The Scots leid in Australian líteratur

Onybody that kens anent the Scots leid kens that Scots is spoken in Scotland, whaur the leid first upbiggit. Fowk will like eneuch ken that Scots exists in anither pairt: thare the Ulster Scots, the Scots spik o Northren Ireland. But whit isnae sae weel kent is the Scots uised in Australie.

It’s kenable that the main leids o Australie for hunneryears wis the aborigine leids, Dyirbal an Warlpiri amang ithers. An thae leids is gey an interestin thairsels. R.M.W. Dixon an Kenneth L. Hale amang ither linguists haes written beuks anent thae leids that is orra unalike fae ither leids in the warld. Amang thair partícularities is coverbs, whaur the verb is for common formed fae a coverb an the main verb, coverb specifeein the main verb. Thare is forby the mony places o articulation o consonants (distinction acqueish sounds produced at different pairts o the gab). An thay aften uise the selsame wird for an object an anither object that coud potentially become it, for ensaumple ‘ainimal’ an ‘meat’.1

For thair nummers, it is upcast thare wis thareabout 250 aboriginal leids in 1788. The feck o thaim is misfortunately endangert or weedit awa, wi anerly 130 bein uised in ilkaday life, an nae mair nor twinty bein leart by bairns.2

Thir days the leid that’s the maist spoken in the southren continent is the Southspik. But thare is forby ither leids that haes come tae Australie by recent immigrants, the main anes thir days bein Mandarin, Italians an Arabic. But Scots wis amang thaim, inspecially in the nineteent hunneryear.

The Scots population o Australie is the island-continent’s thrid-lairgest ethnic population.3 It is upcast that thay account for thareabout 13 per cent o the population.4 In the nineteent hunneryear, Scots that gaed tae Australie maistly cam wi thair faimilies an cam fae the Lallans.5 An it wisnae juist the nuclear faimilies, aither: the grunnies an the gutchers cam wi thaim whiles.6

Haein arrived in Australie several groups wis foundit by the Scots incomers, like the Caledonian Society of Southern Australia. Amang thair ettles wis for thaim tae forder Scots an Gaelic language an líteratur. An thay cam tae produce Scots líteratur thairsels.

Ensaumples o Scots líteratur produced in Australie includes first- an seicont-generation incomers as weel as non-native spikkers. The Scots writin o Australie spangs the domains o poetry, sang, novels an mair. The novels coud be aither novels actually in the Scots itsel, or in the Southspik, wi dialogue in Scots.

John Service, an Ayrshireman steyin in Sydney, even wrate hale novels in Scots, includin The Life and Recollections of Doctor Duguid of Kilwinning (1887), a endeavour whilk is seen as new-fangelt.7 This beuk, like ither beuks in Scots, can be fund on archive.org.

It wisnae juist fiction. Relígious líteratur wis written in Scots an aw: in 1921, a Scots mínister, bidin in Sydney syne the 1890s, haed his owersettin o Genesis in Scots publisht.8 His owersettin wis praised as writin in a Scots that wis formal eneuch like the English owersettin, an vibrant like the Laitin version; he wis sonsie-like in this ettle.9

The writin in Scots forby includit writin tae editors in newspapers, like tae the South Australian Advertiser, whaur Scots-spikkers wis acceppit in the letters page.10

This unnerlines the fact that it wis assumed that líteratur in, or featurin, Scots wad be read by non-Scots11. An the Scots líteratur o Australie wisnae juist written by fowk born in Scotland, or o Scots origin, aither. This is pairtly acause Scots líteratur fae Scotland itsel (like Burns, Scott an Hogg) wis popular in Australie at that stound.12 13

The Poor Parson by Steele Rudd is a ensaumple o a Australian that isnae even o Scots origin (he’s hauf Erse, hauf Welsh) writin a novel in English wi Scots dialogue. An a sonsie, weel-lued novel at that.14 An The Poor Parson wis publisht in 1907, sae juist a hunneryear syne.

The new contex an environs in Australie affectit the wey Scots líteratur wis produced in mony weys.

The uiss o Scots in Australie is whiles a mixtur-maxtur wi the English, inspecially the maist recent writin, as in My Puir Wee Sister by D. B. Tait (1865). The Scots (or Scots/English) poetry o Australie gangs aw the wey intae the 20t hunneryear. An ensaumple o late-20t hunneryear writin wi a mixtur-maxtur o English an Scots is Couper’s Drunk wi the Sight of life.

Fowk’s identity wis affectit an aw: Catherine Helen Spence haed baith Australian colonist identity an Scots identity. She wrate novels whaur the main chairacter spak the English, but mony minor chairacters spak in the Scots.

The theme that wis aften predominant wis description o the ordinar lifes o Scotsmen bidin in the outback. Aft-times, the Scots writin in Australie wis in a kailyaird style.15 The themes o nostalgia come up again an again, as weel as the ímage o a pre-industrial Scotland.16 This can be seen as twa kinds o the same nostalgia: ae nostalgia for anither time; anither nostaliga for anither place.

Sae, in conclusion, we can see that the Scots líteratur o Australie wis a flourishin enterpríse. This wis due tae the mony líterate Scots comin tae Australie wi thair strang identity that guidit thairsels around that identity. It is forby due tae fowk readin Scots líteratur weel-lued at that stound. The upbiggin o this líteratur wis in a society whilk misfortunately saw the fleggin o a fair feck o the sindry Aboriginal leids, an ither cultural aspects, at the same time. The Scots cam tae be temporar-like a signíficant pairt o the new Australian state wi wastren cultur.


James McDonaldJames McDonald is a Scots polyglot steyin in Réunion. He is keen on different leids, inspecially local leids, an thair forderin, whether it’s Scots, Gaelic, Réunion Creole or ither leids. He wirks in schuils, helpin bairns wi thair hamewirk an giein chess lessons. Ye can contact him on jmcd89 [AT] googlemail [DOT] com.

Glossar

For tips on readin Scots, alang wi a glossar o common wirds, see our cutty guide (written in English).

Scots English
acqueish between
anent about
environs the environment
ettles aims, ambitions
gab mouth
hunneryear century
Italians the Italian language
owersettin translation
selsame very same
sindry several, many
sonsie-like successful
stound a period of time
temporar-like temporarily
upbiggit built up
upcast calculate, reckon, estimate

The Body Snatchers

Nae ower lang syne there wis a scientific revolution in Europe. Doun south ye haed Newton gettin skelpit on the heid aff an aipple, an extrapolatin out fae that aa the laws o motion on earth. Up here in bonnie Scotland we haed a wheen inventors in mony fields makkin muckle steps forrit, biggin up a comprehensive kennin o baith naitur an the universe.

But ae field o science coudnae mak ony advancement at aa: the science o medicine. Young doctors coudnae get ony cadavers tae hack open an keek intae. It wis thocht tae be unco un-christian tae gie yer body tae science efter ye’d dee’d. Fowk thocht that God wad be ragin wi thaim. Maist fowk in Scotland at the time still creditit aa thae havers anent God an Auld Nick an aa that. Ae pairt o this auld-farrant belief sýstem wis that the body wis a haly ’hing, biggit by God, an tae tamper wi it wad be a desecration o His wark. Whiles, mebbe ance a year, the council wad gie the local university the corp o some puir craitur that’d been hangit in the mercat square for ae crime or anither, an wha’s faimily didnae claim thaim. But ae corp ilka twal month wisnae gaun’ae gang faur at the medical colleges. Naw, students coudnae get a shottie o a real deid cheil for aa the siller they haed.

Haud on readin . . . “The Body Snatchers”

Widney’s Fuil

Fa’s fuil are you?

Out o an aafu wee village, cam an aafu big chairacter. At first glance, Langside is juist a kintra village aside Peterheid, wi nae much gaun on. Wi a population o less than a thousand, fowk can even sometimes forget that the placie exists. But, ‘at disna mean that great things, an fowk, hinna cam fae there, an nae lang ago ah wis lat in on the story o a great Langsider — the story o Widney’s fuil.

Sae, come on than, “fa wis he?”, ye ask. Weel, some puir bugger wis wunnerin the same thing fan he says tae Jamie Fleeman, “Are you the Laird of Udny’s Fule?”, tae whilk the Doric spikkin loun shairply replied, wi his best kent wirds: “Aye, an fa’s feel are you?”

Born in Langside in 1713, Fleeman went on tae be ane o the very last o the faimily jesters in Scotland, whilk in itsel maks him staund out. Fit really made Widney’s fuil spécial, tho, wis the fact that he wisna really a fuil at aa. Aye, he wis a chiel wi a sense o humour, fa enjoyed naething better than kickin about the kintra. He even conformed tae the stereotypical glaiket-leukin appearance o fuils. Houiver, aa o the anecdotes o his life suggest that he wis faur fae stupit. In fact, Fleeman wis sic a signíficant chairacter in Scots history that he’s haen a beuk — The Life and Death of Jamie Fleeman — written about his life, an wis even mentiont in Bram Stoker’s Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories.

Haud on readin . . . “Widney’s Fuil”

Fift declaration o a Catalan republic

On the 27t October 2017, the Catalonie government o Carlos Puidgemont declared wanthirldom as a republic. This is the fift time that the Catalonie government haes declared the existence o a Catalan republic. In this airticle, we can leuk at the weys the muivement haes been born, an reborn, an developit ower the hunneryears.

The first declaration o Catalan wanthirldom wis in 1641 by Pau Claris, a priest that wis preses o the Disputacio (the Catalan legal an polítical institution). The wanthirldom wis keepit juist for a week durin the Fraunco-Spainish war, a war that happent acqueish 1635 an 1659. The impetus for this declaration wis the ‘Union o Airms’. The Union o Airms wis a plan that the Spainish government pit intae place for tae obteen mair sodgers an tax fae Aragon (that Catalonie wis pairt o), an Portingal. The Catalonie government refused, justifýin thair opposítion by sayin that thay were sendin ower mony sodgers, an that anerly the Catalan Courts shoud can send Catalan sodgers outwith Catalonie. Haud on readin . . . “Fift declaration o a Catalan republic”

Rin throu the jungle

Telt tae me by ma grandfaither, Andra Coogan. He haed been sent tae Malaya in Warld War II.

I haed escaped the Japanese at first wi a gang o Sikhs. It wis deep in the Malay jungle, an the British sodgers, o which I wis a memmer, haed been telt that it wis tae be “ivery man for hissel”. An here I am, a lad fae the Gorbals wi nae rifle, nae wappen at aa, nae map an juist ma sax weeks’ basic trainin, fechtin throu the jungle wi the Japs ahint us.

The Sikhs an masel war fashed wi the midgies soukin our bluid, an skin infections sae sair that we raxed wirsels close tae the bane. Our lives war pure hell. Ilka step wis haurd whan ye’re as howpless as I wis.

Muckle rivers cuttit throu the jungle, an blocked our gate. They war a deil tae cross for maist o us. Aa the brigs haed been dinged doun tae stap the Japs.

Ane o the lads retreatin wi us wis a Scot wha didnae ken hou tae swim. We haed been helpin him ower the watter ae wey or anither, passin him fae haund tae haund like a bairn or white’er. But ae time we cam tae a river in spate that wis ower wide for us tae help him tae gang across it. Haud on readin . . . “Rin throu the jungle”

Toodily-doo, Flanderinos!

It stairts like this. Ye’re on yer traivels somewhaur — Malta, coud be, or Spain. Weel, mebbe no Spain. But whauriver. Somewhaur warm. Touristy. Nice, but no too nice. Say, Turkey. An ye’re in a bar. This daurk wee howff for fowk wha cannae staund the heat. Weel, there’s a queue in this bar, an here’s you, staundin in it. Fower places back fae the front, an there’s nae twa people in the place speak the same leid as ony ither twa. This micht tak a while.

It daes, o course. But at lang an last ye’re ane awa fae the bar, an prayin that the chiel in front o ye’s o a mind tae keep it simple. Peely-wally fellae. Sunglesses. He raises his haund, flashes up the wee peace sign.

“Twa mair beer,” he says.

Yer jaw draps. Gin ye’d a drink in yer haund, ye’d be wipin it aff the fluir. O aw the gin joints in aw the warld..! Ye’v heard it aw, bi nou; the Serbo-Croat for can ah hae a Black Russian, Mai-Tais magicked up in Madeira Portuguese. Yet wha’d hiv thocht? The wunner o thaim aw! A Bud Light speirt for in guid braid Border Scots! Ye sidle on up tae the bar wi a smile. The boy shoots ye kind o a leuk. But that’s awricht. He disnae ken that ye ken. Haud on readin . . . “Toodily-doo, Flanderinos!”