Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure




The Northern Ireland Act 1998 requires the Executive to adopt a strategy setting out how it proposes to enhance and protect the development of the Irish language and Ulster-Scots culture, heritage and language. DCAL has prepared a Strategy for Ulster Scots Language, Heritage and Culture which can be downloaded below. The Academy will be an important element in that Strategy.


The Belfast / Good Friday Agreement of 1998 acknowledged the importance of respect, understanding and tolerance in relation to linguistic diversity, with specific reference to Ulster-Scots. In April 2003, the Joint Declaration by the British and Irish Governments committed the British Government to take steps to encourage support to be made available to an Ulster-Scots Academy. The Ministerial Advisory Group (MAG) on the Ulster-Scots Academy (known as MAGUS) was established in March 2011 and first met on 12 May 2011.



Our remit is to:

  • produce a holistic multi-year Development and Research Strategy for the Ulster-Scots sector
  • oversee the implementation of the Strategy
  • progress the Ulster-Scots Academy approach
  • identify and support discrete projects under three streams of activity known as work streams (language and literature; history, heritage and culture; education and research)
  • advise the Minister on these matters

Strategic objectives

We have adopted the following strategic objectives:

  • contribute to building broad knowledge and understanding of Ulster-Scots traditions in Ireland, Scotland and further afield
  • identify, consider and progress options for the creation of a physical Ulster-Scots Academy
  • promote coherence within the Ulster-Scots sector
  • maximise the impact of the resources available to the Ulster-Scots Academy
  • secure the broadest possible support for the sector and its work across the community in Northern Ireland and for the Academy  
  • tackle poverty and social exclusion and their causes in taking forward the Academy approach

Partnership Approach

We work together with the Department, the Ulster-Scots Community Network, the Ulster-Scots Language Society, the Ullans Speakers’ Association, the Ulster-Scots Agency, academic institutions, statutory and voluntary bodies and community networks. Our work complements theirs.


The MAGUS comprises delegates from four Ulster-Scots organisations, alongside four members and an independent chair appointed through public competition. We were all appointed for up to four years.

The Chair, Dr Bill Smith, is a former public servant with extensive experience of government and administration. He has been chairing strategic management groups in the voluntary and public sectors since 1994. He is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Politics, International Relations and Philosophy at Queen’s University Belfast, and a published author with the US Institute of Peace.

Dr John McCavitt is a teacher with almost twenty five years’ experience. He has engaged in research on early seventeenth century history. He was an historical consultant to the Ulster-Scots Agency for the Hamilton and Montgomery commemoration, 2006.

Dr David Hume MBE has been involved in Ulster-Scots community activities for many years. He has published books and research papers on Ulster-Scots history, people and events as well as contributing to radio programmes and journals and delivering talks on Ulster-Scots language and heritage.

Dr Ivan Herbison is a university lecturer with nearly thirty years’ experience. Dr Herbison has been engaged for many years in researching the poetic traditions of Ulster-Scots.

Tom Scott OBE is Chair of the Board of the Ulster-Scots Agency. He was until 2005, a Northern Ireland senior civil servant latterly with the Department for Employment and Learning.

Iain Carlisle from the Ulster-Scots Community Network has acquired a comprehensive knowledge of the Ulster-Scots community through close involvement with a wide range of projects and events.

John Erskine, now retired, was previously the Acting Head of Library and Learning Resources in Stranmillis College. He has completed extensive research into the Ulster-Scots language and literature and is a member of the Board of the Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund.

There are currently two vacancies in the MAGUS, which the Department has undertaken to fill as quickly as practicable.

The MAGUS is supported by a small secretariat located in the Department’s offices at Causeway Exchange, Belfast.


The MAGUS prepared a consultative document containing proposals for an Ulster-Scots Development and Research Strategy and Grant Scheme. The Department published it for public consultation on 15th October 2012 for an eight week consultation period which ended on 7th December 2012. There were two public consultation events in November 2012, in Lisburn and Omagh. Minister Caral Ní Chuilín and Minister Nelson McCausland attended the Lisburn event. The MAGUS and the Department were represented at both events.

In response to the comments received, the MAGUS and Department produced a final version of the Strategy, which the Department published on 27 June 2013 to coincide with the launch of the Grant Scheme.

The full text of the Strategy is available for download here.


The Strategy identifies our priorities for future funding across our three work streams. We have issued a call for proposals through our Development and Research Grant Scheme. For guidance and application materials please see links below.

Examples of Current and Completed Projects


A scoping study to determine the extent of the Ulster-Scots archives held in museums, libraries and other organisations has been completed. This provides an overview of existing Ulster-Scots materials which are an important resource for the community and researchers. We are now exploring how best to open up access to these archives in light of the recommendations in the study. MAG has recently completed work on the preservation of and access to the Presbyterian Historical Society’s archives. We have also funded a survey of the range, content and extent of the administrative archives held by the PHSI, Union Theological College, The Presbyterian Church of Ireland, The Non Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland.

Ulster-Scots Poetry Project

The University of Ulster has recently completed work on the first digital database of John Hewitt’s collection of Ulster-Scots writings, making selected texts available at no cost, to a global audience.

Archaeological Survey

We have commissioned a substantial archaeological survey of everyday life in the Plantation period. This will identify and document key sites and monuments of historical and archaeological significance over a three year period. The first dig took place in September 2012 at Servants' Hill, Bangor and the second is currently underway at Derrywoone Castle, Barons court.

Heritage tourism

We have commissioned a number of heritage tourism products and services in conjunction with local government, including North Down and Ards, Lisburn, Newtownabbey, Carrickfergus, Derry/Londonderry, Strabane and Omagh Councils.

Raven Maps

Sir James Hamilton employed Thomas Raven to survey his estates in 1625/6. Raven’s maps are housed in the North Down Museum. They have international importance in the study of colonisation and cartography.  In partnership with North Down Borough Council, we have supported the digitisation of these maps.

Town Charters

The 400th anniversary of the Ulster Plantation is underway. Urbanisation was a key aspect of this process. MAGUS has undertaked a partnership research project with the Ulster Historical Foundation on the impact and contribution of the award of Charters. Along with our partners in the Ulster Scots Agency, we are developing a programme of events to mark the award of Charters of Incorporation to forty towns and cities across Ireland.

The Town Charters Project and Travelling Exhibition was launched by the MAGUS Chair, Dr. Bill Smith at Belfast City Hall on Tuesday 22nd October. For details on the launch, click here. To find out where the exhibition will be travelling to, click here.

Music Scoping Study

A scoping study is nearing completion which will capture the current extent, state and main streams in the Ulster-Scots musical inheritance. It will include recommendations for the future development and promotion of Ulster-Scots music in all its aspects.

Education and Digitisation

The MAGUS is shortly to commence a major programme of support for Ulster-Scots education, including the digitisation of key texts, an award scheme for creative writing in Ulster-Scots and the creation of a substantial archival database. The products will include educational materials, proposed curricula for schools, educational outreach activities, annual conferences and two significant publications.

Ulster Scots Spelling Guide and Glossary

‘The English/Ulster-Scots Glossary’ and ‘The Spelling and Pronunciation Guide’ compiled by the Ulster-Scots Academy Implementation Group and funded by the MAGUS were published in March 2013. Copies are available at the links below. Comments and suggestions for amendments may be submitted to the MAGUS’s Orthography Panel at


In conjunction with the Ulster-Scots Agency, the MAGUS has funded the publication of ‘The Minutes of the Antrim Ministers’ Meeting 1654-8’ edited by Mark Sweetnam, which records the business of leaders of the Ulster-Scots community at a formative period in its history.

Links to other websites of interest

BBC Ulster-Scots

Ulster-Scots Community Network

Ulster-Scots Language Society

Ulster-Scots Agency

Ulster Scots Agency Facebook page

Scottish Language Centre

University of Ulster Poetry Project

Available Downloads

The Ulster Convenant and Scotland - report

Research Scoping Study: Ulster-Scots Music Traditions

The English-Ulster Scots Glossary

The Spelling and Pronunciation Guide

Development and Research Strategy

Development and Research Grant Scheme Application Form £10k-75k

Development and Research Grant Scheme Application Form £5k-10k

Sample Letter of Offer

Annual Report 2012-2013

Ulster And Scotland Conference - Info And How To Register

Ulster-Scots Contributions To A Shared Inheritance


North Down and Ards App

Ulster-Scots Visitor Experience App

Related Links