Document 1828

Scots Tung Wittins 177

Author(s): Robert Fairnie

Copyright holder(s): Name withheld


Nummer 177
Aug 2008

Keep a guid Scots Tung in yer heid, hert an mooth!!

[NOTE: logo here of the dot Sco in original]
Scots Tung WITTINS

Eydently Campaignin tae Uphaud the Scots Language
Ph. [CENSORED: phonenumber] Scots Tung wabsite: Stravaiger Ph. [CENSORED: phonenumber]

At the Pynt o the Pick and other Poems
Bi T.S. Law
A review bi Irene Broon (owerset intae Scots bi the Editor)
[NOTE: image of the book cover in original]
IT wad be a sair darg tae mak a better o whit haes been screivit areddies bi editors John Law an Tom Hubbard in the innin tae At the Pynt o the Pick and other poems bi TS Law. John Law screives an authoritative biographical accoont o his faither that he descrives as the 'great poet of the Scottish mining community'. He threaps aboot the extent o the writin his faither taen on in his lifetime frae editin, prose, writin operations manual for engines (for Rolls Royce), owersettins tae Scots frae Afrikaans an English, (the likes o The Sodger an TSL's faither's Orange Lodge an Mason's manuals), new lyrics tae auld tunes, (Ban Polaris, Hallelujah), fund satires (Quo Stalin on Lenin), essays an a nummer o poetry pamphlets. This walin, publisht eleeven year efter the poet's daith, is his first wechtie posthumous volume an includes some o his lang poems the likes o Moses at Mount Sinai, Allavolie, Licht Atoore the Face, A Daurk Lyne o Fir Trees an the eponymous At the Pynt o the Pick as weel as a muckle walin o his mair cutty warks baith in Scots an English, kivverin a braid reinge o subjeck maitter. The buik cairries a gey yuissfu Scots vocabular.

At the buik's lench, hauden at the Scottish Poetry Library on 17 Juin 2008, Tom Hubbard descrived TS Law as, "20th century Scottish poetry's best kept secret". Speakin maistly in Scots, Hubbard praised the poet in tairms o his hivin been a Scots warkin man, sayin his wark wis "like a table weel pit thegither". He spake at length an wrate extensively in his innin o the dichotomy in TS Law's wark cause it's baith dialectical an popular, intellectually fykie yet committit tae community and is at baith avant garde an conservative at the same time as weel as bein strangly pairt o Scotland's fowk tradeition. It's weel seen that this is the essence o TS Law an his wark. He is seen as cairryin on the tradeition o the poets in Tom Leonard's compilation Radical Renfrew (Poetry from the French Revolution to the First World War by poets the County of Renfrewshire). Hubbard feinisht his threap wi the gey suithfast consait that "when the process of reading TS Law gets underway, history will have to be rewritten".

I hiv tae awn tae bein embarrassed at bein a new reader o TS Law but feel a wee bittie exoneratit bi the fack that he hisnae been includit in the canon, this in spite o the muckle reinge o his publisht wark an haein been uphaudit bi kenspeckle peers the likes o Hugh MacDiarmid, Douglas Young, Hamish Henderson, Tom Scott, Edwin Morgan an Morris Blythman, that descrived him as"...the great poet of the Scottish sub cultures...'. The breidth an depth o his wark is ower gret tae kivvver in muckle particularity here exceppin for some exemplars tae gie a preein.

In At the Pynt o the Pick – An Elegie for an Auld Collier, he writes aboot"...aa braid Lanark abuin them", "...the wecht o the wurld abuin them tae lousin tyme..." an "...the trokerie that come fae the pynt o the pick lik the auntrin rhyme fae the makar's styme of yovein back an furrit fae the pynt o his pencil:" cleekin wi gret feelin the sair labour o the miner tae the wark o the poet's mind. In his poem A Daurk Lyne o Fir Trees, TSL descrives a miner's day frae gettin ower the bed in the mornin tae yokin time, takin the reader throu the trauchlesome day tae lowsin time. The line o trees is the hinnermaist thing he sees as he "...drap[s] doon the shank..." tae "...faddoms deepest black..." an the first thing he sees as he gaes by "...the laich-shuts at grun-level..." The descrivin o the trees as "...upstaunin in the freedom o the wuin, upluftit til the late last suimmer licht" is sic a contrast tae the life o the miner, an is weel wordy o MacDiarmid's wirds 'austerely intoxicating'.

I doot this compilation will gaun a lang gate tae giein TSL his richtfu place in the history o Scottish literature an in particlar the literature o the Scottish warkin cless. Juist as Émile Zola, that in 1885 screivit Germinal ( a novel giein a realistic accoont o life for miners in northern France an thair fecht, while haudin on tae thair dignity an humanity) haes become a by-word for writin aboot warkin cless life wi hert peety, sae TS Law deserves the same whaur his wark aboot minin life in Scotland is concairned.

At the Pynt o the Pick and other poems TS Law edited by Tom Hubbard and John Law
ISBN 10:0-95041065-9-1
ISBN 13:978-0-9504106-9-2
Fingerpost Publications, [CENSORED: postaladdress]
Readins frae the wark is publisht on 4 CDs in the Scotsoun Makars Series frae the Scots Language Society: sscd137-1, sscd137-2, sscd138-1 ,sscd138-2 can be gotten frae
For mair information see
© Irene Broon

Makar's Neuk
Oor Ain Folk

Whit guid gangs intae the pat comes oot in the bree
as the guid o the genes comes oot in Johne or Jean.
Oor mixter-maxterie has made us soople enyeuch
tae sorte-oot kings, yit byde as sweir as swither-again
tae sorte oorsels, tho kittlie wi yeukie richteousness
micht bigg a steeple. But it's ill tae thole the blooter gin
we're kicked, for lang or the Jews o eild were the
Chosen People, the Caledonian folk were Pict!

T.S. Law (1916-1997)

NEIST year, 2009 is tae be the Hamecomin year for the Scots diaspora tae jyne in an celebrate the 250th anniversar o the hamecomin (birth) o oor national Bard, Rabbie Burns.

Mony 'expairts' on the Bard, whan giein the Immortal Memory at Burns Suppers, aye keeps on tellin fowk that Robert Burns' faither wis William Burnes (whiles spelt Burness) but they aye mak the mistak o pronouncin the names literally as (Bur-ness). This is wrang an wad mean that Robert Burns maun be unique in the warld bi haein a different faimly name tae his faither.

Howanever, the spellin yaised bi William wis an aulder form o Scots whaur the penultimate "e", "i" an "y" wis maistly silent. Robert Burns on the ither haund grew up juist efter a time whan Scottish prenters haed gien up on the variable spellins yaised in Scots an haed adoptit the staundart English orthography an whaur a letter wisnae pronounced in Scots, it wis left oot an an apostrophe wis pitten in its place.

Syne the "e" in Burnes or Burness wisnae pronounced, Robert yaised the English spellin an left it oot. Sae, juist tae pit maitters richt in time for the Hamecomin, baith Robert Burns an his faither William shared the same surname Burns, nae maitter hou it wis spelt.

In the same wey, the Scottish surname Barnes is aye pronounced (Barns) an Inglis is aye pronounced (Ingels) wi Scots speakers yaisin a saft "g" an English speakers yaisin a hard "g".

The Fecht Tae Sauf Scots
THE only wey the Scots language is like tae survive the neist twa three generations in Scotland is if the feck o thae generations speaks Scots as a language for ilka-day communication. Gin this spoken language dee's oot, aw that will be left will be the written forms o the language an the unspoken words o the leid in the heids o a haundfu o academics. Sic wis the weird o Latin an bides its weird the day. A deid language.

There mair hamelt Scots speakers gaun aboot the day nor the estaiblishment micht gie credit tae an this is weel seen wi maimbers o the public bein interviewed on the TV news programs an no feelin sae gart tae speak "polite" thae days. Howanever, maist o thaim is seen tae be warkin cless an thair Scots vocabular gets mair an mair watered doon wi ilka generation.

This mellin o language wi cless is a muckle kinch in ettlin tae forder the Scots language syne maist o the leid's upsteerers, an in particlar its writers, disnae see thirsels as warkin cless an disnae yaise Scots in ilkaday conversation. It's no un-kent for some tae turn doon the chance tae yaise spoken Scots in public bi sayin they hiv thair ain professional reputations tae think o. Tho sic fowk is in a minority, they still punch weel abuin thair wecht wi the skaith they dae tae the survival o the Scots language.

Wi regaird tae the dwynin Scots vocabular amang oor hamelt Scots speakers the day, awbody kens that the best wey for a body tae eik tae thair ain vocabular in ony language is bi readin written forms o that language. It's wi this in mind that Scots Tung is o the consait that aw written forms o Scots shuid be airtit at twa groups o fowk in particlar.

The maist important target maun be the adult hamelt Scots speakers. They shuid be exposed tae written forms o thair ain ilka-day language at ilka opportunity. This will gaun a lang wey tae ding doon the norrie that whit they speak is juist a local slang or inferior form o English as weel as eik mair Scots words tae thair vocabulars. Gin the mithers an faithers can eik tae thair Scots vocabulars, then there mair chance o thae vocabulars bein haundit doon tae thair bairns.

The saicont maist important target maun be the bairns in baith primary schuil an secondary schuil. The likes o Itchy Coo an a haundfu o primary schuils is daein bravehert stuff areddies but it haes tae be duin bi aw schuils, baith primary an secondary an, gin it's tae be duin richt, it will hiv tae be imposed on tae the curriculum bi the Scottish Government raither nor juist recommended.

Gin spoken Scots is tae hae ony chance o loupin oot o the informal an intae the formal airts, it's best chance maun come frae thae adult, warkin cless, hamelt Scots speakers wi a braider vocabular reinge alang wi a risin generation o young fowk wi a mair educatit Scots vocabular. We hiv tae tak tent o the fack that thae upsteerers that winnae yaise spoken conversational Scots in public or in formal seetiations the day, isnae like tae chynge thair tune bi the morn.

In the licht o thae abuin consaits, Scots Tung maks a pynt o writin juist in Scots athoot ony owersettins intae English. This newsletter, the Scots Tung wabsite an aw its written correspondence, nae maitter wha it's tae, is only written in Scots. Aw letters is aye written in Scots tae the estaiblishment baith in Scotland an in London an in aw thae years, naebody haes complained aboot no bein able tae unnerstaund, naebody that is excep Jamie Stone MSP (Lib Dem). Naebody apairt frae him seems tae want tae awn up tae no bein able tae unnerstaund Scots. Tho maist o the repones is gien in English, there aye the odd ane or twa that maks a maucht tae repone in Scots. In this mainner we ettle tae force the Scots language oot o the informal an intae the formal airts the same wey it wis forced oot.

Syne ST threaps written Scots shuid be airtit at adult hamelt Scots speakers in Scotland, it wad raither see aw Scots wabsites written juist in Scots or gin an English owersettin is gien for furth o Scotland, at least the defaut language shuid be Scots.

Maist fowk that's bi-lingual isnae aye conscious o whit language they're readin, hearin or thinkin in. It's juist the picters the words pits intae thair heids they tak tent o an gin the defaut language is English, afore they ken whit's happenin they've read the hail text in English an sae dinnae hiv tae bother chyngin ower tae read it agane in Scots unless they want tae dae it as a special academic exercise. The adult hamelt Scots speaker is mair like tae eik tae his vocabular gin he's forced intae readin the text in Scots frae the stert.

C'mon, Gie's a Brek
The truith is whiles funnier nor fiction.
IN the late fifties at the Henry Robb shipyaird in Leith, there wis nae official tea-brek for the men that warked in the shipyaird an on the new ships that wis in the water bein fittit oot alangside the fittin oot quay but they aw taen ane juist the same, baith in the forenuin an the efternuin. The managers aw kent this an, tho they cuid quarter ony man catched (dock quarter an oor aff their pey), they maistlins turnt a blinn ee an ettilt tae bide oot the wey at thae times.

Ae day tho, it wis juist aboot thon time o day when the Yaird Manager wis abuird a new ship fittin oot an he gaed tae the heid o the gangwey tae gaun ashore for his ain tea in his ain office. As he stepped on tae the heid o the gangwey, whit did he no see, but a wee apprentice laddie on his wey back abuird the ship wi three billie-cans o reekin het tea in his richt haund an anither twa in his left.

The Yaird Manager stepped back frae the heid o the gangwey tae let the laddie abuird sayin, "C'mere son!"

"Ay sir!" said the laddie haudin the three cans ahint his back an no kennin whit tae dae wi the ither twa.

Tho the Yaird Manager, like aw the ither managers turnt a blinn ee for ordinar, in a situation the likes o this when he cam face tae face wi it, he haed tae be seen tae be daein somethin sae that, frae the men's pint o view, the tea-brek wisnae gien ony official staunnin bi the management.

"Whae's tea wad that be son?" speirt the Yaird Manager.

The laddie gulped, feart-like, an said, "A'm no awfu shair sir, but A think it micht be Brooke Bond's."

The Yaird Manager haed tae fecht hard tae keep a strecht an angry face athoot laughin as he said, "Weel juist you gaun an tell Maister Bond that if A catch him sendin you ashore agane tae get his tea, A'll hae him quartered afore he can say Typhoo!"

Scots Tung WITTINS
On the wab.
Copies o the Scots Tung Wittins gaun back tae Nr 41 can be gotten in pdf format frae Scots Tung's wabsite at:-
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Maimbership subscreivins is £5 (Scotland/UK)
Peyed ilka September. €9 (Ireland/EU)

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Cite this Document

APA Style:

Scots Tung Wittins 177. 2024. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 20 April 2024, from

MLA Style:

"Scots Tung Wittins 177." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2024. Web. 20 April 2024.

Chicago Style

The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech, s.v., "Scots Tung Wittins 177," accessed 20 April 2024,

If your style guide prefers a single bibliography entry for this resource, we recommend:

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


Information about Document 1828

Scots Tung Wittins 177


Text audience

Audience size N/A

Text details

Method of composition N/A
Word count 2585
General description monthly newsletter

Text medium

Leaflet/brochure (prospectus)

Text publication details

Publisher Scots Tung
Publication year 2008
Part of a longer series of texts
Name of series Scots Tung Wittins

Text type

Prose: nonfiction
Other mixed text type


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