Ulster-Scots Summer School

Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure Nelson McCausland visits the Ulster-Scots Summer School at Castle Gardens Primary School. Listen to a podcast below

Castle Gardens Primary School in Newtownards played host to Culture, Arts and Leisure minister Nelson McCausland today, on a tour of their Ulster-Scots Summer School. It is the fourth year of the popular summer scheme, run with the help of the Loughries Ulster-Scots Historical Society, and the children were delighted to show off the skills they had learnt thus far.

A trio of talented young fiddlers impressed McCausland when they played a traditional Ulster-Scots tune. Other children showed the minister the traditional dances they had been learning and performed children’s rhymes translated into Ulster-Scots. ‘…yin called Peter; yin called Paul. Fly awa Peter; Fly awa Paul…’

Downstairs a group of children were learning how to make cockaleekie soup, chopping up carrots and leeks under the watchful eye of their instructor. The children had also cooked some Cranachan, a traditional Scottish desert of oats, whipped cream and whiskey.

McCausland said the treats looked very tempting, but cited a recently started diet as an excuse not to tuck in.

On a more serious note McCausland stated his admiration for the scheme and the participants.

‘One of the basic rights of children around the world, and it is set out in the UN Convention in The Rights of the Child, is the right to learn about, to understand, to appreciate the culture of the community to which you belong.'

'And if we are to have a shared and better future in Northern Ireland then it needs to be one where those rights are recognised and implemented. So through summer schemes, through the school curriculum and through after-schools activities we need to make sure that children learn about the culture, the history, the identity of the community they are part of.’

Asked about the future of the scheme with budget cuts looming, the minister said, ‘I would hope that when they are looking for the budget next year that the Ulster-Scots agency would make this one of their priorities. Because it creates, I think, considerable value for money.’

Mark Anderson from the Loughries Ulster-Scots Historical Society agreed with the minister about the importance of the project. ‘Obviously children have a lot of down time over the summer,' he said. 'We see the summer scheme as an opportunity to educate them in their Ulster-Scots ways, something that is natural to them, should it be their music or history, craft making or cookery. The Loughries Society feel it is important to cover all aspects of Ulster-Scots heritage.’

Whatever the future of the Ulster-Scots Summer School, McCausland certainly left his mark at the Castle Gardens Primary School today: his handprint, in blue, on a poster.

Find out more about the Ulster-Scots Summer School, and other Ulster-Scots arts and culture, at the Ulster-Scots Agency website.

Tammy Moore