Northern Ireland news

Man known as the 'father of Ulster-Scots studies' recognised in his hometown of Larne

Professor Robert Gregg

A MAN known as the 'father of Ulster-Scots studies' was today recognised in his home town of Larne.

An Ulster History Circle blue plaque was unveiled at Larne Museum to Professor Robert John Gregg - a renowned scholar, writer and linguist - by his son William who had travelled from Vancouver for the occasion.

It is the first blue plaque for the Co Antrim town.

Born in 1912 on the Glenarm Road, he was the grandson of George Gregg whose successful road contracting business built many of the roads in and around Larne.

He attended Larne Grammar School and Queen's University Belfast, studying languages, but attributed his interest in the Ulster-Scots dialects to his mother and aunts, whose family farm was in the area of Glynn where there was a thriving Ulster-Scots language.

He collected linguistic material, carrying out intensive research on the Ulster-Scots language for seven decades.

A teacher at Regent House School, Newtownards and Belfast Mercantile College, he emigrated to Canada in 1954 with his wife Millicent and family.

In Vancouver, he taught at the University of British Columbia where he enjoyed a distinguished career.

But he kept an abiding interest in the dialects of his homeland and returned in 1960 and spoke at a conference inaugurating the Ulster Dialect archive at the Ulster Folk Museum.

Three decades of observations and documentation led to his mapping of where Ulster-Scots was spoken in parts of Antrim, Down, Londonderry and Donegal.

The map became a classic and continues to be cited and reproduced by scholars as a point of reference on the geography of the Ulster-Scots speech areas. He died in 1998.

Paul Clements of the Ulster History Circle said 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," he said.

"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 1950s and 1960s."

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