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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

Scots comedy readings on Radio Ulster

27th July 2010

For six weeks in July and August BBC Radio Ulster will be broadcasting a series of dramatised readings in the Ulster Scots dialect which were first performed in the nineteenth century as humorous monologues.

Robin's Readings were created by W G Lyttle, born in 1844. After his death in 1896, he was buried in the grounds of Bangor Abbey, where his memorial describes him as: "… a brilliant and graceful writer … and a true son of County Down".

As well as being the author of Daft Eddie and Betsy Gray, Lyttle was above all an entertainer. He most often appeared at social gatherings in the guise of his alter ego "Robin", a jovial country farmer from the fictitious Ballycuddy in County Down, who regaled his audiences in Ulster Scots. The scripts from these performances were subsequently collected and published as Robin's Readings.

The stories recount the adventures and mishaps of Paddy McQuillan, a cheerful but unfortunate County Down farmer. In the first few episodes, Paddy (played by Will McAvoy) attempts to join a Masonic Lodge, visit Glasgow, and thwart his mother’s attempts to match him with the formidable Miss Norris. Paddy's best friend, Robin Gordon (played by Paddy McAvoy) takes up the story of Paddy's marriage and the birth of his children — before this first series concludes with Paddy's emigration to Canada.

There's a real warmth and humour in these stories — even though they're about 150 years old. What comes across is the sense of a close, rural community sharing in each other's joys and troubles. Lyttle wrote in authentic Ulster Scots, which was spoken throughout the Ards Peninsula.