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Larne’s first blue plaque celebrates ‘father’ of Ulster Scots studies

Press release   •   Jun 21, 2019 11:31 BST

Professor Robert J. Gregg is known as the founding father of Ulster Scots Studies.

Larne is celebrating scholar and linguist Robert J Gregg with its first blue plaque from the Ulster History Circle at the Larne Museum and Arts Centre.

Professor Robert J. Gregg, one of Larne’s most gifted sons is known as the founding father of Ulster Scots Studies. His pioneering work established the study of Ulster-Scots as an academic discipline.

The plaque was unveiled at a special event by Robert’s son, William Gregg who lives in Toronto, and travelled to Larne especially for the occasion.

Young Robert J. Gregg attended Larne Grammar School, graduated from Queens University with a B.A. Honours in languages, and attributed his interest in the Ulster-Scots dialects from a very early age, to his mother and his McDowell aunts.

The McDowell’s farm was in the area of Glynn/Gleno where there was a thriving Ulster-Scots language, and in later life, Robert said that he owed them a ‘debt of gratitude’ for encouraging him as he became fascinated by the number of dialects he heard at school, and in the villages in east Antrim.

Robert started collecting linguistic material and by 1930 he was compiling a notebook and had commenced intensive research on the Ulster-Scots language which was to last for seven decades, even after he emigrated to Vancouver in the 1950s.

Marian Kelso, Larne Museum & Arts Centre said: “We’re really proud and honoured to not only remember such an influential figure but to also hold Larne’s first blue plaque. Mid and East Antrim is synonymous with Ulster Scots and this commemoration will not only pay tribute to that, but also add another exciting element to what people who come to visit and explore Larne’s museum can enjoy.”

Vice-Chairman of the Ulster History Circle, Paul Clements commented: “Professor Gregg was a tireless founder and life-long student of Ulster-Scots studies. He was a renowned scholar, a writer, and a teacher of languages who emigrated to Canada in 1954 but always retained a great love of Ulster and its speech, and played an important role in preserving the Ulster dialect. Robert Gregg was a trailblazer in language, and many of the words and phrases that we enjoy today are the result of his research and pioneering work in the 1950’s and 1960s.

“The Ulster History Circle is grateful to the Ulster-Scots Agency for their financial support towards this plaque, and to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council for permitting the Circle to place the plaque on Larne Museum & Arts Centre, formerly the Carnegie Library, and a place that would have been well known to Robert Gregg as a young boy.”

You can see the blue plaque at Larne Museum and Arts Centre on Victoria Road.