’hui: langue, culture, communauté, by Wesley Hutchinson (Rennes, Presses Universitaires 2014).
The Ullans Academy were highly honoured that Gavin Falconer and Ross G. Arthur had chosen them to act as sponsors of their superlative and historic translation of the Bible in Plain Scots or Ullans. There could be none better than they for the task of bringing to the Scottish people such an inspirational work during this time of renewed interest in cultural expression. They were grateful to the former Ministerial Advisory Group on the Ulster-Scots Academy of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure for their financial support for these Volumes I and III, to their friends and colleagues in the Ullans Academy, to Professor Wesley Hutchinson of the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3, to Helen Brooker of Pretani Associates Ltd., Consultants in Common Identity, and to Wordzworth printing services for their invaluable assistance in producing the Old Testament in Scots, which were distributed free throughout the community.
Furthermore the development of our Common Identity movement, presenting a broad narrative of Ulster Scots language, heritage and culture, and true to its original ideals, and now including the Dalaradia and Dal Fiatach organisations, offered the opportunity of uniting the people of Ulster, indeed of all the British Isles, at last. For today we must evolve in Ulster a cultural consensus, irrespective of political conviction, religion or ethnic origin, using a broader perspective of our past to create a deeper sense of belonging to the country of our ancestors. For this Land of the Cruthin is our Homeland and we are her children. We have a right to belong here, a right to be heard here, a right to be free; free from suspicion, free from violence and free from fear. Let us therefore develop a vision of a new and united Ulster, to which all can give their allegiance, so we may achieve a government of all the people, by all the people ,for all the people. Only through promotion of our Common Identity throughout the British Isles, the Isles of the Pretani, lies the basis of that genuine peace, stamped with the hallmarks of conscience, justice, goodness and truth, which will end at last the War in Ireland.
Dr Ian Adamson OBE
President Ullans Academy
Patron of Dalaradia