Friday, 11 December 2009


As a book-lover, one of the delights of being Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure is that I tend to receive books to read or review.  So here are some I have received or bought in recent weeks:

If Trees Could Talk - the story of woodlands around Belfast : Ben Simon
This was written by Ben Simon, who works in Belfast City Council Parks and Leisure Department, as a publication of the Forest of Belfast initiative.  The book itells the story of the woodlands and landscapes around Belfast over the past four centuries and it includes significant coverage of some of the city's parks, especially Cave Hill and Belfast Castle Estate, Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park and Barnett Demesne.  It is a valuable resource and Ben has certainly captured the stories and the character of the people who helped shape our landscape.

A Beleaguered Station - the memoir of Head Constable John McKenna 1891-1921 : John McKenna
The book offers a unique insight into troubled times in Ulster, spanning the Home Rule crisis of 1912-1914, the 1916 Rising and the period of partition.  The author, John McKenna, was a Roman Catholic head constable in the Royal Irish Constabulary during that period and he was a moderate nationalist.  This is the first autobiographical account of that era from the perspective of a Roman Catholic nationalist policeman and it was written in 1932.  The memoir has been edited by his grandson John McKenna with an introduction by Dr Eamon Phoenix. 

The book was published by the Ulster Historical Foundation and both John McKenna and Eamon Phoenix spoke at the launch in Belfast Central Library.  The library is an excellent setting for book launches and cultural events.

Guid Wittins frae Docter Luik - The Gospel according to Luke in Ulster-Scots
The latest publication from the Ullans Press, the publishing arm of the Ulster-Scots Language Society, is Guid Wittns frae Docter Luik, a translation of the Gospel according to Luke into Ulster-Scots.  The translation was carried out by a team that included native speakers from Antrim and Down.  The translation consultants and editors were Philip and Heather Saunders, who have had many years of experience in Bible translation with the Wycliffe Bible Translators.  They worked for 20 years in the translation of Scripture into the Kouya language of the Ivory Coast in West Africa.

The project started in 2003 but regular work began in April 2006 and I recall attending one of those early meetings to see the translation process in action.

The volume is well presented and includes the 1611 Authorised Version in a parallel setting with the Ulster-Scots translation.  There is also a short preface written by Professor Michael Montgomery and a helpful introduction.  I look forward to reading the translation which is a significant step in Ulster-Scots language planning.

An there's mair forbye

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