News from Shetland
by Mary E. Blance
Mary chairs Shetland ForWirds, which was formed two years ago on the recommendation of the Shetland Dialect Convention 2004, an initiative promoted by Shetland Arts Trust. A year ago, she wrote a diary feature about SFW's activities, A Twalmont a Spaekin. Here she reflects on another year's work dedicated to keeping Da Midder Tongue alive and kicking.
On a Red Letter day in voar we laerned at Shetland ForWirds wis gotten permission ta pit John Graham's Shetland Dictionary on-line, on da website at's bein biggit fir wis eenoo.
We held a Settirday efternun a 'Taking Stock and Setting Targets'. We wir braaly pleased when a lokk a folk cam so discussion wis lively, identifyin education, history and heritage, promotion and resourcin as da main areas o endeavour. Whit emerged provided da basis for SFW's voar wark: sittin doon ta tresh oot da detail o an Action Plan ta back-up ony funding application, or even juist ta sha ta folk at wants ta keen whit wir aboot.
To promote the continued use of the Shetland dialect
OBJECTIVES To achieve this we will
1) establish and define a recognised body of words
2) raise the status and enhance the profile of the dialect
3) develop an educational role at all levels from pre-school to adult
1) formally lobby Shetland Islands Council and other agencies to achieve the creation and implementation of a Shetland-wide dialect policy
2) develop links with linguistic groups outwith Shetland and add our voice to national campaigns
3) develop a website dedicated to the promotion of the dialect
4) research schools' requirements and develop, commission and create contemporary teaching materials for use at all educational levels, from pre-school to adult
5) continue to work towards establishing a comprehensive and practical English- Shetland vocabulary list
6) promote the public use of dialect through a series of initiatives
7) seek ways of working with the local print and speech media
8) assist in creating artistic/cultural projects which will help to further the objectives of the group
9) publicise the distinctive character of the Shetland dialect to visitors to Shetland as an integral part of cultural tourism
10) support and promote the establishment of a dialect study centre in Shetland to facilitate research and store archives
Laureen Johnson and Christian Tait wis gettin ready tae embark on a serious piece o research inta da status o written an spokken dialect in Shetland's primary schules. Dey planned ta spaek ta as many teachers as dey could, ta fin oot whit happens at da moment, an dan ax dem whit teachers wid welcome in da wye o classroom resources. We needed ta keen whit kind a materials baith teachers an young eens wid enjoy usin.
At da sam time, SFW wis lookin furt o Shetland ta makk its mark. Da Scottish Executive haes a National Language Strategy in development, so we wrot ta ax dem ta makk sure Shetland wisna left oot a ony consultation. Efter aa, wir wye o spaekin, laek da Doric an da Glasgow tongues, is still very much alive an no yit confined atween da brods o coothy an/or academic books.
Dis mont browt a blow when we wir turned doon fir a lottery grant fir wan o wir projects. Da reason? Bein a sub-group o da Shetland Folk Society, no an independent organisation. Da Folk Society's generous offer ta git wis aff da grund under der umbrella wi a ready made constitution wis very welcome at da start. We made mair redd as we ever widda dön withoot dem. Noo, da time wis come ta cut da cord. We set up a Constitution Group ta get on wi it an come back ta da Midder Committee whin der wark wis dön.
Da Shetland wye o spaekin wis in da national spotlight. Laureen's nightclass students wis in a television programme, The Big Scots Road Trip presented by Carl MacDougall, an Laureen hersel joined da Shetland team fir a radio Scots quiz wi Cameron Stout in da chair. Dey didna disgrace demsels when it cam ta keenin da vocabulary o idder dialects. Shetlanders also fan der wye inta Radio 4's Voices series an it wis lightsome ta tune in an hear da Whalsa alangside da Dorset.
A peerie gadderie o wis met up wi MSP Tavish Scott ta introduce wirsels tae him an explain whit wir aal aboot. Hit's fine ta hae a representative at Holyrood it does understaand an can spaek da dialect. Tavish followed dis up by sendin material at highlights how minority languages really are an important political issue in Europe, mair sae as hameaboot.
Da wye we spaek attracted quite a few researchers last year an wan o dem wis Edit Bugge. Shö cam across fae Bergen armed wi Jakobsen's Etymological Dictionary of the Norn Language in Shetland, extracted da wirds beginnin wi H, dan guid roond interviewin aal age groups ta fin oot whit wirds dey kent.
It wis a busy tourist saeson an it's clear how much local businesses an tourist concerns ir doin ta sha aff da dialect ta visitors. I'm drinkin oot o a Westside Pine 'Smoorikins' mug eenoo, bit I could be wearin da tee-shirt, dryin me dishes, admirin me fridge magnets, an mair. Da success o da Islesburgh Exhibition's dialect wirds corner wis evident when wan peerie English boy wis overheard tellin his Mam sho wis tirn.
As we're juist seen, locks o dialect activities gengs on withoot SFW bein officially involved, altho aften some o wis might gie a haand wi dem in ee wye or anidder.
Da Wordplay Book Festival saa da launch o da Hansel Co-operative's double CD o dialect stories, wi accompanying booklets an a website aimed at bairns fae nursery ta aulder primary schule age. Da brainchild o Christine de Luca, dey wir also stories by John Cumming, Iris Sandison an Jane Moncrieff. In September Christine embarked on a tour o every schule in Shetland shö could win tae. I joined her ta read stories in Ollaberry, Urafirth an North Roe, an saa fir mesel how much bairns love storytelling - an ideal wye o sharin language an enjoyment o wirds. Something at cam up in conversation wi staff laek Barbara Sandison at Urafirth is da need fir a wird it haes da alternative meaning ta 'knap' - a wird fir when folk at's come ta bide in Shetland pick up an use da dialect. Christine herself fan a new use fir an auld wird when shö cam across a bairn at referred ta da end slice o a loff a bread as a scyumpie. Maybe mair auld wirds will naturally transfer demsels ta new applications if dey soond right.
We started haddin wir main committee meetings in da Boardroom at da Amenity Trust. Tanks ta dem fir dat.
Wir new Constitution wis dated, signed an sealed efter sterlin wark by Eileen Brooke-Freeman in particular.
Da latest researchers inta da Shetland tongue arrived. Robert Millar and Sandra Millar-Weyland ir writin a textbook for older secondary an college students on dialects spokken in Northern Scotland an da Northern Isles. Der interested in da history o da dialect as weel as analysin da modern vocabulary, soonds an grammar.
Dis mont browt a welcome development on da education front. As a result o der research in primary schules, Laureen an Christian wis invited ta takk an In-Service session fir teachers. Tinkin dey might be lucky ta git half a dizzen folk, dey wir fairly made up when seventeen enrolled.
We expected a visit fae da folk at's biggin wir website. Der in Arcadia College in Pennsylvania. Der original offer ta bigg an maintain a website at nae cost tae Shetland ForWirds wis too temptin ta turn doon. Da six-weekly video conferences proved ta be very useful, a fine wye o communicatin, bit you do miss no bein able ta pop alang someen an hae a face ta face conversation. So we wir disappointed when da trip didna come aff. However, we do now have a Shetland-spaekin volunteer ower dere at's offered ta help dem oot wi ony proof reading needed wi John Graham's dictionary an idder dialect content.
Back hame, Bill Moore an Derick Herning is baith been wirkin away at hame on aulder dictionaries an wird lists, peckin awa at dem alphabetically. Noo an ageen at a committee meetin we'll mind ta ax how der farin bit dey raelly ir da backroom boys, sloggin awa at a time-consuming, sometimes tankless, bit vital job.
Christian an Laureen presented da full results o der survey ta Shetland ForWirds wi der recommendations. Dat list is headlined 'Encourage, Support, Value, Share' ta emphasise da relationship at's envisaged wi teachers.
December browt da lang lippened launch o Valerie Watt's delightful bairns' book Da Peesterleeties an da Curse o da Njuggle, published by da Shetland Times. Valerie, a local teacher, is followed in da fitsteps o an earlier Shetland novelist, J.J. Haldane Burgess, writing da story itsel in English an usin dialect fir da spaekin. Da book includes lovely detailed illustrations by Jacqueline Nicolson. Fae syne, Valerie's been visitin schules an fun bairns fairly enjoyin da stories shö's made up aboot dis very entertainin faimily o trows. We're learned lately at da Peesterleeties is even been pitten on da reading scheme in at laest wan local schule.
Laek da Hansel project, it's no an initiative at Shetland ForWirds is been directly involved wi, bit wir blyde ta see dem baith happenin.
When da New Year comes in, I hae tree new calendars wi dialect apo dem, an twa o dem is by young eens. Da North Roe Primary Schule haes a black and white production o dialect wadder wirds accompanied by der meanings an drawings. Da calendar fae da secondary Young Enterprise team in Brae includes information aboot customs an folk-lore wi information aboot times o da year, laek Lobers-mass, at I wisna come across afore. An dan der da Big Bannock calendar, whaur der nots aboot aal sorts a cultural an linguistic activities. I'm sure dey wid be a call for a 'Theory Lesson 1. Communication Skills. Correct pronunciation and use of profanity whilst caain.' We manna be ower serious!
SFW gits da chance ta contribute ta da SIC's Information Pack for Migrant Workers. It wis döin dat at made me awaar at da Shetland Times includes an entertainin piece o dialect wark every Friday - Smirk's cartoons.
Wir guest spaeker wis da SIC's Michael Duncan, a man wi a lokk a answers on how and whaur ta fin funding fir a variety o projects, big an sma. We enjoyed meetin him an he's keepit his promise ta makk sure we keen aboot aa da developments in funding fae a variety o national an local sources.
Wir first application is ta help wis attend a conference on da languages o Scotland and Ulster in Islay in July. Da invitation is come ta wis via Michael Hance fae da Scots Language Resource Centre. Michael is a member o Shetland ForWirds so he gits wir meenits. He wis interested ta learn aboot Christian an Laureen's research, an alerted een o da Islay conference organisers, Derrick McClure, tae da existence o der survey an its recommendations. Encouraged be outside interest in developments in Shetland, I wis keen fir dem ta accept - an said I wid come ta fly da flag too. It's an opportunity ta makk sure at da Shetland voice is heard Sooth an farder afield. In fact, noo wir gotten da programme ta look at, der tree papers aboot da Shetland dialect bit onnly wan bein delivered by folk at spaeks it.
Dey wir sna on da grund when da fellows fae Itchy Coo cam ta Shetland ta visit some local schules. An my mercy, whit an exhilaratin experience it wis for da eens fae Shetland ForWirds at acted as chauffeurs an assistants ta Matthew Fitt and Hamish MacDonald! Da Itchy Coo team is devised some exciting wyes o teachin language in da classroom. I wis amazed ta hear bairns in Mossbank read poetry in Scots, sight unseen, drawn ta da wirds be da winderful illustrations. As der visit cam tae an end, we hed a meetin wi dem ta fin oot how Itchy Coo an Shetland ForWirds could wirk tageddir on different educational ploys. Dey hae expertise in writin an publishin 'Braw Books for Bairns o Aw Ages', an also in teachin an trainin. So we hae a lokk ta laern fae dem. Developin dat link in real terms is a task fir dis coming year.
An important date fir wir Strategy Group wis a welcome meetin wi local politicians: Convener Sandy Cluness an Charitable Trust chairman and education spokesperson Bill Manson, tageddir wi Chief Executive Morgan Goodlad. We shared some o wir aspirations aboot how we might go aboot promotin dialect in schules, raisin its profile in da wider community and makkin sure at Shaetlan as a spokken tongue is no left oot when der discussin Scots an idder languages an dialects doon Sooth. We also touched on da need ta fin some premises for Shetland ForWirds afore ower lang. We left da Toon Hall feelin dey wir been much goodwill tawards wir plans.
Museum curator Tommy Watt invited Shetland ForWirds ta choose a range o dialect wirds ta decorate a big ring ta hang in da Folklore an Customs area o da new building. We wir thrilled ta be axed, an set up a Museum Wirds Group ta come up wi interestin lookin wirds.
It wis time too ta organise some fund-raising on wir ain behalf so we can spend some money. At long last, da wirdsearch I'm med up sees da light o day. It's been een o yun projects you tink you'll juist dö in a meenit but turns oot ta be a bit o a kendigaet. Der despatched trow Shetland ta various ootlets wi my blissin. Onnly efter struggling ta laern how ta makk it up on da computer do I fin oot it der actually software at widda made it very easy!
Da mont a May wis mair laek a hairst as a voar, wi several ploys comin ta fruition.
Wir Grand Variety Concert celebratin da spokken wird at da Garrison Theatre wis a sell-oot. We wir prood ta welcome performers fae der teens tae 'aulder eens' wi songs, skits, stories an traditional music. Hit wis a rael treat ta hae Splinters Youth Theatre fae Delting act oot a Delting story - da Busta tragedy, interpreted by Mick Newbold. Da play wis a multi-award winner at da Drama Festival an da youngsters' pride in it wis clear in der performance. Whit wi tickets, raffles an programmes, we managed ta clear ower eleven hunder pounds, which certainly pat smiles on wir faces as weel as dialect on stage.
Shetland ForWirds wis axed ta organise some entertainment wi music, storytelling, songs an poetry fir da delegates ta da Jakob Jakobsen Conference in Scalloway. We wir blyde o anidder platform fir da dialect afore folk at wis come fae aa da airts. As we read da poems on stage, we wir awaar o da folk studyin da wirds afore dem; we wir hed da poems printed oot, makkin da performance mair accessible as it mighta been. Afore da night wis oot, a couple o da visitors cam an sang tae wis so we could hear da original wirds o Lollie Graham's 'Faeroe Lullaby'.
Whaur wid da Shetland dialect o wir day be withoot da wark at Jakobsen pat inta da Norn tongue? Da conference wis a reminder o fu important he wis in his native Faroe. It also offered da opportunity ta hear Edit Bugge's paper based on her research last year. Shö fan oot at da young folk shö interviewed kent far mair wirds as edder dem or da aulder folk towt dey wid. Shö concluded on an optimistic note for da future o da dialect.
A meetin at SIC Education Services proved very supportive o da recommendations made by Laureen an Christian in der report. We very much hope noo at a graduate will be interested in takkin on some o da tasks identified as needfil if da dialect is ta survive as a lively spokken tongue. A twalmont on fae da twa o dem sat doon ta sort oot da wirdin for der survey, dey can be prood o der hard wark an whit's been achieved so far. Shetland ForWirds is also very appreciative o da support o Creative Links Officer Noelle Henderson since da project wis first discussed.
Wir first Annual General Meeting, an definitely time ageen ta takk stock an examine da targets we set mair as a year ago. Though da Action Plan needs a bit a titivatin, I tink I spaek fir aal o wis in Shetland ForWirds when I say I'm enjoyed bein involved in a busy year wi achievements ta coont as weel as glitches ta owercome.
Dis comin year we most git wir website up an runnin, linkin wis in wi da wider world o da web. An we most not forgit wir draem o someday havin a Dialect Centre in Shetland, a hub an focus fir da wark wir onnly startin.
Scots Language Resource Centre Association Ltd. t/a Scots Language Centre, A.K. Bell Library, York Place, Perth, Scotland PH2 8EP
Registered in Scotland as an Industrial & Provident Society No. 2451R(S). Scottish Charity No. SCO21747
Scots Language in Scotland's Census 2011 | Shetland and Orcadian Scots dialect | Caithness Scots dialect | North East Doric Scots dialect | East central Scots dialects | Angus and Tayside Scots Dialect | Galloway Scots Dialect | West Central Scots Dialect | Borders Scots Dialect | Ulster Scots Dialect | Scotch language | Scots leid | Scottish Language | Ulster Scots Dialect |