The Ullans (Ulster Scots) Academy

The roots of the Academy go back to the establishment of the Ulster Dialect Archive established at Cultra Manor, the headquarters of the Ulster Folk Museum and to the pioneer work of G. B. Adams, J. Braidwood, P. L. Henry and R. J. Gregg. Following a visit to the Friesian Academy in 1978 with a group of community activists, Dr Adamson used their book Ulster Dialects 1964 to form the basis of the chapter "The Language of Ulster" in his Identity of Ulster 1981. He followed this up throughout the 1980’s through the creation of the Farset organisation. He liased with the Ulster Folk Museum and the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s University, Belfast in order to develop an interest in language and oral history in the local community. This work was supervised by Réne Frechét, Professor of Irish Studies, Université de Paris III, Sorbonne Nouvelle. The intended object was the creation of an Ulster-Scots Academy at Cultra Manor. The Ullans (Ulster-Scots) Academy was eventually founded in July 1992 following a meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada between Professor R J Gregg and Dr Adamson. In December of that year the Ulster-Scots Language Society (USLS) was founded in Craigavon House with Dr Adamson as Chairman. At a meeting of the USLS in Craigavon House on Friday 28th May, 1993 Dr Adamson suggested that his Ulster-Scots Academy might be required to act as a Teaching and Resource Centre for the USLS. The first formal meeting of the Academy Senate was held at his home on Monday, 10th January1994 with Dr Adamson as Founding Rector, this position being immediately offered to Prof R.J. Gregg. At this meeting Dr Adamson suggested that his publishing concern could distribute the Fenton Dictionary. Since then the Academy has continued to exist as a community based voluntary organisation. Despite its close links with the USLS, it has always been represented separately on the Executive of the Ulster-Scots Heritage Council. Its prime aims were to campaign for academic research into Ulster-Scots and for equality of status as a European "Lesser-Used" or regional language as well as to establish Craigavon House as the centre of excellence for Ulster- Scots studies in Ireland.

Craigavon House was the former home of James Craig JP, MP who became Lord Craigavon, the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and has been associated historically with the beginning of the Northern Ireland State. Apart from Parliament Buildings, Stormont, it is perhaps the most important heritage site from a Unionist standpoint in Northern Ireland. Craig also thought of himself as an Ulster Scot in the broad sense and, as an indigenous Ulster person, was conscious of his Ulidian heritage, deeply rooted in Ireland. Craigavon House is presently owned under lease by the Somme Association, of which Dr Adamson is also the founder and Chairman. This Association grew out of Farset, following a Press Conference arranged by Rev Dr Ian Paisley on 1st July 1986.

In 1992 Dr Adamson published under his imprint Pretani Press the "Folk Poets of Ulster" series to bring before the public some of the finest pieces of literature in the Ulster-Scots language by James Orr, Hugh Porter and Samuel Thompson. In February 1994 he asked Mr Jim Nicholson MEP, to raise the issue of an Ullans Academy in the European Parliament at Strasbourg. This was followed up by Mr David Trimble MP. In December 1995, Dr Adamson also asked his friend Rev Dr Ian Paisley to arrange for members of the USLS including himself to meet the NIO Minister, Michael Ancram, to put forward a comprehensive proposal for a core-funded Academy. The costed and itemised proposal then included details for a language development programme and an Ulster-Scots Language Resource Centre. Without any funding being awarded, the Academy managed to complete some aspects on a purely voluntary basis. These outputs included a regional Dictionary (Fenton, 1995), which was published under the imprint of the Ulster-Scots Academic Press from Dr Adamson’s premises in 12 Main Street, Conlig, Co Down and is the most important record yet produced of current Ulster-Scots speech. In association with the USLS, numerous contemporary Ulster-Scots writings and re-prints of traditional literature have also been published, including an Ulster-Scots Grammar book (Robinson, 1997).

Dr Adamson’s progress in promoting the Ulster-Scots Academy is fully documented in press reports and correspondence throughout 1993 to 1997. (East Belfast Herald and Post July 22, 1993 (Helen Carson); Irish News January 25th 1994 (Conor McCauley); Belfast Telegraph 1994 (Vincent Kearney). On 9th November 1998 he raised the issue in the New Northern Ireland Assembly (Official Report Hansard, Volume 1 page 235). In 1998/9, Government funded the USLS to produce a development plan for the Ulster-Scots Language. The "Edmund Report" was produced in July 2000 by a consultant, John Edmund, "Strategic Plan for the Promotion of the Ulster-Scots Language". It provided an updated, detailed language development proposal as a model for the work of the Ullans Academy. This Report again provided detailed costings for a core-funded Academy. The language development proposals in the Edmund Report re-emphasised the following priorities:

· Progress a tape-recorded survey of native speakers by native speakers (long identified as the most urgent priority).
· Create an electronic text base of Ulster-Scots literature.
· Develop a comprehensive two-way Ulster-Scots/English dictionary programme.
· Develop a process for agreeing standardised spellings and an accredited translation service (including a translation of the Authorised Version of the Bible).
· Set up an Ulster-Scots Language Resource Centre.
· Develop Ulster-Scots Language courses and classes.
· Conduct research programmes.
· Publish and broadcast in Ulster-Scots.

With the establishment of the Ulster-Scots Agency and Tha Noarth/Sooth Boord o Leid under the Belfast Agreement of 1998, and the formal recognition of Ulster-Scots as a European Regional Language by the UK government in 1999, the implementation of the Academy’s Language Development Plan has become a government imperative.
The resourcing of the critical elements of the Academy’s Language Development Plan was agreed by government and approved in the 2000-2003 Corporate Plan for the Ulster-Scots Agency. However, after three years operation of the North/South Body, none of the agreed £1,500,000 expenditure on the language plan was processed.
In September 2002 the Agency held its first formal meeting with the Ullans Academy. It was agreed that the Academy would re-constitute itself as a Company Limited by Guarantee, in order that the existing voluntary programme of the Academy and USLS could be properly resourced and established.
In October 2002 the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Michael McGimpsey, responded to the repeated representations from the Ulster-Scots community for resolute action by government to promote Ulster-Scots more effectively. His Department (DCAL) organised a three-day "Future Search" conference to agree the way forward between statutory bodies, government and the Ulster-Scots community. A number of language-centred policies were signed up to by all present, including:

· Full and immediate implementation of the Edmund Report recommendations for strategic development of the Ulster-Scots language.
· The establishment of a fully functioning Ullans (Ulster-Scots) Academy.
· Equality of Resourcing, Respect, Recognition and Representation for the Ulster-Scots and Irish languages throughout both jurisdictions in the island of Ireland.
· Measures to be taken by government to ensure Stage 3 status and ratification for Ulster-Scots under the terms of the European Charter for Regional Minority Languages, within 3-5 years.
The purpose of the Ullans Academy therefore was to conserve, develop and promote the Ulster-Scots language in the context of its attendant history, culture and moral philosophy. The Ullans Academy would be capable of delivering:

· A regulation and standardisation of the language for modern usage. These standards will be agreed by and for the Ulster-Scots community, and be academically sound.
· The previously agreed but delayed language development programme.
· Progress to stage 3 for Ullans (Ulster-Scots) under the terms of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages.
· Equality of status and respect with the Irish language.
· An Ulster-Scots Resource Centre to make Ulster-Scots materials accessible to researchers and the community.
· Accredited language classes and courses for speakers and non-speakers.
· Status-building measures for the language.
· Expert advice and an authoritative linguistic service to the Ulster-Scots Agency, Government and Statutory Bodies.

In the context of Ulster-Scots as a recognised "European Regional and Minority Language", the Ullans Academy was modelled on the Friesian Academy in the Netherlands. However it would also promote the interrelationships between Ulster-Scots, Ulster English, including Belfast English, and Ulster Gaelic, as well as the study of Northumbrian English in general. The Academy’s research interests would also extend beyond language and literature – to historical, cultural and moral philosophical themes such as the life and works of Francis Hutcheson and C S Lewis, and studies in the history of Ulidia in general, especially Dalriada, Dalaradia, Dal Fiatach and Galloway. The Scotch- Irish Diaspora also provided a particular focus on the American dimension, but emigration studies would also be necessary for the countries of the Commonwealth and other countries.
The Academy was closely associated with the "Heirskip Bilfawst" project, which is a proposal to reconstruct a living history and traditional crafts centre based on the 18th century Ulster-Scots town of Belfast at the time of the American war of independence. This project has many parallels with the leading American attraction at Colonial Williamsburg. It is significant that another philosophical model for the Academy is the College of William and Mary at Williamsburg, Virginia (founded 1693).This project was envisaged to be the first of several " Heirskip Villages" throughout Ulster.
Finally in 2003 Dr Adamson was instrumental in ensuring that the Joint Declaration of the British and Irish Governments would indicate that the British Government should take steps to encourage support to be made available for an Ulster-Scots Academy.

Ian Adamson