After the press coverage we were really pleased that so many people got in touch with their experiences of being bidialectal. The following comes from Margaret Tong who grew up in Buckie and identifies Doric as her first language.


My Doric

I was interested in the report of- this research which I read in a recent Buckie Paper (The Banffshire Advertiser). The Doric is my first language and I speak English only when I have to, even though I have lived in Berkeley, California for 35 years.

I grew up in the Catbow area of the Seatown, the old part of Buckie, where a lot of fisher families lived.  I lived in the traditional household of many fisher families, with Granny and Granda in one end of the house and Mam, Dad and myself in the other. It was a Doric-speaking household and that was the first language I heard, not only at home, but also in the community. Nobody spoke English and their attempts when trying to communicate with relatives who visited from abroad, were often humorously mangled.

The research talks about caregivers and their influence on a child’s learning a language or dialect. Mam, who was from Cromarty, was not a native Doric speaker and had no influence on my learning the Doric. My main influences were Granny and Granda and the community.

I had no difficulty at all in learning English at school, but never used English out of school. If I’d gone home to the Catbow speaking English, I would have been accused of being “abeen masel”.

An early memory of the community is the winter evenings when the men were at sea and the women would gather, with their knitting, for an evening of company and reminiscing. I sat on my creepie and absorbed their stories of their times as gutting quines and the hard lives they’d had. But, there was a lot of laughter in those times.  I learned from them that the Doric is more than a dialect. It’s a way of life and a way of looking at life.

I am a graduate of Edinburgh University. I studied in the School of Scottish Studies there and found it interesting that my fellow students thought my Doric to be quaint and couthie, while at the same time, researchers such as Hamish Henderson, were going about the country, collecting local dialects and folklore. I was too young and far too shy to say, “Here I am! A Doric speaker!’”

I lived in Cambridge for 7 years while my husband (from Leeds) completed his Ph.D. and did post-doc work. While there, I worked in the Archives Centre of Churchill College an managed fine wi a’bidy I met there.

I’ll lat eiss be for noo. Ye’ll hiv heard aboot oor affy heat in California an I’ve nae gotten muckle deen.

If there’s ony ither thing ye’d like tae ken, ma quines, jist speir!

Many thanks to Margaret Tong for sending us this, if you have similar stories we’d love to hear them! Please get in touch at:

OneSpeakerTwoDialects “at”