Mark Thompson - transcript of interview
Well, we put it up initially because we have a wee bit of ground here that we wanted our neighbours to park their cars on. We're right on the road edge and it's dangerous. So on one side of the entrance we just had standard English 'No parking, residents only.' Which was fine but I just wanted to add a wee bit of humour and a wee bit of local flavour to it as well, so on the opposite side then I put this one up here, 'Nae Pairkin if ye dinnae leeve nearhaun'.
And I had people coming to the door just to knock the door to say, 'That's great, that is brilliant!' And I’m told that there's a few other folk down the road here thinking of doing something similar now as well. But again, it just adds a bit of local cultural flavour to something that could be very boring.
We would have a fair amount of caravanners on the caravan sites here who would come down from Belfast over the years, and a few of them have moved in. And whenever they go for a walk along here and they look at that sign you can see the locals and you can see the blow-ins, because the locals smile and the blow-ins look confused!
But most of them I suppose, most of the native people of Ballyhalbert could definitely be Ulster-Scots, but like most villagers and most places, I suppose that are in such picturesque settings it's become an attractive place for outsiders to move into. And I suppose signs like this help us to retain our Ulster-Scots character, and it’s been good fun.
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We always knew that we had some sort of connection with Scotland. Well, we knew that our folk had come from there and there was always that, I suppose, unspoken identification with Scotland.
I can remember, however, when I was 19 or 20, something like that, going to the folk museum one day. And we had gone for some kind of countryside fair. But we had, maybe typically arrived too late. We had missed it because it was only on during the morning. We were hoping it was going to be rolling on over lunchtime and into the afternoon.
Anyway, the thing wasn't happening so we just decided to go in to the wee bookshop at the Folk Museum. And tucked at the back of one of the bookstands there was a copy of a wee paperback magazine called Ullans. And it caught my eye because it looked a wee bit more homespun, I suppose, than all of the other glossy-covered, more sophisticated books that were there.
So I picked it up and I started to look through it. And on the front of it, it said 'Ullans,' the magazine for Ulster-Scots. And I thought, my goodness, that’s interesting. Opened it up, and realised that the vast majority of Ulster-Scots writing content that was in there I could read! And I had never seen that language written down before.
My grandparents had spoken Ulster-Scots when they were alive, so I grew up with it from them, from my neighbours, from my parents, from other weans at school. But I’d never seen it written down before and that was an incredible experience, just to see paragraph after paragraph that I could quite comfortably read from start to finish.
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What's interesting is that my wife's from England. She's from High Wycombe and whilst some of her grandparents would have been Scottish, she has a beautifully clipped English accent. She speaks the Queen's English as it was meant to be spoken, I suppose. However, I don't, and particularly when I'm with my parents.
Both my parents live about a mile and a half down the road here still, and Jacob, who's five, would spend a lot of time up there. He loves the farm, he loves being about my Da. He loves being up there and all the activity. And of course he picks up the way that they speak. So after Jacob's been up there for an afternoon, he comes back haem with the 'dinnae,' 'wunnae,' 'cudnae dae that,' 'had tae go oot tae the gardein to get somethin' oot of the wee shade doon at the bottom.'
But whenever Hilary arrives, it's 'I have to go down the garden to get something.' He doesn't even do it consciously but he just knows, I suppose the way that we all knew when we were growing up that you use Ulster-Scots with certain people and with certain other people you don't, either because they don't understand it or because it’s not the way they speak.
So, it's been interesting just to watch him develop a bilingual approach with a very proper English mother and a very Ulster-Scots father and particularly grandparents.
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