Okay. I was wrong.

I had thought that the long-term strategy of using Ulster Scots as a counter-balance to Irish was dead and buried when the February “agreement” between the DUP and Sinn Féin which promised an Ulster Scots Act as well as a (watered down) Irish language Act was rejected by the people who matter, the Orange Order and the UDA.

But now, the spoiling tactic that is Ulster Scots has been resurrected with the DUP, according to the Belfast News Letter headline which last week read: “Ulster Scots must get same treatment as Irish language”  wherein the monoglot MP for East Londonderry, Gregory Campbell, opined that the gap between funding of Irish and the funding of Ulster Scots should be narrowed.
This of course got me thinking. Why should Ulster Scots be treated the same way as Irish? Why should it not?

So I imagined myself on Mastermind’s black chair with Ulster Scots and Irish as my specialist subject.

You have two minutes, starting now…

Where can one learn Ulster Scots?

Nowhere. For years I have been checking the website of the Boord o Ulstèr Scotch to gauge the demand amongst people to learn Ulster Scots.

In all those years, I have never seen one single class, course, taster session or crash course mentioned and, interestingly enough, the website includes all nine Ulster counties.

So it seems that throughout Ulster, no-one is interested in learning Ulster Scots.

Couldn’t people be encouraged to learn Ulster Scots through something similar to the Líofa scheme for Irish with a certain amount of new fluent speakers to be created by a certain date?

It’s unlikely. It seems no-one is really interested in learning the language, so why bother.
There isn’t even an Ulster Scots word for Líofa. fluent in the vocabulary of the Ulster Scots Academy.

Currently, 21,215 people have signed up for Líofa.

How much of Ulster Scots is capable of being understood by the average English monoglot?

Nearly all of it, apart from a few words.

If someone is listening to a conversation between two fluent Irish speakers, a monoglot in any other language will understand nothing.

Is there an ancient corpus of Ulster Scots literature?

There certainly is Ulster Scots literature going back to the 18th century and if you look at the literature section of the Ulster Scots Academy, you’ll find the farthest back entry is William Starret (1719 – 1753) but as the Ulster dialect of Scots only came to Ireland in the 17th century, it wouldn’t have an ancient native literature anyway. Irish had been described as “the oldest vernacular language in Europe.”

The fragment of Irish poetry, Lon Dubh Loch Lao/The Blackbird of Belfast Lough was written in the 9th century.

What percentage of place-names in Northern Ireland are derived from Ulster Scots?

Very few compared to Irish place-names.

How many Ulster Scots-Medium Schools have been set up due to demands from parents?


Currently there is a total of 92 schools providing Irish-medium Education to over 6,000 children at pre-school, primary and post primary level

Can you do Ulster Scots at A-Level? Is it studied at any Universities in Ireland, north or south?

Not as far as I know. I might be wrong, though. Pass.
You can study Irish at universities in Ireland, of course.

Is Ulster Scots studied abroad?

Again, I don’t know.
However, you can study Irish in Britain, Russia, the USA, Japan, Canada and in many other countries not to mention the unofficial Irish classes run by ex-pats all over the world.

Have there ever been mass meetings or marches to show support for Ulster Scots, for Ulster Scots legislation or for it to be part of a Culture Act?


However, around 11,000 marched from the Cultúrlann to Belfast City Centre to demand an Irish language Act in May 2017.

What role has Ulster Scots played over the past 50 years in rural, town and/or city development? 

None as far as I can see, unlike what has happened in places like West Belfast and Carntogher outside Maghera.

It was the “ná habair é, déan é” philisophy that led to the building of the Irish language infrastructure.

How many posts have been created thanks to the interest in Ulster Scots?

Pass. I know some posts have been created but I don’t know how many.

The Irish language has been a great job creation success within the education, arts and cultural sectors with jobs also created in affiliated sectors.

Is there rap music in Ulster Scots? Has there been any cultural fusion between Ulster Scots and other international cultures?

No, the world is still waiting for its first Ulster Scots rapper.

There is no IMLÉ, or Jiggy or Grioguir Labhraidh or GMC or Séamus Barra Ó Súilleabháin or Kneecap in Ulster Scots yet.

How many programmes have been made by the Ulster Scots Broadcast Fund where only Ulster Scots was used and in which subtitles were needed?

None as far as I know.

What impact is Ulster Scots making in the artistic life of Northern Ireland?

Dunno. Not a lot by the look of things.

Why is most of A Kist o’ Wurds on Radio Ulster solely in standard English?

I don’t know but I’d say because there aren’t enough Ulster Scots speakers around and I’ve even heard one Ulster Scots activist say that Ulster Scots folk are very private people and if you put a microphone anywhere near them, they turn to standard English.

What do international experts say about stand-alone language legislation?

They all say that different languages should not be part of the same legislation.
Every language has its own requirements, and that it would be to the disadvantage of both languages if they were to be treated equally.

Are politicians spokespeople or conduits for Ulster Scots speakers, promoting their needs and desires or is the promotion of Ulster Scots politically rather than community-driven?

Some would say that it is politicians who are pushing the Ulster Scots question forward as a tool to keep back the growing success of the Irish language, but I couldn’t possibly comment.

Can you name a piece of legislation which banned or inhibited Ulster Scots here in Ireland?

Er, no.
The first piece of legislating against the Irish language was in 1366. There have been many more ever since.

What is the demand for Ulster Scots services at local government level?


How much success has the Ulster Scots Academy had?


I’ve started so I’ll finish …are there many community-based Ulster Scots groups?

There must be if the grants given out by Paul Givan to various cultural groups at the same time as he was ending the Líofa scholarships are anything to go by.
However, I don’t know what impact these groups are making. I’m sure they are all being monitored.

Now, if anyone has a different set of answers, I’d be glad to hear them…

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1 Comment

  1. I don’t really get the whole lets compare Ulster Scots/Scots to Irish in the piece you have written, as you have done your research you will know Ulster Scots a Dialect of Scots, a Western Germanic Language derived from middle English the same source were modern English is also derived from. Irish is a Gaelic Language in the same stroke as Welsh or Scotch Gaelic they all have their similarities but it is still given credit as a stand alone language along side the other two, the Gaelic languages sound very similar as does Ulster Scots/Scots and English.
    I do not think Ulster Scots/Scots is given the recognition it deserves, yes it may not be as developed as the Gaelic languages but it has been diluted into life and used everyday by many without them realising.
    Mary Queen of Scots famously spoke French and Scots, she couldn’t speak English, Robert Burns used a lot of Scots in his writings.
    Quite a few people I know including myself would use Ulster Scots/Scots words in everyday life, you certainly won’t find them in an English dictionary.
    It is a shame so many in society decide to attack both languages, they should be cherished and loved and given the respect they deserve

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