Billy Kay: The Bonnie Broukit Bairn
Billy Kay has written this article ahead of St Andrew's Day.
The Bonnie Broukit Bairn spiers whit the future hauds for the mither tongue o ower a million an a hauf Scots fowk in the 21st centurie, fowk like you that micht speak the leid ilkae day, but hae nae kennin o ocht belangin the braw leiterature or gowden history o the langage. I wad be gleg tae haud forrit scrievin tae ye in Scots, but jalouse that maist o ye wad finnd it a sair chave tae follae whit I am threapin on aboot, as gey few Scots are leiterate in their ain leid ...sae like Chris Guthrie in Sunset Song I'll gae ower tae English...." you wanted the words they'd known and used, forgotten in the far off youngness of their lives, Scots words to tell to your heart, how they wrung it and held it, the toil of their days and unendingly their fight. And the next minute that passed from you, you were English, back to the English words so sharp and clean and true for a while, for a while, till they slid so smooth from your throat you knew they could never say anything that was worth the saying at all."
Personally, I am delighted that my second language is English - as a lingua franca in the world today, it is a perfect medium of communication. But, I know the power and pathos of Scots and I want future generations to be bi-lingual in Scots and English, or Gaelic and English in the Highlands, so that like me they find it easier to learn other languages and communicate confidently with the world. In the programme you will hear children from Nethermains Primary School in Denny where a bi-lingual Scots/English approach has been introduced, and the teachers have been delighted with the personal and linguistic confidence the bairns have gained as a result, confidence they have then extended to their use of the English language as well. As wee Cameron there asserts, ye cannae help bein stimulated when you realise that the Scots word for a turkey is the splendidly different bubblyjock!
Bubbly Jocks would be a perfectly apt description of the greetin faced folk proponents of Scots regularly confront. A member of the Parliament's Cross Party Group on Scots once asked a Scottish Executive Minister if he had received the bi-lingual invitation to come to a meeting of the Group and received the reply, "Oh, that thing, with the funny writing. Yes, I threw it in the bin"! When I hear stories like that and feel alienation from my fellow countrymen, I remember
Hugh MacDiarmid's humorous response to the same conundrum...
"Mercy o' Gode, I canna thole
wi sic an orra mob to roll"
"Wheesht! It's for the guid o your soul."
It micht be for the guid o my soul, I'm jist no shuir whit it's daein tae ma heid!
However, to paraphrase another wonderful poet who was also steeped in the great Scots ballad tradition... the times they are a changin!
A decade ago when there was a debate anent a Census question on Scots, the idea was treated with disdain and ridiculed by many in the main three unionist parties who voted against the idea en masse. In the 2011 Census however, there will be a question on Scots and the whole parliament responded positively to the proposal. In January next year the new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum will open, the first national institution to approach and display both of the poet's languages with equal dignity. The present Scottish Government has commissioned an audit, has hosted a conference and has set up a distinguished Ministerial Working Group which is about to report and advise on practical ways to promote a language which is at the core of so many people's identity. Scots, the bonnie broukit bairn, the beautiful neglected child of Scottish culture, is on the way to being cherished at last.
Billy Kay's St Andrew's Day Special is on Tuesday November 30 at 1315.