tonywatt

Guest speaker Anthony Watt (aka husband of Isobel, our beloved club secretary) graciously consented to share with club members his not inconsiderable writing experience and talents, focusing this week on the use of Scottish dialect.

Anthony began with a brief preamble on Flyting: A poetic duel of vile insults, by treating club members to an extract from the ‘Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy’ (though warnings were issued to those of a nervous disposition regarding its vile language). Published in 1504 this was actually performed in front of King James IV. Bringing things up to date a second handout (an extract from ‘The Herald’) entitled ‘Is the art of flyting still in rude health?’ gave members an amusing insight into where the boundaries of taste and offence lie in modern times.

Club members then undertook an exercise in Scottish Dialect. They were given a sample of a conversation (in standard English) between Senga and Dolores, two sales assistants in a supermarket. Their challenge was to translate and continue this conversation in a Scottish dialect, and, if they dared, enter into the realm of flyting! The results from all the members was quite outstanding given the shortness time allocated. Rarely has the west of Scotland dialect rallyed back and forth to such excellent effect and great amusement! Though special note should also be given to Sarah who rendered the conversation in her own (Mancunian I think) dialect. This did illustrate an important point that dialect is hard to fake and can only really be done effectively if the writer is familiar with it.

We were then presented with a more serious poem, ‘The Coming of the Wee Malkies’ by Stephen Mulrine, showing dialect is not just used for comic effect. Three more sets of exercises were handed out, by the well armed Anthony, for members to translate into dialect (during this time the committee adjourned for 15 minutes for a meeting). This club member found himself reflecting, that while the history of literature may be littered by those trying to tell other peoples stories in standard English, there is really no substitute for people telling their own stories in their own voice.