The Crack: A Childhood Experience

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), September 22, 2001 | Go to article overview

The Crack: A Childhood Experience


(The Editor will be glad to hear readers' views, and to consider items for inclusion in our

Ulster-Scots column)THE Crack features another poem from Ulster poet Jim Fenton's first collection, Thonner an Thon. As always, Jim writes about his experiences from his childhood spent in the townlands of Drumadaragh and Ballinaloob, near Ballymoney.

In this poem, an everyday occurrence of a fall of snow has a special significance. When the poet was asked about this poem, he said: "That day is long gone, the words are long lost; there is only this."

It's ill tae mine

It's ill tae mine, wae a'

The years an a'

The ither;

Yit ivery booin brench o the sally,

Tal an strecht an lang Awa,

Wuz skeenklin gless, clear an shairp,

Teenklin frae oot the sky in spails an Flitterin bricht,

Saft-plappin

Inty the poothery snow, wreathed

Deep, saft-white an quait

A'ower the sheugh an dake.

An we trevelled thonway,

Flippin noo,

Lilties baith,

Skeich-geeglin at Ither,

Over the pakked, broon-padded snow, whur

Nae road wuz, hir

Sae licht, sae lichtsome, quick-lachin

Doon, thonway, a keechlin

Hizzy, howlin

Ticht an het

A wain's clinched fist tae,

Then, we gaen by

The waitin gate, quait-hingin, whur A

See it yit,

Wee roses keekin,

Bricht draps o blid, frae oot the snow; yit

Niver mine

Gan in the dorr.

James Fenton

A secret world of Scots

At primary school I could never understand why the other children asked, "Whose aw is that?"

Wouldn't it have been better to say "Whose is that all?" Of course, the word wasn't "aw" but "awe"; I simply didn't recognise good Scots.

The language isn't as strong as it was; an some will tell us it was dead and buried decades ago. Indeed, Gordon Brewer used just those words to enliven the debate on a Scottish broadcast last year. Though he may have been playing devil's advocate, the fact is that there's a good deal more Scots around than you might suspect.

While a Londoner goes "to church" and "to bed", people in Scotland and Ulster go "to the church" and "to their bed".

We can even catch a flash of Scots among Irish speakers. Since there are no words for "yes" or "no" in Irish, many Northern Gaels make use of Scots, perhaps because they can't suffer English! We all know we wait on someone in Scots. At least half the Irish speakers in Belfast say "waiting on" too, though the correct form in that language would be "waiting with".

The challenge for anyone attempting to write Scots is to put together what he remembers from childhood with a little academic learning in order to make a modern language.

Ulster-Scots literature course at Linenhall

The 'Linenhall Library' starts its language courses again next week (from Monday 24 September), and the 'Introduction to Ulster-Scots Language and Literature' course begins on Wednesday 26th from 4.00pm, with classes each Wednesday afternoon over the next six weeks. …

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