Ulster Scots for wains…

A NEW website for children learning Ulster-Scots has just been launched. Jackie Morrison, principal of Balnamore Primary, believes teaching Ulster Scots to her pupils instils a sense of pride and “an ethos that celebrates cultural differences and in which pupils learn through desire”. It’s all a far cry from the days when the wains wur towl to quet ganshin’ lik culchies. Wonder if any of them will be downloading the website’s sound files onto their ayePod?PS: This isn’t another thread dedicated to whether it’s a language or a dialect. Unless you’re a wee daftie.

  • artybhoy

    ulster/scots? aye nae bother i’m scots/irish, but i speak way a language that was forced on my family a long time ago by the brits in ireland. but awe the cerryown aboot protestant planters wantin tae thieve scots slang is just mental no what i mean mucker? their basically adopting scots street talk & trying to get back tae their roots i.e scotland. they must awe be thinkin i weeshd way werny ower here in the occupied north & still in scotland, well so day a, because i’d be living way awe my family in east tyrone or sligo. Slan Go Foil Mo Chara.

  • bootman

    will daffy wains be included?

  • Yokel

    How can learning a dialect which many people use on and off anyhow encourage an understand of cultural differences? Funding bodies have a lot to answer for, the bring terms in to test funding proposals with ad they’e become a common and practically useless currency in language.

    Funniest thing on radio has to be the Ulster Scots show on Radio Ulster where you really feel the presenters are having to work on talking like that, it isn’t coming naturally.

    Isn’t Belfast sing song talk known as ‘Louiiiise Janiiine!’ dialect not wrthy of funding.

  • fair_deal

    For general information the “wee daftie wains” translation claim was proved to be false and the BBC issued an apology.

  • Strange how nobody attacks the Scotts language. It seems that the addition of “Ulster” makes it fair game.

  • Yokel


    Bottom line No.1, it isnt a language its just how some people talk. The imagination of some people in getting it recognition does suggest that somewhere in Camp Unionism there are some clever brains working that need to be applied to bigger issues because that success was one step short of alchemy.

    Bottom line No.2 English is where its at in this place (Northern Ireland) the rest is just a politically inspired nonsense by and large with next to no practical purpose.

  • oilbhéar chromaill

    English is where its at in this place (Northern Ireland) the rest is just a politically inspired nonsense by and large with next to no practical purpose.

    Ah yes, pluralist ‘Northern Ireland’, where diversity is celebrated and encouraged, where tolerance is the by-word.

    Yokel, all I can say is you’re well named.

  • Are there many differences between Ulster-Scots and Scots?

  • Pope – I don’t get the impression there is. It’s a bit like “Hiberno-English” or US-English from what I can gather (that said I don’t know much about Ulster-Scots specifically).

    At Glasgow airport at Christmas I did see some pretty cool looking T-shirts with definitions for some Scots words that are in fairly common usage here. (I can’t remember if plonker was one, but it was those sorts of words)

  • Rory

    Sew, funnding fir bad spilling then. Good. Kin aye hev sum?

  • Fraggle

    My first experience of Ulster-Scots was some old guy on TV saying,

    “In English they say ‘eyebrows’, in Ulster-Scots we say ‘eyebroos’.

    Still makes me chuckle.

  • Baluba

    I think this is a good idea and don’t understand why people get so hot and bothered about it. It’s interesting to anyone who has any kind of interest in linguistics.

    I personally lament the dumbing down of English around the world where all over Ireland, across the water, in Australia etc etc etc people are starting to just speak the same kind of low vocabulary American talk. An example that nearly set me gurning the other day was my wee niece in Australia telling me that ‘kool’ is Aussie for ‘cool’.

    Oh dear.

    Btw, Ulster-Scots in terms of who speaks it has nothing to do with religion or ‘the divide’, just as Irish is not the sole property of one community either.

    Ádh mór oraibh.

  • Yokel


    We can go through the stats if you want but in everyday life, yer bog standard everyday what we do in work or at home, English is the language OF CHOICE 95% plus of the people of Ireland. Fact. There are opportunities to learn it and use it but most people who do have the knowledge dont use it in everyday life.

    Other languages or non-languages (like Ulster Scots) in this place are essentially divisive and have been used as such on occasions by people as political footballs. And no matter what you say, you link the use of langauges other than English to politics in your head because people do here, end of story.

    English is the most inclusive, because everyone speaks it. Inclusiveness by its very nature suggests the need for similarities to exist as much as acceptance of differences. Only in thsi sodding land do people think inclusiveness means ‘I’m going to go all out to be different from you, accept me’

    Baluba, agreed, neither of the minority languages here have nothing to do with politics but people have made them so. Its petty but its true.

  • idunnomeself

    ‘it isnt a language its just how some people talk’

    OK, there’s something about this sentence that doesn’t really work..

  • RmcC

    The standard of English as spoken by young and old in Ulster is abysmal. Maybe better to work on this first?

  • Yokel


    You cheeky ballcocks, you know what I mean’t! Even if I did walk into it…….

    First its my double entendres now its my sentence construction..this forum is bad for my esteem! But it isn’t my fault, I swear it was the education system it failed me, just cos I didnt bother my arse turning up……anyway it isn’t a sentence, its poetry right.

  • English

    The thing that puzzles me is how do people really know that they are Ulster Scots, is it because they speak this language? Only 100,000 speak it, but many more claim to be Ulser-Scots.

    County Derry for example is littered with Ulster-Scots flags in places, but County Derry was planted by the English. Donegal was on the other hand planted by the Scots. So how does this work out? Are people just bandwaggon jumping or do they really know their ancestry.

    It is not really a language anyway because I can understand what they are on about, unlike Irish!

  • missfitz

    “For general information the “wee daftie wains” translation claim was proved to be false and the BBC issued an apology. ”

    I was kind of sorry to see this fd, as I have used the line about wee dafty wains for the past few weeks, and its becoming a party piece of sorts. In fairness, I will have to drop it now < > as it is unfounded.

    I remember going out with a chap once (mnay moons ago) who came from the other side of the fence from me. He became animated once (and only once) when he heard that there was to be a radio show dedicated to Ulster Scots. I was quite bemused at his reaction at the time, but I suppose looking back, there is a severe case of themmums, ussums about all of this. If they have a language, so must we.

    Anyway, enough of tales from an Ulster Scots crypt for now

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Can I just thank the last two posters for finally proving that not every post on every thread has to revolve around whether it’s a language or not!

  • Brian Boru

    Ulster-Scots is just a dialect of Old English brought to Ulster in Plantation times from Scotland where it had originally (as “Scots” or “Lallans” been brought into Lowland Scotland by Anglian mercenaries before the Norman Conquest of England. As a consequence it lacks much of the French influence on the English language. I contend that while ppl are entitled to learn it if they wish, that A: Unionists wouldn’t be interested in it except as a rival to the Irish language and B: It is a dialect of English, rather than a language, like the relationship between shelta and Irish. Let’s admit the facts here.

  • IJP

    The idea is a good one… the actual outcome, however, leaves a bit to be desired I’m afraid.

    The nonsense includes false forms (domini as the plural of dominie is LATIN, not Scots, and kye is deemed to be the Ulster Scots for ‘cow’ where actually kye is the plural form); ridiculous spellings out of line with Scots spellings conventions (complete with inconsistencies – buik-learnin but larnin); out-of-register translations (buik-learnin, for example, is not the same register as the word ‘education’); the insertion of Ulster English rather than Scots (the Scots for ‘January’ is Januar – ‘Jennerwarrie’ is an English-based Belfastism); and mis-uses of vocabulary (gar means ‘make’ only in the sense of ‘compel’, not ‘make’ in the sense of ‘create’).

    The Stranmillis crew were given an impossible task given the restrictions imposed on them in terms of people they could consult.

    But when on earth are we going to stop funding this nonsense and involve some people with nouse and feel for basic Ulster Scots and basic linguistics?


    Has anyone actually looked at the site?

    I found it surprisingly well done, with some fine narrated stories for children, including one about Henry Joy McCracken and his role in the united Irishmen uprising.



  • IJP


    Like I say, the site if very attractive and the project had great potential.

    But the linguistic content is plain wrong. What appears on the site is, quite literally, a made-up language.

    It is unacceptable for public money to be spent in this way.

    What I do know is that, thankfully, the Ulster-Scots Agency is aware of this and, I believe, has plans to sort it out.

    At last!

  • Baluba

    It was quite amusing when Ulster-Scots erected bi-lingual street-signs in Newtownards and the local loyalist mob pulled them down saying, ‘We’ll have none of that Irish round here!’

    Sad but true.

  • Shuggie McSporran

    Belfast Gonzo

    “It’s all a far cry from the days when the wains wur towl to quet ganshin’ lik culchies.”

    You obviously didn’t go to school in Belfast.

    What was the “wee daftie wains” BBC controversy?

  • missfitz

    There were links on this earlier on the thread, but to be brief….

    There was no word for “learning disabled” in Ulster Scots, so the phrase “wee dafty wains” was used to describe children with this disability.

    I have to hasten to add that Fair Deal has told us that this story has been discredited and an apology was issued.

    But then, who ever let the truth get in the way of a good story?

  • Shuggie McSporran


    That story’s so good it must be true.

  • Ultonian Scottis American

    Brian Boru:

    Ulster-Scots is a dialect – of Scots.

    Looking at the map of modern Scotland between the Forth-Clyde Line (roughly the route followed by Antoinine’s Wall) and the Solway-Tweed Line (roughly the route followed by Hadrian’s Wall), and in modern England a line roughly from Blackpool to Durham, in medieval times the eastern half was ruled by England and the western half by Scotland. The current border was basically established by a “land for peace” exchange by the two kings. Lothian was previously part of Anglic Northumbria; Cumbria part of Brythonic Strathclyde; Galloway a Gaelic Pale.

    As to the Norman-French influence on Scots, “hogmanay” is from the NF “au gui mener” [to the miseltoe rite].


    Donegal, at least parts of it, was settled by gallowglasses from the Lordship of the Isles. These Scots were different, linguistically as well as geographically, and earlier than the Scots of the Plantation, who came mostly from sw modern Scotland.

    Portugese can understand Spanish. Dutch can understand German. Are these then dialects?

    English could described as a dialect of Frisian:

    “Bûter, brea, en grien tsiis is goed Ingelsk en goed Fries.” [Butter, bread, and green cheese is good English and good Frisian.]

    On another thread on this topic, a poster quoted a linguist as saying [I parapharase], “A language is a dialect with its own army and navy.”

  • fair_deal

    Shuggie McSporran

    It began with a letter to a newspaper attacking Ulster-Scots and among other things claimed the phrase “wee daftie wains” had been used to describe learning diabled children in the translation of an official document.

    BBC’s Talkback ran a feature based on the contents of the letter with its normal lets all laugh at ulster-scots bent with a dash of moral outrage about Ulster-Scots and government being derogatory to people with disabilities.

    However, Ulster-Scots groups checked the translations that had been done for government and there was no such document. They challenged the BBC to back up the claim and after a number of months of research neither the BBC nor the letter writer could produce the “claimed” translation. The BBC then issued an on-air apology.

  • Brian Boru

    “Ulster-Scots is a dialect – of Scots.”

    I know but I meant that further back it is a dialect of the oldest form of Anglo-Saxon language spoken in Britain.

  • missfitz

    Thank you fair deal for that fuller explanation.

    I have come round to accepting Ulster Scots as an important element for the community that feels that it needs and wants this expression of their identity.
    I think the discussion on “is it a lnaguage” is dead space now, you have to ask “does it matter”?

    It means something to people, and it should help in the confidence building process that is important here on both sides of the sectarian fence

  • Conor Gillespie

    I’m still amazed that Lord Laird and the rest of them haven’t coped on to the fact that the GAA get government funding and haven’t created a wee protestant spaort a der aown as a cultural opposition to Hurling! I’m sure there’s something out there in the Ulster cultural milieu that could be propagated as da auld sport auw da Ulster Scots since byegoon days a yoor. After what they did with “Ullans” this should be a breeze. “Ulster Shinty” Perhaps? Any suggestions?

  • Conor Gillespie

    Or maybe Jim Allister could pull a similar stunt to the one Ian Adamson used to legitimize “ULLANS” –i.e. combine Ulster with the name of a Scottish sport, say, Caber toss and you get Ulster toss. Now just translate it into Ulster Scots (don’t worry you can always just use a neologism) and yee git the goud auld “Allister Toss.” I think even the nationalist community would be cueing up to have a go! Any other suggestions?

  • BIG G

    Ulster Scots language – what a load of gibberish. Im scottish and it just sounds like a piss take of our slang. Thats all it is – Slang or bad english. lol. rediculous.

  • Bobby Freemind

    Well does it really matter what symbols we use to communicate? I think finding common ground and understanding one another is more important. I also think politicising languages just leads to further divisions within a polarized society. The mentality of our language and culture is better that yours seems so childish. One world, one government, one language, would solve many problems. So what use is Irish Gaelic or Swahili in a big world where the majority of inhabitants would not understand you anyway. What about looking, and thinking outside of the box for a change.