Alang tha Shore - Philip Robinson

A review by Joe Gillespie

Philip Robinson was born in Larne in 1946 and lived in Boneybefore, Carrickfergus, in his childhood. For the last twenty years, he has been living in the Ards Penninsula.

His book, "Alang tha Shore", has been compiled from writings first published in issues of "The Ullans", the magazine of the Ulster-Scots Language Society. Although I understand Ulster-Scots when I hear it spoken, I have never been used to reading it - and I would surely have been punished at school had I written it. I very much doubt if the spelling of certain words has been set in stone. Philip Robinson, for instance, uses the word "weans" which I have also seen spelled as "wains" but makes much more sense if spelled "wee'uns". I find that I have to read the poems aloud and then they come to life. If you are less than about forty years old, even that might not work. With mass communications levelling-out local dialects, Ulster-Scots is fast disappearing. Books like this are very welcome as they help preserve our rich and colourful heritage.

The thirty two works in this book include poems, essays and Ulster-Scots translations of a couple of Psalms. One poem asks the question "Is Ulster-Scots a language or dialect?", but only answers it by asking a further question, "Is a dandelion a flower or a weed?" Answering questions with questions is another trait typical of the Ulster-Scot!

The poem from which the book takes its title rings true of my childhood on the foreshore at Chaine's Park. Many a long Summer's day was spent turning over rocks in the pools left by the tide to find crabs, shrimps, sea anemonies and countless other creatures. The poem refers to 'Willicks', or Whelks, which we collected by the bucketload, took home and boiled before digging them out with a pin and devouring them. 'Crubbins' were a type of hairy crab quite unlike the normal smooth variety. "The Wreck" refers to bladderwrack, the common seadweed with the 'poppers'. Later, the poem moves-on to "chasin hizzies" (chasing young ladies), which is the enevitable progression of all young male rock-turners - and indeed, still happend "Alang tha Shore"!


A hae mine whun we wur weans,
A guid nicht's spoart wus cloddin stanes.
Oor playgrun wus alang tha shore,
Wat roaks tae clim an sprachle owre.

Tha batthrie waa, whun tides wur in,
Oor changin place afore we swum.
Tha roaks an san whun tides wur oot,
Wae wreck an willicks skail'd aboot.

We'd fish fur blockan mang tha wreck,
Or coup a boulder on it's bak.
Thon sudden licht gart hoochin stairt,
Or whiles a crubbin's claas wud pairt.

But then we growed intae oor teens,
Wae chasin hizzies mair tha scene.
We left tha shore tae hunt inlann,
Roon Toon-Haw daunce an chippie van.

An sae tae ast yin oot a date,
In picthur-hoose, boys! bak-raa sate!
Sich tangl't bakes lake limpets clamp't,
Til lumberin twa's tha torchie damp't.

An then afore we knowed tha score,
Gaun steadie tuk iz far frae shore.
Tha mair we'd whiles waak han-in-han,
Alang some ither streetch o lan.

It's jist in later years, A doot,
Whun oul an daen, an niver oot,
Tha thocht o willick-hoakin weans
Wull tak me by tha shore mae lane.

Tha mair A'll then be rannerin,
Jist in ma heid, gaun dannerin
Amang tha roaks whaur we wud hide,
A'll watch tha last, laich even-tide.


If you cherish our Ulster-Scots heritage and language, this book will give much enjoyment. If you struggle with the phonetic language, "The Hamely Tongue", from the same publisher, goes a long way to providing translation ;?)


Alang tha Shore by Philip Robinson, published by The Ullans Press is available from The Ulster-Scots Language Society Book Shop - £4.99

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Alang tha Shore
alang tha shore

'Alang tha Shore', published in 2005, is a book of poems written in the Ulster-Scots dialect and typifies the language, humour, politics and religion of the community.