Birlin for Burns;Jotter

9th February 1996 at 00:00
"Ae September the Rood Fair comes, Bringin daffery an keckles tae the wizzens o ae yin.

She meets her freens an They run taewards the lichts That fill the mirk o the nicht."

Who says that Scots has disappeared from the mouths of young people? Victoria Bogle's poem, "Birlin like crazy", appears in a collection of Scots writing called Fair Scunnert, compiled by St Joseph's College in Dumfries.

The collection was published to mark the bicentenary of Robert Burns, a Dumfries man in his later years, who would surely have approved. Nowadays he would have been writer in residence to the region and paid a stipend, as Harvey Holton was when he encouraged the St Joseph's pupils. Liz Niven, the Scots language development officer, was another key influence.

With Scots (and Gaelic) being encouraged in the curriculum and a "kist" of materials to be launched this month, the findings of John McMillan, St Joseph's principal English teacher, strike a welcome chord: "From the start it was clear that the pupils were enjoying a new freedom in their writing. They discovered that they could write in the rhythms of their native speech, the language they use in the home or the playground with their friends."

The last word goes to another pupil, Gavin Stevenson who, unlike Burns, wrote of only one "dug": "Ma dug came frae hell.

It's a foul beast.

A think Satan sent it.

It has yelly een, An claws as big as a full grown man's haun.

It's tuppence short o a shillin."

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today