Document 117

Scots in the Community

Author(s): Robert Fairnie

Copyright holder(s): Robert Fairnie


A mind as a laddie at the schuil, monie a year syne noo, that A aye haed twa diffrent weys o speakin. In the hoose, outside wi ma freends an in the playgrund at the schuil A aye juist spoke ordinary but in the cless-room or when A wis speakin tae onie important weel spoken person, A aye haed tae mind ma mainners an try tae speak proper. Sae, like gey near awbody o ma generation, A grew up wi thae twa languages in ma heid, that A aye kent as ‘ordinary’ an ‘proper’.

Ilka Januar in the schuil we aye haed tae read, lairn an recite some o the poems o Robert Burns an tae sing his sangs alang wi ither Scots sangs. A wad recognise maist o the words as bein the same as the anes we uised when speakin ordinary but we war nivver alloued tae uise thae same words for ilka-day communication in the cless-room. A cuid nivver unnerstaun the logic o this an jaloused ower time that whaur, accordin tae the teacher, Burns uised the Scots dialeck, whit A spoke maun hae been somethin diffrent; aiblins an inferior form o bad moothit English or e’en a kinna local slang. This consait anent language that wis drummed intae us, whiles wi a wee bit help frae the tawse, gied us a richt fause vizzie on life an in parteeclar, oor perception o strangers that we met for the first time.

Bairns that wantit tae sook in wi the teacher or dae weel at the schuil makit a richt maucht tae learn tae speak proper an efter a while it wis the clivver anes that wis best at speakin proper an the mair donnert anes that didna bother ower muckle if they spake proper or no. This gart maist fowk tae judge a stranger’s level o eddication an intelligence bi hou weel they cuid speak English. A wis nae diffrent, till ae day durin the war, an English laddie cam intae oor cless. His faither wis in the RAF an wis stationed at Drem. This laddie cuidna speak ocht else nor English an, e’en tho it wis wi a Midlands accent, it wis the best English A’d ivver heard an A jaloused richt awa that he wad be shuir tae be at the tap o the cless efter the neist exams. It taen me a guid nummer o years tae work oot whit wey he didna git tae the tap o the cless at aw efter oor exams but wis, in fack, aye doon aboot the fit. An him sic a guid English speaker tae.

Anither guid exemplar o hou wir consaits anent language wis deliberately thrawn bi the wey we war eddicatit, taen place in later years efter A wis weel on ma wey as a Scots language upsteerer. Ma sister, like masel, a Scots speaker aw her days, wis speirt whit she thocht aboot the campaine tae hain the Scots language. She fair got up on her high horse an said, “Thon’s naethin but a piece o nonsense. A’v nae time for aw thon broad Scots rubbish. A’v spoken Fisherraw aw ma days an A’m no gaun tae chynge noo!”

As for masel, it wisna till A’d gotten haud o a copy o the Pocket Scots Dictionary durin a holiday on the Isle o Mull an, wi plenty time for reading, A read whit it said aboot the history o the leid an recognised a wheen o its words as the anes A uised when A wis speakin ordinary. Jings! An aw the time A’d been speakin Scots an haedna kent it. A wis e’en mair roused when A fund oot that aw this swither haed cam aboot cause Liberal politeetians haed taen it on thirsels tae pass the Eddication (Scotland) Act in 1872. Frae then on, the only language alloued tae be spoken in Scottish schuils wis tae be English. Frae then on, the Scottish teachers, that cuidna ban Burns cause o the wecht o his verse an his warld-wide renown, cuidna accepp that speakin ‘ordinary’ wis the same language as that uised bi Burns or they wadna been able tae ban its uiss in the schuil as the law o 1872 dictatit. It wis the passin o this Act that gart the breardin o new derogatory names for the Scots language.

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APA Style:

Scots in the Community. 2024. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 13 July 2024, from

MLA Style:

"Scots in the Community." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2024. Web. 13 July 2024.

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The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech, s.v., "Scots in the Community," accessed 13 July 2024,

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The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. 2024. Glasgow: University of Glasgow.


Information about Document 117

Scots in the Community


Text audience

Audience size 1

Text details

Method of composition Handwritten
Word count 743

Text type

Prose: nonfiction


Author details

Author id 95
Forenames Robert
Surname Fairnie
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1930
Educational attainment College
Age left school 16
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation Consultant Marine Structural Engineer (Retired)
Place of birth Musselburgh
Region of birth Midlothian
Birthplace CSD dialect area midLoth
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Musselburgh
Region of residence Midlothian
Residence CSD dialect area midLoth
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Fisherman
Father's place of birth Musselburgh
Father's region of birth Midlothian
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area midLoth
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Fishwife
Mother's place of birth Musselburgh
Mother's region of birth Midlothian
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area midLoth
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes At work
German Yes Yes Yes Yes In Germany to communicate with two grandsons
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes Wherever Scots is understood