Saturday, 19 December 2015

Belfast - "Scotch town"

Today many folk associate the Ulster-Scots language with rural Ulster and especially with some rural areas in Antrim and Down but for many years Belfast was an Ulster-Scots speaking town.

The French traveller Le Chevalier de La Tocnaye (1767-1823) toured Ireland at the end of the 18th century and then published an account of his travels in 1797 under the title Promenade d'un Francais en Irelande.  Later it was translated into English and published in 1917 by John Stevenson in Belfast as A Frenchman's Walk through Ireland 1796-1797.

As regards the town of Belfast the French visitor wrote:
Belfast has almost entirely the look of a Scotch town and the character of the inhabitants has considerable resemblance to that of the people of Glasgow.  The way of speaking is much more Scotch than Irish. 
At that time Belfast was a small town but it was predominantly Presbyterian and Ulster-Scots.

Earlier this year I wrote Scotch Town, an account of the Ulster-Scots language in Belfast and this was published by the Ulster-Scots Agency.  The title was taken from the words of that 18th century French traveller.  You can get a copy from my constituency office or directly from the Ulster-Scots Agency and it is free.

1 comment:

  1. These are very interesting articles Nelson, but I think that sometimes your focus on the Scottish inheritance of Ulster protestants leads you to fail to recognize the very real cultural influence of the English planters. Remember that Englisher settlers in many areas were planted in equal numbers to the Scots, and in Armagh and Fermanagh, they were actually in the majority. In regards to the way they have influenced our speech, I think you would find Cyril Falls "The Birth of Ulster" particularly interesting, as he shows how the speech in rural regions of the North of Ireland has more in common with Elizabethan English than anywhere in England!


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