East Angus and Kincardine
SUB DIALECT OF NORTHERN SCOTS:
EAST ANGUS & KINCARDINE
People here have traditionally called their dialect Scots or Scotch, but if you live in the northern part of the region you might say you speak Mearns, while those who are in the south might say they speak Angus.
This dialect covers Kincardine (The Mearns) and the eastern (larger) half of Angus. Kincardine and eastern Angus fall traditionally within the Northern Scots-speaking region while western Angus falls within Central Scots. So this means that forms from both Northern and Central Scots can be found within the county of Angus, depending which area you are in. There is an old rhyme which describes this dialect frontier:
Bi foo, fit, far an fan
Ye can tell a Farfar man
This meant that the town of Forfar stood at the boundary where the Northern foo, fit, far and fan (how, what, where and when) – which are regarded as typical of North East (Doric) Scots - changed to hoo, whit, whaur and whan further west. Also, forms such as been and steen (bone and stone) are used in this dialect rather than the more southern bane and stane. Speakers from this region also pronounce some words with a very round sound such as mune, spune and gude (moon, spoon, good).
The following example of Scots is taken from ‘Helenore or the Fortunate Shepherdess’ written by Alexander Ross in the 18th century. Though born in Kincardine O’Neil (Deeside), Ross lived in Glenesk from 1733 until his death in 1784. His writings reflect the Scots spoken in eastern Angus. Spellings such as now and night are pronounced noo and nicht:
Frae this aback, an’ that nae monie days,
A band o kettrin hamphis’d a’ our braes;
Ca’d aff our store at twelve hours o’ the day,
Nor had we maughts to turn again the prey;
Said bargain made our hirds to hadd again,
But what needs mair? A’ was but wark in vain.
The herds came hame, an’ made a reefu’ rair,
An’ a’ the braes rang loud wi’ dool an’ care.
My lassie, that it seems your honor’s seen,
Frae kindness that ye shown her o’ this green,
Like ane hairbrain’d, into the glens taks gate,
Whan now the night was gloomy, merk an’ late.
Wi’ our surprise she’s nae mist till the morn,
An’ now her mither blaws on me the horn,
An’ I maun aff, an’ seek her right or wrang,
An’ monie a bootless fit did for her gang:
An’ at the last I fell amo’ my faes,
The cruel kettrin of Sevitia’s braes.
This second example of Scots from the region is taken from the 19th century ‘Forfar Notables’ (quoted in The Royal Burgh of Forfar A Local History, Alan Reid, 1902), which describes a lesson in a Forfar school:
“Put doon fowre bools! D’ye ca’ that fowre, Johnny? I’ve anither name for’t. Weel dune, Tammie! Ye’ll be a man afore yer mither yet. Tak’ them a’ up but twa, noo! Did ye no’ hear fat I said, min? Gin I come owre yere fingers twice I’ll learn ye to coont twa some better. Noo, lift ane, an’ leave ane. Fat’s yer fingers made o’, Bobbie, at’ ye let a’ yer bools gae scatterin’ owre the flure that wye? Your fingers is a’ thooms, I’m dootin’. Tak’ them a’ up noo! Put doon sax! Coont them ane by ane, min! There! That’s the wye. Confoond ye, canna ye stop when ye come to sax? Tak’ them a’ up an we’ll try again. Ane – Geordie, I’ll hae to gie ye a lickin’, I doot. D’ye no’ ken fat ane is? Hoo mony heids hae ye?
In the earliest times Pictish was spoken. In the Middle Ages both Gaelic and Scots were spoken in this region, though Scots gradually expanded westward. The Lindsays of Glenesk were among the prominent families using the Scots language for administration as early as the 1380's. Indeed, there is a strong tradition between the language and the Glen. It was here that the prominent Scots poet Alexander Ross (1699-1784) taught as schoolmaster of Lochlee. John of Fordoun, the first Scot to describe the differences between Gaelic and Scots speakers, was a native of Kincardineshire. The important abbey at Arbroath was founded in 1178 and soon followed by a burgh and fishing town. Stonehaven was established as a burgh by the Keith earls Marischal in 1587.
The region is largely rural, dotted with fishing communities, stretching down from Kincardineshire (The Mearns) as far as the outskirts of the city of Dundee. At the northern extreme of this dialect lies the town of Stonehaven (Steenhive). Other towns on the coast include Arbroath, Carnoustie, and Montrose. Inland are the towns of Brechin and Forfar (Farfar). Poets, singers and writers in Scots from this region have included Steve Byrne, Helen B Cruickshank, George Webster Donald, Violet Jacob, Marion Angus and Raymond Vettese.