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Monday, 24 November 2014

Scots language returns to class

WHEN I was in the Academy the other day, I was delighted to see that the English department had been encouraging the pupils to use the Scots language.

First-year classes had been studying Scottish ballads such as The Wife of Usher’s Well, Sir Patrick Spens and The Twa Corbies, poems I’m sure the older generation will remember reciting when they were at school but which appear to have gone out of fashion over the last half century.

I’m sure if I asked my own children, now all in their 40s, about those old Scots narrative poems, I’d be met with blank stares and “never heard of them”.

Scots isn’t a dialect of English; it’s a language in its own right and is now recognised as such by the European Commission for minority and lesser used languages.

Guidelines for education stress the need to respect the language of the home. So it’s good to see our schools carrying out this directive.

If you have occasion to climb the stairs in the Academy, you will see further evidence of this encouragement to keep alive our native tongue.

The pupils have been working on a Langholm Bannister project as part of the Arts across the Curriculum syllabus.

This initiative has resulted in the writing of poems on local themes and in the Langholm tongue, extracts from which have been transferred to the stair bannisters for all to read.

There are lines composed on such subjects as The Roon Hoose, The Toon Hall, The Monument, Rosevale Park, Buccleuch Park and The Castleholm.

I read lines from the Toon Hall “nebbit-beats of the drums wi’ bletheran bairns”.

Another extract was “in the sma oors o’ the day speugs sing” and from a poem written about Buccleuch Park come the lines

“Simmers day

Nay cloods at a

Just after nune

Bairns kecklin and skreichin”.

And the same park in winter inspired another pupil to write

“Buccleuch Park in winter

Cauld smooth texture o the snaba in ma haun

Wet sna drappin tae ma tongue”

Also on the bannisters appear the time-honoured words which ring round the Market Place on Common Riding morning: “land-loupers and dubscoupers . . . hurdums or durdums, huliments or buliments, hagglements or bragglements . . . lugs be nailed to the Tron wi’ a twa’penny nail . . . away home and hae a bannock and a saut herrin’ to my denner by way o’ auld style”.

Interspersed with those newly-composed and old familiar words are the lines of more famous Eskdale writers.

There’s a quote from a Thomas Telford poem and, of course, MacDiarmid is quoted.

“Drums in the Walligate, pipes in the air” as well as his tribute to the town of his birth “my touchstone in all creative matters”, which could well describe this literary project in which Langholm landmarks have inspired Langholm pupils to creative heights.

Where has the wooden seat from the top end of the Rosevale Street gardens gone? It’s been missing for several weeks now. At first I thought it could have been removed by the council to be given a fresh coat of paint but I would have thought it would have been back by now.

It’s to be hoped it isn’t another victim of vandalism. It was put there in memory of former town clerk Eddie Armstrong.

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