Over the next six weeks, starting on Sunday, 18 July, I gather BBC Radio Ulster will be broadcasting a series of dramatised readings, first performed in the nineteenth century as humorous monologues.
Robin’s Readings were created by W. G. Lyttle, born in 1844. After his death in 1896, he was buried in the grounds of Bangor Abbey, where his memorial describes him as: “… a brilliant and graceful writer … and a true son of County Down”.
As well as being the author of Daft Eddie and Betsy Gray, Lyttle was above all an entertainer. He most often appeared at social gatherings in the guise of his alter ego “Robin”, a jovial country farmer from the fictitious Ballycuddy in County Down, who regaled his audiences in Ulster Scots. The scripts from these performances were subsequently collected and published as Robin’s Readings.
The stories recount the adventures and mishaps of Paddy McQuillan, a cheerful but unfortunate County Down farmer. In the first few episodes, Paddy (played by Will McAvoy) attempts to join a Masonic Lodge, visit Glasgow, and thwart his mother’s attempts to match him with the formidable Miss Norris. Paddy’s best friend, Robin Gordon (played by Paddy McAvoy) takes up the story of Paddy’s marriage and the birth of his children — before this first series concludes with Paddy’s emigration to Canada.
These stories will represent a genuine Ulster-Scots life — even though they’re about 150 years old. Lyttle wrote in authentic Ulster Scots, which was spoken throughout the Ards Peninsula but too little of which is heard these days (even by people purporting to be using it).
EPISODE 1 — HIS CHRISTMAS DAY
This is the first in a series of humorous stories featuring the trials and adventures of Mr. Paddy McQuillan: in this first episode, it’s Christmas Day, and Paddy goes to Belfast, where he has a rather unfortunate encounter at a Masonic Lodge …
EPISODE 2 — HIS TRIP TO GLASGOW (Part 1)
This story begins with Paddy deciding, despite his mother’s grave misgivings, to visit Glasgow. On board the ferry, he falls in with a Scotsman called Sauny, who takes him in hand and promises to show him the sights of the city, starting with a Glasgow Eating House.
Sunday, 25 July 2010 4.03 p.m. / Repeat Wednesday, 29 July 2010 7.30 p.m.
EPISODE 3 — HIS TRIP TO GLASGOW (Part 2)
Continued from last week. Paddy McQuillan is in Glasgow with his new friend, Sauny. Following some trouble at the Post Office when he tries to collect a money order, Paddy goes shopping — but winds up before the magistrate! Having talked his way out of a custodial sentence, he takes the ferry back home to his relieved mother.
Sunday, 1 August 2010 4.03 p.m. / Repeat Wednesday, 5 August 2010 7.30 p.m.
EPISODE 4 — HIS COURTSHIPS
Paddy McQuillan’s mother arranges for him to take tea with the formidable Miss Norris — in the hope of making a match for him. Paddy, however, takes a shine to the younger and more appealing Maggie Patten and sets out to court her instead. All doesn’t exactly go smoothly, however, with the course of true love …
Sunday, 8 August 2010 4.03 p.m. / Repeat Wednesday, 12 August 2010 7.30 p.m.
EPISODE 5 — HIS WEDDING
In preparation for his forthcoming wedding, Paddy McQuillan sets off to Belfast to get the wedding licence. Then he and Maggie purchase a few essentials in the shops — before it’s time at last for the Big Day!
EPISODE 6 — HIS WEE PADDY and THE CHRISNIN’
A new arrival means new worries for Paddy McQuillan — what with potential hazards round the house and constant crying throughout the night! However, plans for the baby’s christening soon give Paddy more to think about as he arranges a party for all his friends.
Sunday, 15 August 2010 4.03 p.m. / Repeat Wednesday, 19 August 2010 7.30 p.m.
EPISODE 7 — HIS TWINS
Robin Gordon is very amused to hear that his friends Paddy and Maggie McQuillan have just had twins! Friends gather round to meet the new-borns and congratulate their parents — and Paddy is persuaded to have a celebratory tea party.
EPISODE 8 — PADDY McQUILLAN’S TAY PERTY (Part 1)
Robin Gordon and Paddy McQuillan start making arrangements for a tea party to celebrate the arrival of Paddy’s twins.
Sunday, 22 August 2010 4.03 p.m. / Repeat Wednesday, 26 August 2010 7.30 p.m.
EPISODE 9 — PADDY McQUILLAN’S TAY PERTY (Part 2)
It’s Paddy McQuillan’s tay perty, and friends and family all gather round to help the McQuillans christen their new twins — Samuel and Jemima. With poetry, songs and a presentation to Maggie, everyone has a great time.
EPISODE 10 — McQUILLAN ABROAD
It’s a sad time in County Down — for Paddy McQuillan and his family have been forced, by their rackrenting landlord, to sell up and emigrate to Canada. All their County Down friends gather to bid them farewell.
Text adapted from BBC sources.
The programmes will also be available after broadcast on the BBC iPlayer.