"...stories birling ..."
“This House condemns the Kailyard School of Novelists.”
John Buchan, Oxford University, 1897
The PhD Writer in Residence chapter has begun and I have been reminded of a question posed to me recently: Is Dusty Bluebells a Kailyard? I settled for “sort of” by way of response. In truth, I was convinced that I had not written a Kailyard. That was before I read a study of the Kailyard by Andrew Nash
You may be wondering, what on earth is a Kailyard?
A Kailyard is a nostalgic novel written in Scots and English, and the word was first applied to Scottish literature in 1895 by J.H. Millar. The Scots-English language technique — achievable because Scots and English are mutually intelligible — goes back further in time; Ulster’s own ‘Orange Lily’ by May Crommelin is often referred to as a Kailyard even though it was written almost twenty years before the term was coined.
Kailyard, meaning cabbage patch, became synonymous with three popular Scottish authors of the late 1800s: J.M. Barrie (of Peter Pan fame), S.R. Crockett and Ian MacLaren, who were all busy garnering much critical and commercial success, whilst simultaneously committing crimes against the tastes of John Buchan of Oxford University Union — a novelist and future Governor-General of Canada.
Kailyard novels were popular on a scale that is hard to imagine today and novelists were paid eye-watering sums of money for their endeavours. Crockett’s The Firebrand earned him £1,000 in 1902 (approximately £125,000 today), whilst The Lilac Sunbonnet by S.R. Crockett sold 10,000 copies on the day of its publication. The Kailyard industry also had global reach.
Sifting through Nash’s research, I came up with the following list of criteria that I could use to assess whether Dusty Bluebells is indeed a Kailyard.
Sentimental & Nostalgic
Absolutely! I have taken the street rhymes, songs, conversations and ways of my old aunts, happed them up in Brown’s Irish linen and stored them in a museum of words.
Evasion of social or industrial issues
Maybe! Such issues are not salient themes in Dusty Bluebells. I was more concerned with family history, genealogy, parenthood and the idea that we can see our own infancy if we’re long enough alone.
Concerned to demonstrate history
Scene from Snugville Street
The Wedding Wisp
82 Waterloo Road
The Teacher Voice
The Children of Latharna
The Band Stick
The Bully up the Brae
History & folklore
Language Blog I
Language Blog II
Language Blog III
Language Blog IV
The linguist behind Ulster Scots.
Kailyard & Dusty Bluebells
Jean Park of Ballygally
Fiddles and Melodeons
Martha Taylor's diary
Jean McCullagh at 104
Ballymena & the McConnells
Arms in Irish Dancing
Catholics & Protestants in Irish dancing
Irish Dancing: The Festival Story
The Protestant in Irish Fiction.
The Protestant in Irish fiction II
Ulster-Scots in Irish Fiction
An author in Wonderland
Dancing in Victorian Ulster
Learning the Irish Language.
John Hewitt Summer School
Lesley Allen & Helen Nicholl