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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

Scots language fowk pey tribute tae John Law

15th February 2010

John Law, ane o the best kent Scots language steerers o raicent times, deed aa a sudden on Seturday. Cllr Law wis ane o the bodies that set up the Scots Language Resource Centre in 1993  - SLRC becam the Scots Language Centre fower year syne – an wis active at aa levels o the Scots language movement.

John wis editor o Scots language journal, Lallans, an for mony years wis ane o the main players in the Scots Leid Associe. A poet, writer an political activist John wis widely respectit in the Scots language warld.

Tributes tae John haes been lead bi Derrick McClure, Convenor o the Ministerial Working Group on Scots. McClure described John as ‘an ensampil tae’s aa’, gaun on tae say, ‘in John Law we hae tint a mauchtie kemp for the cause o the mither tung.  Editor o the Lallans journal, owsersetter, makar an screivar, an abune aa a steive weirman, fechtin for the leid wi a ne’er-dwynin lealtie.

Preses o the Scots Leid Associe, Dr Chris Robinson, peyed tribute tae John’s commitment tae the Scots cause, ‘I first got tae ken John ower a wee dram an a muckle argie-bargie aboot Scots spellin. Sen syne, I hae come tae haud him in affection an respeck. Whit he haes duin for the Scots leid is athoot marra. He wis a fine scriever hissel an his encouragement o ither scrievers an his  involvement wi Lallans haes brocht mony a new talent intae the Scots  literary scene. For mony years he wis the backbane o the Scots Language Society. John wis a richt steerer, aye gettin new folk engaged wi the leid or pittin smeddum intae auld dargers.  He wis fu o  ideas, pit them forrit wi the practicalities thocht throu an wisna  feart tae dae the feck o the wark. For example, he wis in the coorse o makkin an edition o Gavin Douglas's Aeneidos wi the assistance o  Caroline Macafee. I ken I spik for mony fowk whan I say he wis an inspiration. The Scots leid haes lost a guid freen.’

Lang time frien an former editor o Scots Tung Wittins, Bob Fairnie said, ‘Whit can a body say aboot John?  He WIS the Scots Language Society for sic a lang while an pit in a pouer o wark editin the Lallans Magazine.  He wis a guid exemplar o the verra kinna Scots language upsteerer that the Scots language cannae dae athoot.  He didnae juist fecht for the language, he yaised it an aw.  Ma hertfelt condolences gauns oot tae Janet an his faimlie.’

Speakin ower the weekend poet an frien, Rab Wilson, said, ‘This hus taen the wind richt oot ma sails the nicht, it is an utter tragedy! Ah steyed ower wi John an Janet juist twa weeks syne, daein a Scots language warkshoap at Perth Prison, an we hud a richt guid blether anent aathing affectin Scots an current cultural ongauns. John wis aye the first guy ah wid phone gin ah needit ony advice ava anent Scots; be it regairdin poetry, politics, leeterature, (e'en hou tae spell a bluidy wird!) - or juist cause ah fancied a bit craic! as faur as ma writin gaes, he wis aiblins the best frien ah hud.’

Joy Hendry editor o the leeterary journal, Chapman, wis a lang time collaborator wi John. Hendry said, 'John Law seemed indestructible. He was so many things to so many people. To me, and to Chapman, he was an invaluable friend and supporter. We gleefully plotted and planned over many things over many years - all to try to further the cultural situation of Scotland. We didn't always agree, of course, but however much I disagreed with him, the sheer integrity of his intent was never in any doubt. One of my preoccupations since the news broke on Saturday is to imagine, fondly but with profound sadness, what further mischief he might have got up to. I am so glad, now, that an almost unimaginable printer's cock up of his translation of Pablo Neruda's 'The Heichts o Macchu Picchu' into impeccable Scots in Chapman 108 led to its proper publication in pamphlet form. All present and correct this time. I have lost one of my dearest and closest friends. One small comfort is that my grief is shared by so many.'

Poet, writer an activist, Janet Paisley, caws tae mind a relationship wi John that wis common amang fowk in the Scots language warld, 'Ower mony year ago tae coont, I sent a bittie writin tae Lallans, and back it cam aw markit oot wi gey annoyin spellin advice. Mair years went by, and whaurever the leid needit a haun, John Law was amang thaim gien it, quate, dignified, shair, but takin awthing in. In the brek fae yin sic meetin, he askit me tae gie him somethin fur Lallans. Ye'll mind, says I, ah cannae spell. Och, says he, we'll no haud that agin ye. John argied fur Scots tae the coos cam hame, but didnae faw oot aboot it. He'd gang his ain gait, but ay made room fur ithers tae gang theirs. He gied respect, an won it fae ye. John's yin ae thae rocks oor leid stauns oan noo, ay present even when elsewhaur. Present yit a lang whiles, an aw times sairly missed.'

Alasdair Allan, MSP for the Wastren Isles an campaigner for Scots said, 'A wes fell sorry tae hear John hed dee'd.  A hed lang respeckit hs wurk for the Scots leid, an hed wrocht wi him in dargs as sindrie as poleitical activism, the Scots Language Society, leiterarie an ither daeins.  Awbodie at kent him wull miss him. Oor thochts is aw wi Janet an his faimlie.'

Poet, writer an educationalist, Liz Niven, said, 'A mind meetin John awa back when the Scots Language Resource Centre was jist a wee skinkle in his een.He approacht awthin in thon quate bit determined fashion, kennin whit he wantit tae dae an workin hard makkin shair he sortit it the best wey possible. An it wis a fine achievement. A true testimonie tae his skills as a negotiator an a gey feistie fechter fir the leid. He'll be weel missed by a wheen o fowk fae aw ower.'

Braidcaster an writer, Billy Kay, said, 'John Law wes a wice, douce, honest guidman wha wrocht without devaul for the leid that wes at the core o his and his kintrae’s bein – a muckle hertit man that’ll be sairly missed by aw the fowk, wha  believe in Scotland.'

Scots Independent Scots language columnist, Kenneth Fraser, commented, ' Aabodie that haes the weilfare o Scots at hert kens whit a muckle loss it haes tholit wi the daith o John Law. He wes ane o the maist eident wirkers in its cause. Scots needs no juist writers an teachers, bit organeesers that wul chauve awaa at the haurd wark, an this he did. Gin
Scotland haed haed mair lik him, oor leid wad hae been in a stranger poseition the day.'

Colin Donati wis a freen tae John an warked wi him at the Scots Leid Associe an in owersettin the Universal Declaration o Human Richts. Colin said, 'Even nou I’ve no taen it in. John wis a rock - a solid, siccar, dependable body o guid sense that awbody could aye lippen on. He wis a bonny fechter that didna hae ony ambeition but for the cause in the darg he wis daein. Awbody the day warkin for the leid wis indebtit tae him in some wey or ither and there isna ae body amang us winna fin themsels somewey feelin his loss. He wisna jist a chuckie on a cairn, he wis a cairn in his ain richt.'

Dr Caoline Macafee fae the University o Aiberdeen haed been involved wi John in mony projects ower the years. She said, ' Ah ay felt my wark wis in guid hauns wi John as editor - he wis carefu an consistent, bit, as Jack Aitken aince remarkit, he turnt oot a faur less authoritarian editor o Lallans than micht been feart. As Ah fun again recently, wirkin wi him on the Eneados, he listent, thocht things ower, an tane ither pynts o view intae conseederation, afore makin a soun judgement an stickin til't. John's veesion for the Scots leid will be sairly missed. His virr an eident sense o purpose wis an inspiration, an his tireless commitment an ensample that will ay bide wi's.'

Fiona Hyslop MSP, Minister for Culture, said, 'I knew John personally and he was an impressive man in many ways. John Law was a strong character with an even stronger commitment to Scotland and the Scots Language.  His work over decades has shaped and formed the foundations of a country which now has a reconvened Scottish Parliament, taking us nearer to Independence, and a status and profile for the Scots Language which is stronger than ever before.'

Michael Hance, Director o the Scots Language Centre, said, ‘There is nae dout aboot John’s contribution tae Scots. He didna come alang whan Scots haed stertit tae be fashionable. He wis aye there – dargin awa makkin the case for Scots. Whan he wis first a cooncillor in Perth he saw the chance tae bigg up a Centre for Scots an it is is because o his commitment an determination that we are aye here the day. John wis the Convenor o oor board whan I first stertit here at the Centre an he wis a fine an easy body tae work wi. We sometimes didna agree aboot aathin but that’s aye the case wi fowk that haes views they haud tae in a passionate like wey. I’m affa sorry for Janet an oor thochts is wi her ee nou.’

Hance’s tribute wis echoed bi SLC colleague, Dr Dauvit Horsbroch, ‘It wis a sair stammygaster tae hear that John isna wi us ony mair. Mair nor ony body, it wis John that fleitcht masel an ithers in ma student days tae haud-gauin forderin the Scots leid. He wis a lettert man, a shairp intellect, an a rare cheil. We will sairly miss him.’

Cllr Kate Howie, a colleague on Perth Cooncil an vice-convenor o the SLC said, ‘Since my Election John sat beside me in all Full Council meetings and became my mentor in the " workings " of the Chamber. His use of the Scots language in debate was never forced or unnatural. It always added so much to the strength of his well thought-out arguments. There were two main causes at the forefront of his mind – independence for Scotland and better support for the Scots language. He is a great loss to Scotland.’

BBC Scotland