A Telegraph story by the wonderfully named Auslan Cramb, Scottish Correspondent, discusses efforts to record the dialect of Cromarty in Scotland:

A rare dialect that is only spoken by two elderly brothers is to be recorded for posterity before it disappears.

Bobby Hogg, 87, and his brother Gordon, 80, are believed to be the last fluent speakers of the “Cromarty fisher dialect”…

It evolved when local fishermen in the town of Cromarty, on the Black Isle north of Inverness, picked up words from English soldiers based in the area in the 17th and 18th centuries…

A spokesman for Am Baile, a Highland internet archive, said it was important to capture a recording of the last two speakers.

Robin McColl Miller [sic: should be Millar] of Aberdeen University’s English department said the Cromarty fisher dialect was the most threatened in Scotland, and one of five different dialects once found in the same small area.

The story has a selection of dialect phrases (Thee’re no talkin’ licht ‘You are quite right’; Ut aboot a wee suppie for me ‘Can I have a drink too?’) and a link to an audio sample.

Thanks for the link, Paul!


  1. The article left me a little confused. This is a dialect of English, right? So were the locals English speakers before the soldiers were stationed there, or is this dialect entirely based on the soldiers’ English?

  2. Oh yeah, interesting example phrases too.
    I like the way the translations are deliberately(?) made different enough to highlight the exotic nature of the dialect (for example, why not translate the second one “What about a wee sip for me?”), but a word-for-word gloss would be far more interesting. Especially in that third example.
    Also, I notice that the first example has the word “licht”, presumably =’light’, but in the fourth example we have “light” =’light’. This may just be a result of the transcription.

  3. So were the locals English speakers before the soldiers were stationed there, or is this dialect entirely based on the soldiers’ English?
    I would assume the latter, but “entirely based” neglects the influence of the Gaelic they would have been speaking previously. Good question.

  4. Yeah, I at first assumed that this was a dialect of Gaelic with English borrowings, given the wording in the article that they “picked up words from English soldiers”. But those examples are clearly English.

  5. Allegedly there are traces of Cromarty dialect in the English writings of that great hero of mine, Sir Thomas Urquhart–orthography and/or vocabulary, I forget which.

  6. nomis,
    yeah, my thoughts exactly. In fact, I can’t escape the impression that examples 1 and 2 are idioms and that there is also a less idiomatic way of saying “Please let me speak”.

  7. This article rejects the “English soldier” theory, and gives more details.
    Cromarty, it seems, was the county town of the traditional county of Cromartyshire, itself interesting because it consists solely of a scattering of discontinuous parcels embedded in Ross-shire. (Scottish local administration, however, has not respected the distinction since 1889.)

  8. Chambers Scots Dictionary (1977 reprint) has a discussion of the Scots of the fishing villages of the Black Isle, which resembles the Scots of Caithness, it says. It alludes to the influence of Gaelic and of two forms of Scandinavian. It “may afford ample scope for the highest scholarship”. Quick, lads. Where I grew up, on the Solway, our dialect was Southern Scots, but the fishermen had a discernibly different dialect of their own. But that was all fifty years ago, before the worst of the pernicious influence of the BBC from London and Glasgow.

  9. Fascinating link, lh, and something that led me on to more interesting stuff. Thanks.

  10. Thanks for posting this. I wish I would have had a chance to talk to these fellows when I was there in 03. Interesting to see that the Wikipedia article only barely mentions the Sutors, which were reported to be giant cobblers who defended the harbour from pirates.
    Incidentally, the novel you helped me with (the ancient Greek, if you recall, said section since removed by my editor) takes place partly in Cromarty.

  11. Thanks for the interesting article! 🙂 I enjoyed this story alot, but could hardly understand the old man when he spoke in English let alone his own tongue! lol

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