Texas student studies Cromarty dialect

Staff from Am Baile, The Highland Council’s award-winning history and culture website, recently welcomed a fellow heritage enthusiast from the USA.

Kelly McGill, a linguistics student with the University of North Texas, travelled four and a half thousand miles to meet with the team after reading about Am Baile’s Cromarty Fisher Dialect project.

In the final year of her Masters degree in linguistics, Kelly has studied several American dialects but was drawn by her roots (her mother is Scottish) to undertake her thesis on a unique Highland dialect – the Cromarty Dialect.

The fishermen of Cromarty spoke a distinctive version of Scots, similar to other fishing communities in the Moray Firth area, but with its own vocabulary and syntax. Today, there are only two fluent speakers surviving – brothers Bobby and Gordon Hogg. They are descendants of a long line of local fisher folk and can trace their ancestry back for centuries in this small coastal port.

Since the spring of 2007, Janine Donald, a researcher with Am Baile, has been working with the Hogg brothers and other members of the community, making audio recordings and compiling a lexicon of dialect words and phrases.

After reading about the project, Kelly emailed the team and arrangements were made for her visit in early December. During her four-day stay in Cromarty she interviewed the Hogg brothers, made use of Highland Library resources at the local library, and generally soaked up the atmosphere of the town.

Kelly was accompanied by her husband, John, and as recent newlyweds, they were able to combine research with a slightly delayed honeymoon. For his first visit across the pond, John found the Highlands fascinating, if a bit cold!

When Kelly has finished her project, she intends to share her findings with Am Baile, a reciprocal arrangement which truly emphasises the value of online resources. The Cromarty Fisher Dialect audios can currently be heard on the Am Baile site (www.ambaile.org.uk) and the lexicon will be available shortly as a download. Hopefully, this interesting archive will to be of value to the local community and future researchers alike.

24 Dec 2007