Category Archives: Scots


Whit sangs, tales an dauncin culd we gie ilka bairn in Scotlan fir a richt guid handsel? Tae stert oot wi as a smidgin, a wee seed whilk micht graw intae muckle trees o pleisur an wunner. Here’s a wee mindin tae begin wi fir aabody, reidy tae yaise an free tae aa.

Dè na h-òrain, sgeulachdan, dannsaichean, agus cleachdaidhean tradaiseanta nan ràithean, air am bu chòir do gach leanabh no pàiste ann an Alba a bhith eòlach? Dè tha buntainn leotha as bith cò às a tha iad, no dè an cultar no an cànan a th’ aca?

What songs, stories, dance steps and seasonal customs should every child in Scotland know? What belongs to them regardless of origin, culture or language? Presented in a simple online format incorporating text, audio, video and helpful guidelines, Gifting Every Child provides a manageable and accessible introduction to the traditional arts that can easily be put to use in the classroom, club, community hall or family sitting room.

In providing educators, parents, teachers and anyone else who wishes to engage in creative work with children with an accessible selection of some of the best examples of the traditional arts, we in turn gift the children with an introduction to Scotland’s creative culture and indigenous languages, which could serve them a lifetime of benefit.

Incorporating a multimedia format of text, audio files (both streamable and downloadable) and video, the resource is easily downloadable and ideally designed to suit various abilities and levels of interest – whether you want to meticulously engage with each piece of the resource, or pick and choose from what is available. Guest editors Bea Ferguson (story), Christina Stewart (song) and Mats Melin (dance) have years of experience in their respective fields, and especially in engaging with children and education. The inclusion of Gaelic and Scots throughout is vitally important, with the material provided also being broadly targeted at the 6 to 9 age group.

In the second stage of this project, TRACS plans to develop the Gifting Every Child model across communities through a series of workshops, and by promoting local practitioners able to support creative work with children. The public are warmly invited to add their own local or family favourites to the collection, thus making this a collaborative project in which everyone living in Scotland can tap into our rich creative culture.

View or download the resources for free at: Gifting Every Child

View the Promo Video

For further information please contact:

Morag Wells | Digital & Languages Apprentice | TRACS | 0131 556 9579


Oor Hoose Project Sharing Day

What a super day I had on Friday 19th February, when Duff House, the property owned by Historic Environmental Scotland in Banff, Aberdeenshire, truly became Oor Hoose.

This was the culmination of an Education Scotland partnership project with Historic Environment Scotland and Aberdeenshire Council. Learners in Dr Fairbairn’s Scots Language Award class from Banff Academy took over Duff House for the afternoon. They hosted a sharing event for invited guests to see the work they have been doing in Scots language, particularly for the Oor Hoose project.  

It has involved learners from Banff Academy Scots Language Award class choosing and researching an object from Duff House and then preparing a response to it involving Scots, specifically the local dialect, Doric. It was designed to encourage learners to engage with the House and use Scots for a purpose. Last year’s pilot saw the production of mosaics in conjunction with a local artist. This year, products include quizzes, presentations and signs.

I was fair chuffed tae see as mony lairners enjoyin an engagin wi Scots throue iss project. The bairns wis a credit tae themsels, their fowk and the skweel.

We were piped into the impressive building by one of Banff Academy’s pipe band members, fresh from wowing delegates at the Aberdeen Learning Festival earlier in the week.

The afternoon began with a few words from Sylvie Clarke of Historic Environment Scotland, who has supported the project throughout. We then heard from Buildings Manager Mr G Curran about how the project had caught the imaginations of staff at the property – even resulting in some dispute about whose Doric is purer – fowk fae Banff or fowk fae Buckie! Dr Faribarin then gave a summary of the kind of work his bairns have been doing.

It was then time for the learners  to introduce themselves and their work, before inviting us to tour the house, solving puzzles and answering quiz questions in Scots. They helped by standing next to their chosen objects and engaging knowledgably with visitors who had questions. Everybody had a super time, with some parents and friends admitting that this was the first time they had been inside the house in many years, if ever. All were impressed by the knowledge, confidence and Scots skills displayed by the group.

We rounded off a super afternoon with refreshments: local tattie crisps, Scottish chocolate treats and our national soft drink – ale in this area, juice to some and ginger to others. And a treat for those who had stayed until the very end (most of the adults who were not troubled by having school buses to catch) – some folk music from our resident piper Robert Legge and Dr Fairbairn on guitar.

Duff Hoose really felt like Oor Hoose that afternoon. And the great news for the future  is that HES interpretations team is going to adopt the materials produced by the bairns: there will be Doric for visitors to the property for years to come.

For more information about Duff Hoose visit their website.

If you would be interested in taking part in an Oor Hoose project in your local area, contact

Duff Hoose group






Scots Language Ambassadors

The latest Scots Language Ambassadors newsletter (issue 4) is out now.

In this edition, we hear fae oor twa ambassadorial Bills – Wullie Oliphant and Bill Herbert – aboot their excitin first-hand experiences o workin wae Scots in schools in Fife and Dundee.

First, we hear fae Wullie, reflectin on his experiences o teachin Scots in primary schuils in the Auld Grey Toun:

Syne the stert o the year a’ve been in eicht wee schuils arooond the Auld Grey Toun Dunfermline daein a wheen o work wi the leid. A’ve worked fae P Wan aw the wey up tae P Seeven!

Some heidies wanted me to dae aw the classes wi wan visit each, an ithers went fir the twa classes wi five or sechts visits.

Up tae noo we’ve looked at pairts o the boady, claethes and beasts and a’ve yaised boxes o claethes an stuffed toys – games  – sangs, poems an even the wee PowerPoint noo an agin!!!

Some o the dominies have been daein their ain poems roond about Burns Nicht and the bairns have luved letting me hear them.

Am really gled tae say that A’ve got dates in ma diary richt up tae the end o Merch and will hae visited aboot fowerteen schuils bi then!

It gans withoot sayin that a’ve had Romanian, Polish and Latvian bairns in ma classes and they have aw had a smashin time learning some o the leid o their new hameland!

And noo, fae Bill Herbert, poet, Professor O Creative Writin at the University o Newcastle, and Scots Language Ambassador at Grove Academy, Dundee:

When I was working as Scots Language Ambassador with kids from my old school, Grove Academy in Broughty Ferry, our discussions about Scots were probably more helpful for me than for them.

As you might imagine, very few pupils from a predominantly middle class catchment area were interested in stating that they spoke Scots, so a distinction between use and recognition vocabularies proved very useful: everyone was prepared to understand far more Scots than they said they spoke. The old assumption that it is a working class speech, in other words, remains intact. It was my job not to get them speaking Scots, however, but to recalibrate their classification of it to suggest that they already spoke more Scots than they might realise.

We started with some basic category divisions. Working from the old Dundonian tricolon of jute, jam, and journalism, we tried thinking of Scots as being composed of three elements, accent, vocabulary, and grammar. We also considered it as ranging across three categories, Dundonian, a more general Scots, and Scots English.

A final group of three that enabled further vocabulary-building arose from the distinction that while one type of Scots may be spoken now, we were also well aware of words or phrases belonging to our parents’ or grandparents’ generation, then adding to that the idea that some words from any of these categories had other origins (ie were loan words). That gave us an overall grid as follows:

accent | vocabulary | grammar

Dundonian | Scots | Scots English

contemporary | historic | loan

Of course, some of these terms were less familiar than others, but these were bright kids, and it didn’t take more than a few examples to kick off discussion:

Eh | dreich | awa the messages

peh | pech | outwith

radge | chittery bite | cundie

Crucially, the addition of an historic or etymological level added a degree of analytical rigour to the discussion (as well as the possibility of literary usage), especially in the key area of identifying what might be uniquely local or culturally Scottish about what we were saying or could remember hearing or having read.

Food was a good topic, as was weather or mood, and one example that proved very useful was street names, where I opposed the local examples of the West Port and the Nethergait. Working from the unexamined or default principle that anything not recognisably Scots must therefore be English, people conjectured that the West Port referred to a former dock area, while the Nethergait must have something to do with some medieval gate into the city.

I then pointed out (in my role as fascinating Professor Pedanticus) that there had never been a port at the West Port, but that the city gate (or, in French, ‘port’) had indeed been there, and, while there was never a gate at the Nether-, Over-, Murray-, or Seagate, we did have a word for ‘walk’ derived from the Scandinavian: ‘gait’.

Ye can read more o Bill’s fascinatin thochts on Scots on his blog here:

Bill’s blog

In ither news, the Scots Language Coordinators team and the Scots Scriever Hamish MacDonald have been working with teacher colleagues in the Scottish Prisons Service with a view to enhancing Scots learning provision for Scottish prisoners. Co-ordinators Diane Anderson and Simon Hall have also been co-delivering at SQA Understanding Standards events for the Scots Language Award in Glasgow, and lecturing to PGDE English Students at Strathclyde University. A series of partnership events coordinated by Bruce Eunson have taken place with agency Into Film, revolving around four new Scots versions of Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo’s Child – in the Shetland, Orkney, Aberdeen and Dundee varieties. Finally, a joint project between Education Scotland, Orkney Islands Council and the Orkney Heritage Society will see the launch of a brand new, digitised version of the Orkney Dictionary at the Royal Society of Edinburgh on April 8th.

Please keep us up tae date wi all your Ambassador engagements, and if you have any contributions for the next issue o the SLA News we would love tae receive them! We are very grateful tae oor Ambassadors for their time and commitment. Please mind on that receipted travel expenses for schools visits can be reimbursed. Expenses forms are available fae Simon Hall 

Scriever Kirktonholme 5

Lik A Dug at Yule…/Like A Dog at Christmas…

Matthew Fitt said it in his column the ither wik, the 3-18 Literacy an English Review said it in April (see fir yersels: read Review here) an the ither Education Scotland Scots Language Co-ordinators an I hiv said it mony times: Scots is nae jist fir Burns Nicht – it shid be fir aw the year.

Bit Scots is celebrated mair aroon Januar, an aye will be, likely. So fit hiv scuils, dominies, bairns an weans been daein in Scots iss last filie?

Weel, A hid a graan time at Fyvie Scuil in Aiberdeenshire on the 25th itsel. Mrs McNab’s P3/4 his been studyin their local Doric, comparin it tae mair general Scots and Orcadian Scots. Their focus, gin ye hinnae jaloused it, his been The Gruffalo, an some o the owersettins we noo hiv. The bairns his been doon in the widds, biggin hoosies fir a wheen o different beasties, an scrievin aboot it in bonnie Scots. We hid an affa fine lesson redraftin their scrievins an learnin mair names fir ither craiturs.

That wis the foreneen. In the aifterneen, A wis at Dales Park Scuil in Peterheid fir their Scots event. A wheen o affa talented bairns recitit poetry in Scots fir a panel o judges. There wis music, singin and dancin, fine maet an guid cheer. Fitin fine!

The fun stertit the wik afore at Kirktonholme Scuil in Sooth Lanarkshire. They invitit the first Scots Scriever, Hamish MacDonald, in tae wirk wi their weans. Ye can read mair aboot fit gied on here Scriever in Daily Record.

Poet Stuart Paterson wis at Udston Primary in Sooth Lanarkshire on the Widinsday o Burns Wikk tae wirk wi fower classes on Scots. ‘It was braw,’ he telt ma.

Puckles o scuils hiv risen tae the Weans Wurds challenge. Some o them hiv been postin wordles an word leets on oor Scots Learners’ site on Glow. Hae a lookie at fit they hiv been daein in Mrs Gallagher’s class at Cargenbridge in Dumfries an Gallowa and Mrs Hampton’s class at Kingswells in Aiberdeen.

At Banff Primary, they yaised numeracy an Scots tae draaw a haggis tae the roll o the dice. Ye can find Haggis Drive resources on the Scots Learners’ site and inno The Blether.

Mr Lind’s class at Newhill Primary in Perth and Kinross his been comparin Scots wi Inglis an French. Ye can see some o the links they fund onno The Blether. St Michael’s Primary Scuil in Dumfries an Gallowa hiv taen this a thochtie farrer wi their Auld Alliance Day. Iss wis a hale day o activities aboot Scots an French an the links atween them. Vive la difference!

St Pius Primary in Dundee spent the hale o Burns wikk gaitherin performances tae pit on fir parents an freens the follaein wikk. A Scots extravaganza!

Scriever Kirktonholme 5


Matthew Fitt said it in his column the other week, The Literacy and English Review said it in April (see for yourself: read Review here) and the other Education Scotland Scots Language Co-ordinators and I have often said it: Scots is not just for Burns Night – should be for all year.

But Scots is celebrated more around January, and probably always will be. So what have schools, teachers and learners been doing in Scots over the last little while?

Well, I had a wonderful time at Fyvie School in Aberdeenshire on the 25th itself. Mrs McNab’s P3/4 has been studying their local Doric and comparing it with more general Scots and with Orcadian Scots. Their focus, if you have not guessed, has been The Gruffalo and some of the translations now available. The learners have been visiting the woods, building homes for a variety of different animals, and writing about it in beautiful Scots. We had a lovley lesson redraftin their writing and learning more names for other creatures.

That was in the morning. In the afternoon, I visited Dales Park School in Peterhead for their Scots event. A large group of very talented youngsters recited poetry in Scots for a panel of judges. There was music, singing and dancing, good food and good cheer. How lovely!

The fun started the week before at Kirktonholme School in South Lanarkshire. They invited the first Scots Scriever, Hamish MacDonald, to work with their learners. You can read more about what happened here Scriever in Daily Record.

Poet Stuart Paterson was at Udston Primary in South Lanarkshire on the Wednesday of Burns Week to work with four classes on Scots. ‘It was braw,’ he told me.

Several schools have risen to the ‘Weans Wurds’ challenge. Some have posted wordles and word lists on our Scots Learners’ site on Glow. Have a look at what they have been doing in Mrs Gallagher’s class at Cargenbridge in Dumfries and Galloway and Mrs Hampton’s class at Kingswells in Aberdeen.

At Banff Primary, they used numeracy and Scots to draw a haggis at the roll of the dice. You can find Haggis Drive resources on the Scots Learners’ site and in The Blether.

Mr Lind’’s class at Newhill Primary in Perth and Kinross has been comparing Scots with English and French. You can see some of the links they discovered on The Blether. St Michael’s Primary School in Dumfries and Galloway have gone a bit further with this with their Auld Alliance Day. This was a whole day of activities about Scots and French and the links between them. Vive la difference!

St Pius Primary in Dundee spent the whole of Burns week gathering performances to put on for parents and friends the following week. A Scots extravaganza!


Burns for Bairns

(…or weans, if you are in certain areas of the country)

The language of Robert Burns is sometimes described as ‘heritage’ Scots, which indicates that this literary form of 18th century Scots can prove to be challenging for today’s modern Scots speaking audience. So how can we make the study of our national Bard accessible and relevant to young Scots? Here are some suggestions to help you celebrate this January.

  1. What is your favourite Burns poem? Why do you like it? What pictures does it conjure up in your mind when you read or hear it?        Illustrate a scene from a Burns poem or song that you really enjoy using paint,     pencils, pens or collage – or a mixture of techniques! Remember to add the quote and title of the poem that you are illustrating somewhere on the picture.

Click here to find resources to help you.

  1. Burns wrote a lot of poems that featured animals. How many can you find – and can you list the different types of animals mentioned? Why do you think he wrote about animals so much?  Julia Donaldson’s book ‘The Gruffalo’ features woodland animals and has been translated into Scots by James Robertson. Click here to find Scots language activities that will help you to write your own Scots Gruffalo verse.
  2. Burns liked to tell stories in his poems. Choose a Burns poem and create a storyboard for it. If this storyboard were made into a film, what would a      promotional poster look like?
    1. In some poems, Robert Burns created great characters such as Tam O’Shanter ,Holy Willie or even animals like the mouse.

    Choose a character from a favourite Burns poem and draw what you think he/she/it looks like. Around your illustration, add some Scots adjectives that best describe this character. In blue, highlight all the words that describe their appearance. Now highlight all the words to do with how they think, feel or behave in red. Can you write a paragraph about this character using these  adjectives?

    5.         Burns Night is synonymous with the haggis. You can see an actor playing Robert Burns here and hear him reading ‘Address to a Haggis’, which is traditionally recited at Burns Suppers. Haggis is still a popular Scottish food        today but we can eat all sorts of things which were unknown in Burns’ day.           Having studied the structure of Burns’ poem, can you bring the poem up to date by writing an address to your favourite food?

6. Auld Lang Syne is the second best known song in the Western World, beaten      only by Happy Birthday to You. In 2014, Scottish group Whisky Kiss led a world-wide sing-along of this famous song. You can view the film of this here

What do the words of this song mean? Why do you think it is so popular? Explore the symbolism of the actions/dance moves that go along with the traditional singing of this song. Where and when do we sing this song in Scotland? Can you find out more about some of the places which joined in with this sing-along? Can you write about them in Scots? Do people in other countries sing the song in the same places and at the same time as we do?

7.         ‘The Selkirk Grace’ is often attributed to Burns and is said at Burns Suppers. You can read the poem here first verse only) along with Richard               Medrington’s additional verses. What are some of the reasons behind the sentence ‘Some hae meat and canna eat’? How was this different in Burns’ time? What are reasons ‘some wad eat that want it’? Has this changed since Burns was alive? Why do you think Medrington added the extra two verses? What points is he trying to make about the food we eat? Design a poster about healthy eating, food miles or  food waste following further research about some of the issues raised.

  1. It’s good to challenge aspects of Burns’ work, too. In the secondary setting, why not ask your teenagers to think about ‘Tam O Shanter’ from the female point of view? This approach can give girls a whole new way into the poem, and will also encourage boys to consider it in a new light. Think of the   presentation of women. Kate, who sits at home, bad-tempered and angry – is  she being her true self, or is it Tam’s fault? Or Meg, the faithful servant who saves Tam’s skin – don’t women always do this for men? Is Nannie the          beautiful, wicked enchantress – or a figment of Tam’s depraved imagination?       Even Mungo’s Mither, the tragic suicide who has ‘hanged hersel’ – is she defined by her son? Would we say today that she suffered from clinical depression? A whole new depth and dimension opens up. Essay question? ‘Is ‘Tam O Shanter’ a sexist text? Discuss.’

For more ideas for Burns Celebrations, see

And for a comprehensive set of recordings of famous Scots reading Burns poems, visit



Weans’ Wurds

How many Scots words do you know? What about your friends and family? When and where do you use these words?

Have you noticed that some people in different parts of Scotland use different Scots words from you?

You can see some word lists by clicking here: 100 Key Words in Varieties of Scots

Here is a chance to share your words with those collected by classes from other parts of the country.

  • Ask your teacher to set this as homework: collect 5 (or any number he/she chooses) Scots words to bring and share
  • Download the 100 words from the area closest to you. Which words do you know/use? Find out which words your friends and family know/use as homework
  • Ask all the adults and learners in your school what their favourite Scots word is

Decide how you will present your information:

  • Mrs Hampton’s class made a wordle of their list and shared it:


  • You could make a photo gallery of everyone with their favourite word. Dr Fairbairn is demonstrating:

Dr F2

  • You could create your own list of 100 Key Words for your area or school
  • Think of another suitable way to share what you have learned.

Don’t forget to share your results on the Scots Learners’ site:

The tag is #weanswurds

You can see and hear examples of the different types of Scots used across the country in Education Scotland’s Guides to Regional Scots

More information about Scots Dialects can be found here: Main Scots Dialects.

If you want to find out even more about a class in another area of the country, have a look at the Keen Tae Ken Yer Kin challenge. Just click on this tile back on the Learners’ site:




January is the Coolest Month

I had to laugh on reading a recent piece – don’t ask me where: it is lost in a fug of chocolate and cheese (and maybe a bit of wine). The writer was complaining that January is a dead month, with nothing to look forward to once the decorations are down. Not so in Scotland! Burns Night is almost upon us.

Burns helped us bring in the New Year with Auld Lang Syne and his birthday rounds off the month with haggis, poetry and song. January is Scotland’s month – the whole thing wreathed in tartan and the speaking, singing (and it appears reading, in national newspapers, no less) of the language permitted in schools, public places as well as at home.

I am fully convinced that every primary school in the land studies at least one Scots poem, if not this month, then in November for St Andrew. Many schools do both. It is not always Burns: he is deemed too difficult and often replaced with more ‘modern’ poets like JK Annand.

Increasingly though, schools are beginning to feel that Scots might be for more than just Burns Night. Indeed, with Scots Language policies from government and other national bodies, the feeling seems to be spreading beyond schools too. I am sure I am not imagining increasing numbers of Scots words being used in the media. The Referendum seemed to open the door to this and it has not been closed. Matthew Fitt’s new weekly column is surely another door stop to keep the air flowing.

So what should you do if you want your Burns celebration to go beyond bairns learning a poem? And what if you want Scots to extend beyond January as a feature of learning and teaching?

Help is at hand. Education Scotland’s Scots Language hub has large numbers of resources and ideas. Have a look by clicking here: Scots hub The Blether, our professional learning site on Glow, with 227 members and counting, has a wealth of additional materials, as well as freens to help when needed. and a Glow log in will gain you entry there. You can even have a sneak preview of suggestions for Burns activities, soon to be added to the Education Scotland website. And there are details of the Traditional Music and Song Association’s competition in Aberdeen in March – something which might encourage some learners to engage with and use Scots.

A fabulous resource for older learners is Addressing the Bard. Published by the Scottish Book Trust in 2009, it contains the responses of twelve contemporary poets to Burns and his work. Not only does this mean twelve excellent texts for use in the classroom, it gives ideas about how learners themselves might approach Burns. Rather than learning a poem or writing a critical essay, why not have learners create their own texts in response to his work? I feel sure that were he alive today, the great man himself would approve of this approach. Addressing the Bard is available to buy at

Finally, remember your Scots Language Co-ordinator: she, or he, can help with suggestions about how to make your Burns celebrations sing. Contact us via the Blether, or by responding to this blog.

So, a blythe Januar, yin an aw. Clart aathin in tartan, hae a dram (o Irn Bru gin ye’r gaun dry aifter yer Yule hootenanny) an enjoy oor leid: ae wye or anither!


The Gruffalo’s Wean

Small - GruffaloInto Film and Education Scotland have collaborated to bring together an unique event where the popular animation film of The Gruffalo’s Child will be screened at Filmhouse followed by a reading in Scots of The Gruffalo’s Wean by the first Scots Scriever Hamish MacDonald, and a reading in Shetland dialect by Edinburgh Makar, Christine De Luca.

We recommend this event for P3, 4 and 5 pupils. The event will consist of a screening of the film, two readings with Q&A and a ‘Scots’ review writing competition. There will also be educational resources available upon request.

Join us on Wednesday 13th January at 10.45am. Register now – The Gruffalo’s Wean

If you unable to join us for the live event you can always catch up with the recording at another time – Glow TV’s Watch Again.

Why Teach Scots?

hands upThis is a perennial question which Emma Grieve, the Orcadian poet, answers brilliantly in The Queen’s English, recently published as part of Orkney Stoor by Abersee Press. The poem opens,

            Every year I hiv the bairns

write a poem in ballad form

And use a twathree Orney words

tae mak them more the norm

Normalisation is a big part of what the Scots Language Co-ordinators are working towards. If we don’t all use the Scots we have, it will never become any more acceptable to do so. This is why I deliver most of the training and other speaking engagements I give in my Doric – regardless of the variety of Scots likely to be spoken by my audience. Matthew Fitt pointed out to me long ago that if you want folk to value the language, you have to demonstrate that you do too. The best way to show this is to use what you have. And giving learners permission to use what they have can only help.

Grieve continues:

And lit them enjoy the words they ken

and hiv a bit o fun

And sometimes finned a voice

whar they thowt that they hid none.

This is a major factor in encouraging teachers to include more Scots, when they have once tried to include it. The bairn who has never really engaged but writes screeds when asked to do so in Scots is a common feature of feedback from colleagues. I promote Scots largely as a result of seeing a learner (he was a wean called Scott in Glasgow), jumping out of his seat to answer questions about Scots language. He had never previously volunteered to answer in class and this sealed the deal for me. Scots is fun. And it does help many learners to discover that literacy can be for them.

The poem goes on:

When I mesel geid tae school,

there were glandulous plans afoot

Tae standardise all English,

and gae dialects the boot


I asked the teacher tae spell ‘twathree’

and she wrote ‘two or three’

And I kent right then hid dinda mean

tae her what it meant tae me


Fur every Orkney buddy knows

that ‘twathree’ is a few

Like mibbe sivven, or mibbee nine,

bit nivver three or two!

Most Scots speakers, or even Scottish Standard English speakers, will testify that there are words which do not translate directly or well into English. Chris Guthrie knew it and so do those who use ‘dreich’ habitually and recently, ‘sleekit’, dumfoonert’ and, gloriously, ‘fur coat and nae knickers’ on the hallowed airwaves broadcast by the BBC.

Greive’s reaction in her poem:

Bit wi embarrassment and confusion

I geed back tae me sate

Me spelling corrected, me sense obscured

and me cheeks all fill of haet

Thousands of Scots-speaking learners have experienced similar emotions through the generations since the Education Act of 1871. The recently departed and much lamented William McIllavney famously explored a similar incident in Docherty, where the hero is belted and belittled for refusing to substitute ‘gutter’ for ‘sheugh’.

In the lines:

I nivver thowt tae argue principles

wi the education board

Fur evrywan kens when yir peedie,

the teachers’s a kind o god

the poet puts her finger on why such discrimination was allowed to thrive. And she continues:

And imagine me faither’s irritation

when I geid hom that night

And said tae him, in all earnestness,

that HE wisna spaekin right.

Sadly, many parents would instead support the teacher, advocating that their offspring should learn to ‘talk proper’. Having gone through a similar experience themselves at school, many feel as the poet does:

So whatever I said wis wrong

and me voice chist wisna mine

I learned tae spake as I wis spoken tae

and hid changed all the time


Whether chantan or a yoakle,

me tongue wis always tied

Nivver given permission tae articulate,

and me left, cleft inside.

The end result of such confusion and discrimination?

I learned tae haad me tongue,

and I mean that in both weys

In English, ‘hold’: keep quiet

and don’t say whit you wir gaan tae say;


Bit aalso in an Orkney sense:

tae stap the dialect altogether

And howldan wir tongues is hoo we kill

A language daid forever.

This is the potential tragedy and crisis which Scots faces: if we don’t use this minority language, it will go the way of the dodo. We need to nurture and protect it, much as we try to do with the panda.


After repeating the first stanza, Grieve ends on a more positive note:

Havan spent a generation

knockan words oot o folks’ heids

The government’s decided

education’s what folk needs.

This, I hope, is where the Scots Language Co-ordinators come in. We all share the view:

I hoap hid’s no too late

Tae claim them back their tongue

Yi canna force a dialect:

Hid’s learned fae when we’re young.

I would offer an additional hope here: I spoke no Doric until I was five. And I know adults who are learning, or have successfully learned, Doric or another variety of Scots. Some only in writing, others with an accent which would convince anyone of their fluency since bairnhood.

Grieve’s poem ends by further elaborating on the best answer to the question I posed at the beginning:

There’s that peedie boy that’s at the back

And disna add that much

And thinks that English isna fur him

What wi the books and poems and such


Who aalweys luks for alternatives

Tae the words he kens and needs

Till writing is a minefield –

Bit noo he’s writan screeds and screeds!


He’s fund a task he’s chist right good at

Dialect! Whit a choice!

Ivvery word he needs is right tae hand

And he finally his a voice.

Why teach Scots? To answer simply: why wouldn’t you, if you want the best for all your learners?

UNESCO International Literacy Day 2015 at the Glasgow Science Centre

The choice of the Glasgow Science Centre reflected two UNESCO themes for 2015:

  • Literacy and Sustainable Societies and
  • International Year of Light and Light Based Industries
Minister with Literacy and HR
Joined Up Working

Dr. Alasdair Allan, MSP, Minister for Learning Science and Scotland’s Languages provided the keynote speech and launched the Scots Language resource, biographies of famous Scottish scientists in Scots and English. Of special interest is the Scots Scientist James Clerk Maxwell who predated Einstein and contrGlasgow Science Centreibuted to the understanding of light.

Dr Allan said: “Literacy, has a massive effect on the sustainable development of communities around the world.

“Literacy attainment is a key focus in Scottish education and raising the levels of literacy learning is something we’re aiming to address with the Scottish Attainment Challenge.”

Professor Sue Ellis, University of Strathclyde, co-author of the research Closing the Attainment Gap has highlighted the importance of understanding and teaching different literacy strategies for different subjects.

A key impact was the raising of awareness of the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a meaningful context for learning

The benefit of interdisciplinary learning was the theme of the key note address from former BBC presenter scientist Heather Reid OBE.  Workshops reflected this interdisciplinary approach.