About | Billy Kay | Odyssey Productions


In Conversation  Graham Spiers   Edinburgh August 16.

Born in Kyle                                        In Production

Scots the Mither Tongue                   On Audible

Indymatters                                        Youtube



In Conversation with Graham Spiers  Edinburgh Festival Fringe  August 16.    

The Stand's New Town Theater

 Delighted to take part in this prestigious series of talks with Graham. I appeared on his Podcast earlier in the year, so I'm looking forward to the intelligent crack once again.

 Tickets here: 





Born in Kyle               In Production

 More details to follow, but delighted to receive a Scots Language publication grant from the Scottish government for my book and Audiobook, which I am aiming to publish in November. It is entirely written in Scots.



Born in Kyle                 

Prolog              2,979 Words      


Ane introductioun tae bein born in Kyle in 1951. 

Setting the book in time and place.




Gugs an Team Rollers.      1,028 Words

Robert an his relationship wi weans, dugs and steamrollers in Gawston.

An educationally challenged man and his sense of belonging.

 Hame        5,159  Words    

 The owerwhelmin sense o community an the responsibeilities that creatit, e.g.  haein tae rin messages for auld fowk. The sharin o left-ower food wi a passin wean. Gettin a lift ower at the fitba. Fitba karma fae Hampden tae Tynecastle. Raffle prizes o bags o coal an the awaurness o auld minin tradeitions in local makars. The homogeneity o the warkin cless identity alang wi an ethnic mell. The comin o televeision in the early 1960s. Twa stories whaur Gawston met the Wild West an a wee boay tint baith his horse an his idol, Davy Crockett.

Home and the responsibilities of belonging and being part of a distinct community in the second half of the twentieth century. Involves cowboys and indians!


The Last Gemme                     1,745 Words  

October 1962 – wee ten an eleiven year auld boays organise the last ever gemme o fitba in case the missile crisis in Cuba leads tae the nuclear destruction o Gawston.

This is coupled with the story of a remarkable coincidence in later life where the author became friends with our man in Cuba who actually told the Americans that the missiles had been moved, Paul Scott.

Ma Mither    2,232   Words    file faimily        

Hou ma mither an faither met, an ma mither's influence on the culture o the hoose, giein us folk tales fae Fife, bairn-rhymes an sangs.

The influence of the author's mother on the Scots culture of the home.

Gaitherin Gear    2,397 Words     

On a wean eident tae colleck ocht he cuid get a haud o – fae coins tae comics an fae fitba cairds tae burd's eggs.

The mania children had for collecting in the pre television era – from football cards to model aeroplanes and comics.

A Guid Scots Tongue in yer Heid     4,272 Words    

Mindin on the leid we spak an the expressions yaised by aulder bodies that wad whiles deave ye, but suin becam pairt o yer ain guid Scots tongue.

Memories of the Scots language growing up. The history of Scots in the area – the pride in it and my parents' use of it, the contrast with Fife.

A Saw for a Sair Leg          3,236  Words   

Scots saws an sayins that hained the wice warld pictur o the fowk.

Proverbs and saying in Scots from my childhood and how they were used.

Worthies an Characters.           1,821 Words 

"Gawston wis thrang wi worthies. Naw… Gawston wis hoatchin wi worthies an characters."

Kyle's conspicuous worthies and  characters in the 1950s and people like Pansy San – Alexander Morton from the recent past.

In The Store                   4,049 Words  

"There wis leeks, leeks, that made ye pee yer breeks, in the Store, in the Store.

There wis leeks, leeks, that made ye pee yer breeks, in the Co-pe-rative Store."


Shops and businesses in the area growing up – the Co-op and all its shops, the Galston Gala Day, the other businesses and a hairdressing legend.

By, Ye Can Heck!     4,231 Words    

Diet, whit the faimily et an drank aw year, syne the importance o the Neu'erday bottle.

The food people ate in working class families back then.

The Grozet Fair      4,351 Words   

Ye kennt ye were different when ye didnae gae tae Blackpool!

The Fair Holidays in Fife at my grandmother's house. My thankfully brief encounter with the sport of boxing. Meeting a girl at a dance in the Miner's Welfare in Lochore, and through her mother being exposed to the fey world of spiritualism and the second sight.

The Gloamin Grey               4,651 Words  

Winchin in the kintrae airts, an ither acteivities that gaed on ootside the toun. Tradeitional gemmes like the the dugs, the boolin, gowf, haund ba an quoits   

Country pursuits with courting couples, long family walks and the prize of ice cream at the end of them. Pitch and Toss and gambling games.

The Dippers   1,833   Words.     

The Dippers wis the name giein tae the evangelical kirk we were sent tae as weans, tae gie oor mither an faither some peace. They stull baptised fowk in watter, hence the name the Dippers.

The role played by the churches in the community - from evangelical Sunday school singing to the Life Boys and the Boys Brigade. Interviewing a radical poacher, and how the Catholic church in Galston was based on the Haga Sophia in Istanbul. 

Auld Labour          1,958 Words     

"Ma faither wis auld labour… naw, ma faither wis auld, auld Labour."  Ma faither an his poleitical an cultural identity.

Shifting political identities in Ayrshire based on a father and son incident during an election campaign in the 1990s.  Portrait of my father and the working class Labour identity.

Fremmit Airts, Fremmit Leids.   4,952 Words  

The lowe in me tae see the warld ayont Ayrshire garred me hitch-hike across Europe fae 15 onward, an gae a schuil trip tae Roushia at 16.

My teenage travels to France, Germany & Russia. A French family, foreign food, the Rhineland, John Maclean in Red Square. My Latin teacher, Mr Malcolm.

Jylehoose Rock         4,373 Words    

Hou Gawston stertit jiggin tae a different soun in the ‘60s as Elvis syne Motown brocht black American music intae warkin cless communities. Ma ain confrontation wi oor black history.

The arrival of rock and roll in the Elvis movie Jailhouse Rock. African American culture in Scotland. William Faulkner, the South and our Black History in Southern Africa.  

Creative Fiction:

O Aw the Airts      3,500 Words

The sangs, poetry an novels that gied the fowk a sense o belangin an a heichtened kennin o wha they were an whaur they cam fae.         

Ayrshire literature/legends of Bruce and Wallace/1820 Radicals/Covenanters/ Douglas Brown/Poe/Galt/Galloway/McIlvanney/Wullie Morrison Customs Story

Bully Boays        2,065  Words 

A Kyle perspective on whit micht be "Scotland's shame" in ither airts, but haurdly existed amang the respectable workin cless in this former minin community.

Childhood experience with neighbour Annie Murray and discovering the Catholic Irish dimension. Football rivalries between Killie and Rangers fans. 

Valley Boays         3,127  Words        

It cuid never gae hame tae England, because it wis boays fae the Irvine Valley, amang ithers, that taught the warld tae kick a baw. We hae a Dreme!                

Scots inventing football and the resentment of English cultural appropriation – from football to tweed and whisky. Fantasy Dreme of a team o Scottish greats.

Gammin Aw Ower the Warld      3,101 Words

Unner the influence o reid biddy an saft drugs, Jackie Copeland fae the Coonty Scheme owersets Bob Marley's Jammin intae Gammin (the Scots word for oral sex). A story thrang wi misogyny an macho boays. 

An exploration of macho culture, where an anti hero waster is saved by a wonderful woman through the transformative power of oral sex.

Famie             1,421  Words           

The rise an faw o the Gawston geggie – the Pictur Hoose,  an the faimily that owned it.         

The decline of the Galston cinema and the family that owned it.

Miracle in Manse Close     1,084 Words    

The ticht sense o belangin that got minin airts through teuch times.

Mining community sharing their last during the 1926 Strike – this ties in with the cairn built by the miners and the Covenanting history of the Cairn.

Inrush at Nummer Fower         1,720 Words   

A scrievit version o oral history tellt tae the author by his granfaither's brither, Matha Kay c 1973 in Gawston.

An eye witness account of the aftermath of a mining disaster in Galston in the 1920s.

Glencoe    805 Words        

A  poem aboot the history o the Valley an the massacre o Glencoe that won a prize at uni, an haes been prentit in anthologies o 20th Century Scottish poetry. 

A prize winning poem set in Kyle and Glencoe, about Scotland.

Word Count       72,000    Words

 25 Chapters.   17 Memoirs. 7 Fiction   1 poem.


 SCOTS: THE MITHER TONGUE    Narrated by Billy Kay  


Latest news:  Over 100 copies sold!     


Scots The Mither Tongue is now available as an Audiobook on Audible UK :   https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/B09LXPTTFY


And Audible in the USA:




Scots Promo

Ower monie's the lang year, fowk hae spierit at Billy Kay whit wey he hadnae gotten roond tae record a soond version o the quair he's kent best for – Scots The Mither Tongue?  His repone wis aye the same: "Kennin the wark that gaes intae recordin a seiven meinute script for the radio, I wis aye awaur o whit an undeemous darg it wad be tae dae a guid recordin o a book that's nearhaun eicht oor lang." Houaniver, like a wheen ither things, the muckle scunner o Covid cheinged things wi the lockdoon garin us aw bide langer at hame an finnd projecks that we cuid dae fae hame. "Noo's the day an noo's the oor" thocht Billy an breenged intae pittin a hame studio thegither an stertin oot on the lang awaited projeck in Januar 2021.

It's noo duin, an he's vauntie aboot recordin aw the braw Scots passages that gie the quair its virr an smeddum – fae the aureate scrievin o the medieval makars in the past tae the orra street wice vyces o the urban workin clesses the day, fae the kenspeckle figures o the vernacular revival, Ramsay, Burns an Fergusson, tae the skeely prose warks o Scott an Stevenson. The chapters on the dialecks o Scots shaws variations in the leid fae aw the airts whaur fowk hae a guid Scots tongue in their mooths, fae Shetland tae Ulster wi stravaigs in the Doric hairtlands an the kintrae that gied us the Border ballads. There's humour galore as weel wi Billy recordin for posterity a story he got in the auld BBC biggin in Glesga lang syne, when a rammy atween twa cleaners there endit wi the puit doon, "Whit'll you dae for a face when King Kong asks for his erse back?"  Fae the patter o Glesga tae the spik o the land, it's aw there.


As a native Scots speaker fae Ayrshire wha studied the leid an its literature at Embro University, there's nae better bodie tae bring this classic quair alive for a new audience. Billy threaped "Wi the interest in Scots warld wide noo, the audio book will help full a tuim void in fowk ayont Scotland's kennin o the leid an hou it shuid be pronoonced."  It will gie fowk a richer experience gin they hae the audio version an the text afore thaim as weel. Wha kens, mebbe it will stairt a Scots revival in a wheen fremmit airts discoverin the soonds o Scots for the verra first time.



SCOTS: THE MITHER TONGUE   Audiobook by Billy Kay    English Promo

Over many years, people have asked Billy Kay why he had not recorded an audio version of this classic book.  Knowing what a huge undertaking it would be, he always cited time and other commitments as the main reasons. The Covid lockdown changed everything, so he finally decided to commit himself to making the historic recording. Historic? Yes, because it will be the first time that iconic passages from the great Scots literary tradition have been recorded and made available in the one place. For most people it will be the first time they have heard the work of writers from Barbour's Brus to RL Stevenson's Thrawn Janet  read out loud by someone steeped in that tradition, who has a deep knowledge of Scots as both a living and a literary language. The combination is powerful with memorable moments from e.g. MacDiarmid and the Border Ballads, from Burns only letter in Scots and from rich examples of every Scots dialect from Shetland to Ulster via the Doric heartlands of the North East.  Scots and Scottish literature enjoy a global following, but outwith Scotland few people know how the language sounds, so this will fill a big gap in those people's knowledge and appreciation of a great tradition.


As a presenter of countless series of award winning documentaries on radio and television over the years, Billy has built up a substantial following for his work and recognition for his distinctive take on Scottish history and culture. This is Rachel McCormack's description of Billy's voice from her book Chasing the Dram. "It's a deep, low, warm, authoritative voice, like an old sherried single cask malt. It's a voice that when broadcast over the airwaves on Radio Scotland, the fish in the deepest waters near Ullapool recognise as Billy Kay. If God ever chose to reveal himself to mortals at the top of a Scottish mountain his best chance of convincing atheists of his existence would be to use Billy Kay's voice"






Time for Reflection               Scottish Parliament  April  26th


I wis gey vauntie tae be invitit tae gie the Time for Reflection speech in Scots by Emma Harper MSP. It created quite a stooshie, wi the majority luein it, an ultra unionist Scots deniers foamin at the mooth ower it's inclusion! Their ignorance is as deep as Loch Ness.  Tae thaim I gie ye the words o Burns.


The mair they talk,

I'm kent the better,

E'en let them clash;

An auld wife's tongue's a feckless matter

To gie ane fash.


It was a privilege to lead the Time for Reflection in the Scottish Parliament on April 26th, and to create a bit of history. This was almost certainly the first speech delivered in Scots since the pre Union parliament of 1707.


Ye can see whit I said by clicking here:




Here is the Scots text:


Thenk ye, Presidin Officer, for giein me this honour o addressin oor National Pairlament.

I'll stairt wi a kenspeckle quote fae Hugh MacDiarmid, ane o the skeeliest makars in Scots leiterature's thoosan year history:

Tae Be Yersel's an tae mak that worth bein/Nae harder job tae mortals has been gien. 

It's maybe even harder for MSPs – for you cannae jist be yersel for yersels – but for aw the sels, aw the sowels, aw the brither an sister Scots fae Maidenkirk tae Johnny Groats and ayont, that ye represent, amang whilk theres ower 1.5 million Scots speakers. 

Noo's the day an noo's the oor tae rax oot an bring their words scrievit on the waws ootside the pairliament intae the hert o this chaumer, words perfit for debate like 

SPEIR  inquire THREAP assert JALOUSE suspect, TAK TENT take care OR IT'S TINT its lost, OR gin ye dinnae want tae be douce ye can hae a FLYTIN – for it's a leid hoatchin wi gleg insults - glaikit gawkit  gowk

In daein sae ye'll raise the international profile o this airt wi words fae fremmit leids that touch us hame - French se facher - dinnae fash yersel –

Dutch hunkers, Scandinavian lugs, an Latin dispone.

Ye'll be howkin as weel fae a gowden seam in yer ain histories

MacDiarmid wis a foundin faither o the National Pairty 

- Fellae makar Cunninghame Graham an his frien Kier Hardie the Labour Pairty

The chiel wha first defined oor democratic intellectualism wis the Conservative Walter Elliot….

The Liberal Gladstone – wis oreiginally Gled Stane, Gled bein Scots for the bird o prey the kite.

An the Greens are thirled tae oor ayebydand land whaur Scots words like smir, caller, haar or gloamin seem tae arise oot the yird itsel an haud oor herts.

But mair important than thon ye'll gie a signal tae weans in the schuil that the culture o their hame is valued bi fowk electit by their mithers an faithers.

Bairns like the quaet wee lass in P2 in Fawkirk wha ran an lowped intae her teachers airms lauchin an greetin wi joy when she furst heard her mither tongue in cless,

or the sweirt learners in Dundee, dour teenage boays wha gaed tae the tap o the cless for the first time when the langage they yaised ilka day cam intae the schuil in books they then devoured

…an never luikit back.

 Scottish weans transformed learnin a Scottish leid.   

A nation whaur naebody's excludit and awbody kens they belang – shuirly, dear Members o the Scottish Pairliament, thon's weel worth bein yersel for.





Anyone in search of my programmes when they are no longer available on BBC Sounds, should head over to the Youtube channel Indymatters. They have uploaded a number of my archive series, so you might well find what you are looking for there: