Congratulations to Billy Kay who has been nominated in Scots Media Person o the Year in the Scots Language Awards 2019. Vote now!
We asked Billy Kay the following questions.
Tell us about yourself
I wis brocht up in the hert o the Burns kintrae in a faimily that loed his poetry an sangs, sae he wis a leivin tradeition there growin up. An sae wis his leid. Growin up bi-lingual in Scots an English gied me an advantage whan I learnit ither leids, sae I gaed tae the uni tae study French an German. While there tho, I realised I cuid study ma ain culture an switched tae a coorse on Scottish Leiterature, an that wis a revelation tae me – tae realise that the wey ma faimily spak had been the langage o makars o European stature gaein back hunners o years. I hae been tellin ma brither an sister Scots that didnae study their ain culture whit they hae been missin oot on ever sinsyne! Efter scrievin Scots The Mither Tongue in the 1980’s I decidit we needit tae shaw that Scots cuid be a modren leid yaised in ilkae situation sae I “cam oot” as a Scots speaker in public, an spak Scots aften in airts an seituations whaur fowk had deferred tae English for a lang time. It wis gey leiberatin for me personally…an I’m glaid tae say ither fowk felt the same wey an follaed ma example or it cuid hae been a gey lanely darg!
Why are you involved in Scots language?
It’s wha I am! I couldnae dae ocht else, gien ma backgrund an ma education. The Breton scriever Pierre Jakez Hélias wis spierit why he bothered scrievin in sic a wee leid that gey few cuid unnerstaun, and he reponed that he wis pregnant in that leid an he couldnae gie birth tae his creativiity in ony ither! Scots haes 1.5 million speakers an a braw historie o kenspeckle scrievers gaun back centuries…sae aw the mair reason tae mak siccar at fowk yaise it tae gie birth tae their leiterature and sangs, and even jist tae express theirsels as fowk fae this pairt o the warld in the future. In ma radio an tv programmes I ay positively discreiminate in favour o Scots – in ither words, gin the interviewee haes ony Scots, it’s ma responsibeility tae howk oot that gowden linguist seem and get the best oot o thaim.
Any particular career highlights?
Oh, a wheen. Ma last Scots projeck wis a twa pairt radio series Sangsters that wis braidcast roon aboot Christmas an Ne’erday nine month syne. This wis hou it wis descrievit in the Radio Times an on the BBC wabsteid: Billy Kay celebrates the pouer o the Scots leid an its brawest sangs, wi a wheen kenspeckle sangsters faw aw the airts. For it I interviewed the likes o John Moran fae Muikirk in Ayrshire, Iona Fyfe fae Huntly, Steve Byrne fae Arbroath an Robyn Stapleton fae Gallowa, tae gie an impression o the smeddum an beauty o the muckle sang tradeition the day. It wis a sheer pleisure tae mak! Ma TV series The Mother Tongue, an the radio Series The Scots Tongue tellt fowk for the first time the historie o the Scots leid an for monie fowk it chynged their wey o luikin at theirsels. They were byordnar important, as wis the publication o the quair Scots The Mither Tongue itsel.
Gien a talk in Scots anent the langage o Burns past an praisent at the Leibrarie o Congress in Washington DC wis special, as wis lectures I gied aw ower Europe fae Heidelberg tae Warsaw – daein things like that is the nearest non fitba players like me get tae playin for Scotland! Anither great memorie wis bein initiatit intae the Traditional Music Haw of Fame an been gien the very furst award at the Trads for Services tae the Scots leid. Ye can read mair aboot that bi cleikin here https://projects.handsupfortrad.scot/hall-of-fame/billy-kay-services-to-scots/
As weel as that, ye can finn oot mair anent ma wark in Scots bi cleikin here:
What are your plans for the future?
I wad like tae dae mair programmes in Scots but it wad be guid tae hae time tae dae mair creative writin in Scots – I hae scrievit a pickle short stories, poems, sangs, an plays in the past – sae that is an ambeition tae dae mair o that. The problem wi that has ay been siller – it wis teuch eneuch makin a regular leivin as a freelance braidcaster, sae it wad hae been e’en mair o a sair fecht as a scriever alane. Houever, a bit like Burns wi his wark on the sangs in the latter years o his life, I wad loe tae spenn aw ma creative energy promoting awthin Scots in the years aheid that I hae.
If you wish to attend the Scots Language Awards, tickets are available to buy via: https://www.ticketsglasgow.com/Pages/EventDetail.aspx?EventId=8fd8b867-811e-4bfc-a2c0-aab900efc42b For box office call 0141 353 8000. Performing on Friday 27th September include Iona Fyfe Trio, Susi Briggs, Steve Byrne and more to be announced.
If you would like to support Hands Up for Trad in their work with Scottish trad music and musicians please consider supporting our Patreon campaign. We have 3 tiers starting at $1 a month and everything helps support us in our work. Read more at www.patreon.com/handsupfortrad
This post is also available in: Scots