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FAIR ISLE DIALECT & THE SEA
INTRODUCTION TO FAIR ISLE DIALECT - courtesy of Anne Sinclair.
Until 1469 when the northern isles were put in pawn to the Scottish crown the language spoken in Fair Isle was Norn. By the 16th century Lowland Scots and English had become the speech of law, education and religion, and over subsequent centuries Norn was gradually superseded by the Scots tongue, but the resulting dialect is still shaped by the past. Our mother tongue is now a rich blend of Scots and English, but with a strong influence from the Low Countries and Scandinavia in vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar.
The following is a selection of Fair Isle dialect words relating to the sea & traditional Fair Isle fishing methods.
From ‘A to P, An old record of FAIR ISLE words with phonetics’. Copyright Betty M Best 1987.
Reproduced in our FIMETI website courtesy of Betty M Best.
(Fair Isle dialect words related to the sea.pdf - (including phonetic spelling) available for download.
Photo: Kishie (straw basket) carrying traditional Fair Isle fisherman's keps to barter with the crew of the Tall Ship 'Sorlandet' in July 2011. Copyright Elena Mera-Long
The following is some of the text used in the musical score of 'GIVEN DAYS, SOUNDS OF FAIR ISLE' by composer Alastair Stout, premiered on Fair Isle on 23rd August, 2002....
Verses from "Gyaain ta da Eela" by Shetland poet Christine De Luca
Packin up wir proil, we'd mak fur hom,
blyde o kent lichts. We'd row
peerie wyes, owsin as we göd.
Abön wis, tirricks flitin
an a mird o maas laavin an divin,
plötin fur muggies.
We'd tak da boat on a flowin tide,
dicht an shoard her, dan rin hom prood
i da darkenin wi a fraacht o fish.
We'd aet wir supper
tae tales o uncan Odysseys
in idder voes.
Text and photographs Copyright Fair Isle Marine Environment and Tourism Initiative. All rights reserved.