Larne-set tale seeks to brings Ulster Scots to a wider audience

A new tale from a Larne author is seeking to bring the Ulster Scots dialect to a wider audience.
Angeline King holds a copy of her new book, Dusty Bluebells.Angeline King holds a copy of her new book, Dusty Bluebells.
Angeline King holds a copy of her new book, Dusty Bluebells.

Angeline King's 'Dusty Bluebells' draws on the author's own experiences of growing up in the seaside town. "[The book] opens in 1945 and follows the lives of two friends, Sally and Maisie, who were raised on the Waterloo Road," said Angeline, who also penned Snugville Street and A Belfast Tale. "Maisie's life changes when she takes a little boy into her care one Hallowe'en night. Sally, meanwhile, is haunted by visions of a baby. Those who enjoy 'Who do you think you are?' and 'Long Lost Family' will enjoy Dusty Bluebells.

"The story is inspired by my own childhood. I lived on the Waterloo Road until I was six, but spent a lot of time after that at my aunt Nan's house — number 82. I enjoyed listening to tales of the past and the old way of speaking that is now dying out. I purposely made the print of the book fairly large because I know that a certain generation of Larne people will enjoy looking back at the way things used to be.

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"In many ways, Dusty Bluebells is also the story of Larne, and we see the town as an industrial hub and tourist resort and revisit it later in the century when tourism and industry have declined."

Angeline began writing Dusty Bluebells in late 2016, supported by the Arts Council individual award on account of the novel's historic and cultural significance. However, progress was delayed when she had to return to full-time work.

"I was also busy writing a history of Irish dancing, a project that grew out of the research for Dusty Bluebells," Angeline said. "I decided during lockdown that it would be difficult to find a publisher who would publish a book set in Larne, let alone one with Ulster-Scots dialect, so I self-published. Besides, I'm as happy publishing books as I am writing them. It gives me the opportunity to tap into my sales and marketing skills.

"The editing process took a while; I was assisted by a wonderful writer called Angela Graham."

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Since its publication, Dusty Bluebells has generated interest in academic circles, said Angeline: "There is also some interest in Scotland, where they are keen to record all the various Scots dialects and accents. I recently provided the voice of Ulster Scots for an interactive map created by a news group in Aberdeenshire."

The book also opened up a conversation with Ulster University, which resulted in the author's application for the role of Writer in Residence. "I had been applying for jobs and freelance opportunities and had many disappointments before considering this. I spent a long time on my application and did a good five months of reading before applying.

"My PhD, which commences this September, will comprise, among other things, research on female novelists writing in Scots. I feel honoured and privileged to take up the position of Writer in Residence at Ulster University. I never imagined, five years ago, when I was working in business as a senior manager for an Educational software company, that my life would go in this direction!

"The role of Writer in Residence will last three years and as well as personal development, there will be community outreach projects and work within Ulster University's own English department. I look forward to teaching university students during my second year.

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"I would particularly embrace any outreach opportunities with Larne children and young adults. I was raised in a working class community and speaking Ulster Scots was a disadvantage in an educational setting. My mum was a cleaner and my dad a binman, and their way of speaking was deemed to be poor English before we understood what Ulster Scots was. If I could revisit my five year-old self, I'd say, 'Dinnae stap speakin lik thon, for yin day it'll come in quare an handy!'"

Dusty Bluebells can be purchased for £10 online on Amazon and from independent bookstores, including The Book Nook in Larne and the Secret Bookshelf in Carrickfergus who both offer a service of posting signed copies. "Other local shops include Jenni Macs and Apsleys. I hope to host a book launch when lockdown eases," Angeline said.