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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

All aboard the Fife Circle

16th July 2015

If youre someone who travels the Fife Circle train line, you might just have noticed while waiting in one of those stations that there are illustrated posters with texts in the Scots language. And you may well have wondered how these came about. These are the work of two Fife ladies named Maureen Sangster (Kirkcaldy) and Sheena Berry (Kinghorn) who were inspired by a 100 year old poem by Mary Campbell Smith about a boys journey on the train to Kirkcaldy. Sangster and Berry came up with an idea to create a series of conversations between various characters connected with eleven locations in Fife, ranging from economist Adam Smith, to King Alexander III (who was famously thrown from his horse at Kinghorn), to the riggers who built the Forth railway bridge, and hotel owners along the route.


The two Fifers spent months travelling around the various locations researching the history and local characters, and chatted with the public too in order to come up with their series of characters and illustrations. These were first launched at the end of 2013 with funding from both ScotRail and Fife Contemporary Art and Craft and, in October 2014, Sangster and Berry received an award from Community Rail Awards 2014.


It perhaps comes as little surprise that the conversations are often in the Scots language, reflecting the rich, native tongue of Fifers. These really do impart to the traveller a strong sense of the cultural identity of both Fifers and the Scots-speaking community in general. In fact, it is a good model for lifting the Scots language community out from its normally invisible status and making it more apparent. So it is all the more curious that when the posters were first launched the press of the time remained entirely silent about the language.


The series of conversations, poems and illustrations are available as a booklet called Circle Line Conversations from Kirkcaldy Galleries or Harbour Arts and Crafts in Aberdour.