Monday, July 06, 2020

"Galloway Irish" - a confusing name for south west Scots

If you get into Scots and Ulster-Scots language research, you'll soon come across the term "Galloway Irish". Here's a 2012 article from The Herald written by a knowledgable reader from Stranraer. As with the Census of Ireland language question ambiguities that I have referred to here previously, once again you have to be careful with assumptions about what is meant by 'Irish'. It doesn't mean Gaeilge.

And also as with the Census, an understanding of the contextual migrations and demographics is essential in arriving at a right understanding.

"Galloway Irish" refers to linguistic influences from Ireland - Ulster-Scots and Hiberno-English - upon Galloway Scots, giving it a distinct flavour from other dialects of Scots. Due to geographical proximity and frequent migrations from north east Ireland into Galloway over the centuries,  both Ulster-Scots and Hiberno-English have left their mark on the form of Scots that is spoke in Galloway, and it's this which has consequently has been called "Galloway Irish".

Scottish Language, Autumn 1982
An excellent source on this subject is the Autumn 1982 edition of the periodical Scottish Language, which was published by the Linguistic Survey of Scotland. It includes short papers by renowned scholars G.B. Adams, A. J. Aitken and Caroline McAfee.

The late James Milroy's article 'Some Connections Between Galloway and Ulster Speech' is a fine analysis of the term 'Galloway Irish' and how it should be understood. Milroy was born in Portpatrick in 1933 but worked for a time at Queen's in Belfast. His wife Lesley Milroy (link here) is also a respected academic, and has studied the 'social network' of working class communities in Belfast.

• Galloway Gossip (1901)
An earlier, more popular source (which my friend Joe Rae from Ayrshire introduced me to) is Dalbeattie-born and Auchencairn-raised Robert De Bruce Trotter's Galloway Gossip (1901). There are two editions of this, 'Sixty Years Ago' (1877; on here) and 'Eighty Years Ago' (1901) which is the volume that I have. Trotter also recognised that 'Ulster Scotch' itself had variations in dialect, and - as with 'Galloway Irish' - he also observed a 'Glasgow-Irish'. He is on Wikipedia here.

NB – To further confuse things, there was a form of Gaeilge / Scottish Gaelic / Gaidhlig spoken in Galloway.
How much was still evident in the 1600s and 1700s is as you might imagine another area of competing viewpoints and sources. Often this is tied with one's preferred linguistic ideals of the Scots who settled in Antrim and Down after 1606, Donegal after 1607, and then following the 1610 Plantation of the west of Ulster.

Strangely, none of the subsequent migrations of Scots into Ulster get much attention. But those are all different posts for other days.