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16 October 2014
BBC Northern Ireland Voices

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Over several decades the BBC broadcast a series of talks on dialect by Rev WF Marshall.

 

Before one series, broadcast in 1935, he said: "Dialect is the museum in which students of English can check and trace the progress of English.

"How much of the fine speech of Shakespeare and Sydney and Milton which fills the Ulster dialects of today has been forgotten by the townsman, or is mysterious to him, and also the colourful and expressive words that were immortalised by Rabbie Burns?

"The history of our province is dripping with Gaelic. Columba speaks it as the 'dewy red' grounds on Iona and it echoes on the ship that bears away the great O'Neill.

"I know we can't keep this forever, but to my mind it's not nearly ready for the pension yet, and as long as we have it, let's give it fair play."

 

You can listen to two of his talks, from 1954, here:

1. In this talk he discusses 'good' English and looks at Ulster dialects and Ulsterisms.

 

 

2. The influence of the Planters on Ulster speech and the enrichment of the language through the mix of Gaelic and Scots speech.

 

 

 

More about WF Marshall

 

Rev William Forbes Marshall, also known as the Bard of Tyrone, was born near Omagh in 1888 and died in 1959.

A poet and a novelist, as well as a Presbyterian minister who spent his main ministry at Castlerock, Co Derry, he was an authority on dialect and once produced a version of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream in the Ulster idiom.

His poems have been republished several times, by Blackstaff Press, and remain well-loved, especially Me An' Me Da.

 

Here's an extract:

 

I', livin in Drumlister,
An' I'm gettin' very oul'
I have to wear an Indian bag
To save me from the coul'.
The deil man in this townlan'
Wos claner raired nor me,
But I'm livin' in Drumlister
In clabber to the knee.

 

Map showing Northern Ireland.


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