Alan Millar, journalist and award-winning Ulster-Scots writer, originally from Donegal, now based in North Antrim. 2021 winner of the Scots Language Society Hugh MacDiarmid Tassie and inaugural Linenhall Library Ulster-Scots short story prize. His first collection Echas frae tha Big Swilly Swally, was published in May.
THE Sunflower Bar in Belfast was the place to be for Ulster-Scots language last Saturday, when eight poets and writers, came together for a groundbreaking showcase event, not seen for a long number of years, if ever.
With the pride flags fluttering inches away just outside the open windows, writers from all over Ulster took to the stage, to read their work; a celebration of some of the fantastic creative diversity this tradition is producing at the moment.
In the audience was Ulster University’s Dr Frank Ferguson, who described it as an uplifting day for Ulster-Scots writing, showing, beyond all doubt, that Ulster-Scots language was certainly not in its “twilight,” but “a living language, burning bright.”
From light hearted rhymes, to sombre introspective poems, from traditional Scottish verse forms to modern free verse. Subjects ranged from the Great War, the Bovedy Meteorite, ROI President M.D. Higgins, historical reflections, poignant celebrations of loved ones affectionately remembered and much more – one had the feeling that there was no subject off limits.
Commenting, organiser, Steve Dornan, said: “The event was a lovely showcase of modern Ulster-Scots writing. It really showed the diversity of voices and styles that exist within it. It daes the hairt guid for tae hae sich a wheen o wheeker writers thegither in the yin room.”
The diverse group came together from all airts and parts of Ulster, and included a Pushcart Prize nominated poet, published authors in Ulster-Scots and English and all the winners of the Linenhall Library Ulster-Scots prose and poetry writing competitions, in the two years it has run.
The line up included Robert Campbell from Donegal, Anne McMaster from Garvagh, Ronnie McIlhatton and Alan Millar from Ballymoney, Angela Graham from Ballycastle, Angeline Kelly from Larne, Robb Morrow from Poyntzpass and Steve, Aberdeen based, originally from Newtownards. To top it off, Ulster-Scots veteran Liam Logan, originally from Galdonagh, near Dunloy, was invited up to read of one of his rhymes at the end.
Ballycastle’s Angela Graham described the day as, “a significant event in contemporary writing in Ulster-Scots because of the range of style, genre and subject matter and also because it arose from the energy generated from relationships writers have been strengthening among themselves and with their readers. And there is so much more writing in the pipeline.”
The growing strength and confidence of the Ulster-Scots scene at the present time is emphasised, not only by the strength of the line out on the day, but also by those who couldn’t make it, writers like Robert Millar, Gary Morgan, Glen Wilson, Morna Sullivan and others. North Antrim’s great Charlie Gillan and Rathfriland’s Roy Ferguson sent their best wishes.
Dr Ferguson, author of the definitive Ulster-Scots Anthology in 2008, was there to offer a ‘benediction’, on proceedings.
Speaking afterwards, he said: “This was a very heartsome day for Ulster-Scots writing. Bards from all parts giving forth in living tongue. Don’t speak of that Ulster-Scots twilight, any longer. The day burns bright with clinking words and sonsie language!”
This is a guest slot to give a platform for new writers either as a one off, or a prelude to becoming part of the regular Slugger team.