The following resources are designed for teachers who wish to introduce discussion of Ulster-Scots poetry into the classroom. We hope to add to these materials in the coming months.
Strong links have existed between Scotland and Ulster since prehistoric times due to the narrowness of the North Channel, which has acted not so much as a barrier between communities, more as a corridor of communication. Plantation settlers and fleeing Covenanters put down permanent roots in the north of Ireland in the 16th and 17th centuries, particularly in counties Antrim and Down.
During the 18th century, a poetic movement developed in Ulster that was influenced by and coincided with the Scots Literary Revival of the same period.
The poets were from many levels of society, but prominent among them were the so-called "Rhyming Weavers", often radical in their politics, who followed the example of the Scots poets Ramsay, Fergusson and Burns by frequently writing in their vernacular tongue. For the Ulster poets this was a form of Lowland Scots which developed in Ulster and was in some respects influenced by the Irish of the native population and by the speech of English settlers. The Ulster-Scots poets also used typically Scots verse forms such as the Christis Kirk stanza and Standard Habbie which have very distinctive rhyme schemes and metrical patterns.
Poems for classroom use:
The Wanderer by James Orr
(click for PDF)
James Orr (1770-1816) was a handloom weaver and revolutionary radical. Orr took part in the United Irishmen's Rebellion of 1798. This was an attempt to establish a more democratic and just Ireland where Catholics and Presbyterians (Orr was a Presbyterian) would not be subject to discriminatory legal and taxation systems. The Rebellion failed and Orr had to spend a period on the run from the authorities. "The Wanderer" is believed to have been based on his experiences while in hiding in the bleak neighbourhood of Slemish in County Antrim. It has the rhyme scheme and metrical pattern of a folk song, and Orr's note to the text indicates that it was to be sung to the tune of "Mary's Dream", a popular Scots air of the time. It is written in what Orr himself called "Braid Scotch".
(Click for PDF)