Learn Ulster-Scots

Lesson 10 Pronouns - and Linen-Making

In this lesson, you will learn about:

  • Pronouns
  • A Byre o a Hoose
  • Tha makkin o tha lïnen



Pronouns are words used in place of a noun, e.g. ‘he’ is a personal pronoun used to replace a name in the second sentence:
‘Wull Muckleboy aye taaks Ulstèr-Scotch at hame.’
‘He always speaks Ulster-Scots where?’

Personal pronouns: These are the ‘I, you, he, she, it, we, you (plural), they’ etc. words in English.

‘I’ (first person singular)
A, Ah, a’, etc. The preferred spelling is now A (always a capital letter): e.g. Sae A says tae him….
‘you’ (second person singular)
ye. In archaic English, as in the 1611 Bible, ‘ye’ is used only for ‘you’ plural (which is youse in Ulster-Scots).
‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘it’ (third person singular):
‘he’ - he (pronounced eh)
‘she’ - she
‘it’ - it, hit (now only Donegal Ulster-Scots)
‘we’ (first person plural)
we (pronounced wuh)
‘you’ (second person plural)
youse (yis when not emphasized)
‘they’ (third person plural)
the’, e.g. A jalouse the’ wud (the without the apostrophe is also used, but is likely to be confused with the definite article tha). However, in phrases like ‘she and I’ or ‘he and she’, the I can become me, etc. — e.g. ‘her an me’, ‘him an her’.
me
me, iz (e.g. ‘gie iz thon’ — give me that’)
my
ma; myselfmasel
your
yer; yourselfyersel
his
his; himselfhissel, himsel
her
her (pronounced horr); herself — hersel
itself
itsel
us
iz; our — oor / wor; ourselves — oorsels / worsels
yourselves
yersels
those
thaim; themselves — thairsels, thaimsels

Demonstrative pronouns: These are the ‘this’, ‘that’, ‘those’, and ‘these’ words in English.

‘this’ and ‘these’ (near to the speaker):

this
this, thir (‘thir’ is now archaic and rarely found outside literature)
these
these, thir (‘thir’ was used for both the singular ‘this’ and the plural ‘those’, e.g. the line in the writings of the poet Orr, ‘Thir’s waefu times’ (‘These are terrible times’).

Note: idiomatic uses of ‘this’

  • ‘Whit’s this the’ caa him?’
  • ‘A’m cumin this Settèrday.’
  • ‘A’m stuid here this twuntie minits, waitin on ye.’
  • ‘See this oul bother ye’r in wi tha polis?’

Interrogative pronouns: These are the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘which’ and ‘whose’ words in English. The Scots forms are sometimes spelt with a ‘quh-’, rather than a ‘wh-’.

  • ‘who’ — wha (or quha), e.g. ‘Wha’s thon man wi nae kep on his heid?’ Note: when the ‘who’ is not in a question, like ‘that man who eats no meat’, that, or the abbreviated form at is used: ‘thon man at aits nae beef’.
  • ‘what’ — whit
  • ‘which’ — whit, whilk (‘whilk’ is now archaic and literary)
  • ‘whose’ — whase

A Byre O A Hoose by Willie Cromie

It wus yin o them days that din yer hairt guid. The sin wus shinin’ doon an there wus jist a nice wee licht breeze so that a boady didnae get too warm an cud jist soarta enjoy the wather. There wus naebody enjoyed it mair than oul Tam. He hung ivver the half-daur, pipe clenched in his mooth an’ his oul cep pult low on his broo tae shilter his een fae the sin.

Noo onieboadie that passed Tam’s daur wud be shair an’ get sumthin said tae them, especially the wee hissies, fir he wus aye kepping them gan. Ah hiddae say here that Tam wus an ornery lukkin bein. The raisins fur this were that he had a wrangle e’e an twa or three oul blak stumps fur teeth. As weel as that he harly ivver washed hissel. Maist o the weans wur feart o him; they wud wait tae they wir a brave bit fae his daur, then turn an yell bak at him, “Awa an wesh yirsel ya dirty baste”. Tam wudda gin a keckle o a laugh that slackened the phlegm in his throat; then he wudda sput on the fitpad an near turned the hairt o onieboadie gan by.

The mair things wur brave an quait, they wur jist aboot tae change. Joe, an oul fairmer fae oot the road, cum alang the street drivin’ half a dizzin bullocks. Jist as they cum near han his daur, twa or three young yins went by an lot a yell at Tam. Af coorse Tam guldered bak at them. Noo whauther it was Tam or the weans yellin it’s hard tae say, bit sumthin startled the bullocks an yin o them lot a roar oot o it an made a dert fur Tam’s daur.

Tam jumped bak, an it wus a guid jab he did, fur the baste cum clean thrugh the daur an, as onieboadie knows, in them wee twa-up-twa-doon hooses the stairs ere jist fernenst the daur an they’re jist aboot wide enough tae let a boadie git up them. Weel, the bullock in its panic heeded strecht up the stairs, smashin’ the bennister an rails as it went. Whun it got tae the tap o the stairs there wus a big post that hel the bennister as a richt turn on tae the landing. Weel the bullock got stuck here an it musta got a bit scarred fur the nixt thing the skitter flew oot o it an ivver the stairs. Weel, it lot anither roar oot o it an there wus a smashin o timmer as the post gin wae. Then there wus only yin place left fur it tae gan, an that wus intae Tam’s bedroom.

Meanwhile, doon below, Tam wus stannin in the wee scullery listenin tae the hemmerin as smeshin that was gin on abin him. He heerd the oul bed gaein wey an the bit o a wardrobe gittin brauk tae bits. He lukked up at the kitchen ceilin, whaur the naked licht bulb wus jiggin aboot on its flex, an wunnerin what was ganna happen nixt. Weel, he hadnae lang tae wait, fur aa o a sudden there wus a big lood crash, an the bullock cum clean thrugh the ceiling an landed wae a smesh on tap o the table, brekkin it an the twa ald chairs alang wae it. The nixt thing tae go wus the wee cubbard he kep his bits o delf in.

Bae this time Joe had got someboadie tae mine the ither bullocks, an had made his wye intae the hoose. He had a big stick wae him, an wus able tae drive the animal oot. He threw the daur tae, an turned tae ald Tam tae try an soart him oot. Baith the twa o them surveyed the damage that had been din tae the hoose. Joe wus vexed at the state o the place, an toul Tam that he wud make guid the damage, an git him sumwhaur tae stey tae it wus fixed.

Jist then there wus a knock at the daur. Tam pult it appen, an his een stud in his heid whun he saw who wus stannin there: it wus Emma, the rent wummin. Noo Emma wasnae lukkin intae the hoose: she wus jist lukkin doon at hur book, an, waeoot liftin hur heid, she said tae Tam, “Ah’m here fur the rent”.

Weel, Tam lukked at hur, an bae this tim his temper jist brauk. “The rent — YIR HERE FUR THE RENT!” he yelt at the tap o his voice. He cetched Emma bae the airm an pult her intae the hoose. “Luk at the state o this place”, he said. “The stairs aer smeshed, ma ald bed an wardrobe aer brauk in bits, a cannae offer ye a cup o tae fur a hae nae cup tae put it in, an if ah had ah hae nae table tae pit it on fur it’s brauk, an even if an had aa them ah hinnae a chair tae sit on. An besides, the hail place is covered in skitter, an aa you can say is ye want yir rent! Weel, hell roast the penny ahll pey tae this demmege is made guid!” Noo bae this time Emma’s hairt wus fair turning wae the steuch o the place, an she cuddnae wait tae git oot. As she run on tae the fitpad, she yelt bak at Tam that she wud try an git things soarted oot fur him.

Things wur eventually soarted oot fur Tam, as ald Joe got him a place tae stey whilst his ald hoose place wus made fit tae leeve in again. Joe peyed fur aa the work, an as weel as that he replaced the brauken furniture wae half daicent stuff. On tap o that, he got the ald place decorated an pit a bit o cairpet in it. Tae finish it aff he got them a wheen o cups an plates, an fitted lampshades on aa’ the bulbs. Whun ald Tam cum bak he harly knew the place. Bit, ahll tell ye yin thing, he din a lot less yellin oot the daur; mair so if onieboadie wus gan by wae kye, heifers or bullocks.


Tha makkin o tha linen

1. Whan it’s grouein:

the seed-pod
lint bow, haurd bow
the flower (tha flooer)
tha wee byue bow; lint-bell
flowering (flooerin)
in bell an bow

2. Hairst:

harvesting
puin, pullin
celebration to mark the end of harvest
lint churn

3. Hainin (saving):

removing the seed
ripplin (a ripple looked like a big metal comb)

4. Dookin (soaking):

bundles of flax
beets
to soften the woody core
rettin (for 10-14 days)
in pits
lint or flax dub, dam or hole

5. Haiserin (drying):

Given good Ulster weather, drying was difficult, and often the flax was dried over a hot kiln (a kill in Ulster-Scots).

6. Readyin (preparing) by hand:

first stage

Brekkin (beating the flax to break up the outer skin and the woody core). A rudimentary machine that did this and could be used at home was a lint-break. Another way of crushing the flax was with a lintstone, which was a big circular stone on the end of a lint-pole, pulled by a horse. In the scutch mill, which came later (see below), this was done by putting the flax through rollers (crimpers). Brekkin could be done using a beetle if not using any mechanised method.

second stage

Scutchin (hitting the flax with a flat broad wooden blade to remove the unwanted outer skin and inner core and leave behind the fibres). Another name for it was targin flax, in which a rudimentary machine was used. The targer (usually a woman) held the strick o lint against the stock (a block of wood) and the facins, hannles or wipers (three names for the blades) rotated and beat the flax against the stock.

bundles ready for scutchin
stricks (‘hair lek a strick o lint’)
the woody stem (discarded)
shows (rhyming with ploughs). These were used as domestic fuel.

An implement called a clove was used to clean any remaining shows from the scutched flax.

third stage

Hacklin / hecklin (the tool used to ‘comb’ the fibres to untangle them was a hackle / heckle — as in Thomson’s poem about the hedgehog). The long fibres were the best for making linen. The short fibres were called tow (rhyming with plough).

After the middle of the 18th century, usually these three processes were done in a scutch mill (miln in Ulster-Scots), which was water driven. The quantity taken by the farmer to the scutch mill was termed either a job or a peck of lint. When the mill was in operation, a dust called pouse was produced and was inhaled by the workers.

7. Spinnin:

the wheel
spinnin jinny (posh name the 'Dutch wheel').
parts of a spinning wheel:
bush, heck / hack, maiden, temper pin, jenkinin string
flax to be spun
The bundle of flax held on the distaff was the lint-tap or tap o tow. From this you get the saying (of something that catches fire) that it went up like a tap o tow, as the material was very dry and easily set alight.
the roll of fibre
The roll of fibre drawn out and twisted with the fingers to be fed into the spinning wheel was the rowl or the rowins.
measures
120 revolutions of the wheel wound 300 yards of yarn = one cutt
12 cutts = one hank
4 hanks = one spangle.

The spun yarn was boiled in a pot on the fire and dried, and then it was ready for weaving. The fitness of yarn was calculated by the number of hanks that would weigh one pound; for example, sixteen hank yarn would weigh one ounce per hank.

8. Weavin:

the weaver
wabster
the cloth
wab
the bobbin of the shuttle
pirn (In Scots, all bobbins are pirns.)
the heddles
set o gears
the division of threads in a warp
lees / laze

Hence, lees rod: a rod used to divide the threads of the warp. Often used in expressions that relate to making sense or order out of something: get the lees o, hae the lees o, loss the lees, no mak onie lees o.

For damask: Jacquard looms made use of patterns punched onto a series of cards which the weaver could put through the injin in sequence using foot treadles. As each card passed through the injin on top of the loom, selected threads could be raised so the design was woven into the cloth. This enabled one man to do the work that had previously been done in conjunction with as many as sixteen helpers. The Jacquard machine was really an early form of the computer.

The floor of the weaving room was earthen to help keep the room humid so the linen yarns would not dry up and break.

The basic linen cloth was taken to sell at the ‘Brown Linen markets’ in the neighbouring towns, and bought by linen drapers or bleachers who would finish the cloth by bleaching it white before selling it at the ‘White Linen Hall’ in Dublin.

9. Feenishin:

bleaching — Ulster-Scots blaikenin. Initially, the linen was bleached by being washed, boiled and spread out in the sun. Towers were built in bleach greens for the use of a guard who watched over the webs. Later there were firms that undertook bleaching, using huge amounts of fuel, water, soap and bleaching liquid. The bleaching liquid was an alkali lye made from potash (obtained from wood ashes) which was neutralised by adding acids (buttermilk or bran sour).

beetlin — a beetlin injin was used. The sound produced is very like that of Lambeg drums. Its purpose was to make the cloth smooth and glossy.


BBC Northern Ireland gratefully acknowledges that this lesson was provided by the Ulster-Scots Language Society - and copyright belongs to Philip Robinson and Anne Smyth.

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  • introduce yourself
  • talk about where you come from
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Lesson 2

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Lesson 3

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Lesson 4

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Lesson 5

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Lesson 6

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Lesson 7

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  • buildings
  • parts of the face and head
  • The Coortin’ o Miss Norris

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Lesson 8

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  • Meeting and Greeting (2)
  • The Coortin’ o Miss Norris - Practice Reading and Dialogue
  • Markers of Ulster-Scots

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Lesson 9

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Grammar and Pronunciation
  • the Definite Article before a Noun
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Lesson 11

A closer look at Dialect (1)

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  • when to use dialect speech
  • dialects in Ulster?
  • dialect spelling
  • ‘language versus dialect’

Go to this lesson: A closer look at Dialect (1)


Lesson 12

A closer look at Dialect (2)

A closer look at Dialect (2)
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  • country matters
  • farming vocabulary
  • farming practices of old

Go to this lesson: A closer look at Dialect (2)


Lesson 13

A closer look at Dialect (3)

A closer look at Dialect (3)
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  • what’s in a name?
  • Ulster ‘crack’
  • scunner, sheugh and black-mouth

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Lesson 14

A closer look at Dialect (4)

A closer look at Dialect (4)
  • similes
  • forms of ‘be’ and ‘do’
  • Match the meanings
  • Wordsearch
  • The Minister’s Cat
  • Call my Bluff

Go to this lesson: A closer look at Dialect (4)