IT’S spring 2016 an A’m comin tae the end o a tour o ma theatre shaw anent the Scots leid O Is For Hoolet. A’d performed the shaw aw ower the kintra – in schuils, big theatres, wee community centres, an here A wis, aboot tae finish in Scotland’s smawest theatre – The Swallow, in Gallowa. At the end o thae shaws we hid Q&As whaur audience memmers fired awthin at me frae “hoo dae ye get yer ideas?”tae “does it maitter that Scots his nae standart/staunart/stannert form?”.

But this time A got: “An hoo dae ye think this relates tae Ulster Scots?” A wis tongue-tackit. A said the twa hings A kent aboot Ulster Scots – it’s got muckle in common wi Scots, but it’s complicatit by sectarianism – an then A skytit oan.

Thon wis the stert o me, at 30-year-auld, really thinkin aboot the linguistic history o the island o Ireland. Tae be frank, it wis my first time thinkin ower muckle aboot the history o Northern Ireland (Norlin Airlan in Ulster Scots) at aw. A thocht that seein as we hid St Patrick’s Dey this Sunday past, an the green bunnets micht weil still grace oor pubs this weekend, we suid tak a mínute tae luik ower the watter. No haein duin so durin the Brexit referendum cuid yet jigger anither generation or twa o fowk wha bides there (an here).

A’m no sayin a kent naethin aboot oor nearest neebour. A mind as a twal-year-auld bein scunnert that the BBC cancelled Neighbours (aye, the programme aboot hoo awbody needs guid neebours) so they cuid shaw the signin o the Guid Friday Agreement in 1998. A had freens at the university frae Northern Ireland wha seemed unco apolítical, until A heard them read their ain poems aboot bein shiftit aboot tae avoid car bombs whan they were the age A hid been watchin Neighbours, an A unnerstuid a bittie mair. A’d been at college wi a lassie frae Derry wha yaised Scots wards. A thocht she wis pittin it oan until A went tae her waddin in Derry an saw English, Irish an Ulster Scots awthegither oan signs. Nae bother.

Or sae A thocht. A’m still a wee bairnie whan it cams tae learnin aboot the complicatit fankle o socio-linguistic history in the island o Ireland, but ae hing A can noo sey wi certainty, naethin aboot it is “nae bother”.

Lest year A hid O Is For Hoolet ower at the Corrymeela Community, a glorious peace an reconciliation centre at Ballycastle on the north Antrim coast. Ye can SEE Scotland, jist 14 mile awa, through the winnocks at the centre. The first question a got frae thon Corrymeela audience: “Whit relígion is Scots speakers in Scotland?”. Ma ainswer wis near as eloquent as whan A’d first been askit aboot Ulster Scots twa year afore.

The “same-but-different” feel A hid aboot the life o Scots/Scottish Gaelic, compared wi Ulster Scots/Irish, wis emphasised by an ee-openin talk bi the mervellous Linda Ervine. Linda is a Protestant unionist frae Belfast. She is also a Irish Language Officer. In Northern Ireland, thae twa hings dinnae gang thegither. Whit struck me an ma ither hauf as we sat in the stowed-oot ruim tae hear Linda speak wis that hings that shocked us wis naethin new fir the local audience, but hings we tuik fir grantit wis big revelations fir thaim.

Bein a minority-leid activist in Scotland gets ye an unendin supply o remarks aboot “slang” an “tax payer money on bilingual signage” in the comments section (bi fowk proclaimin they “haven’t read the article” – ee-roll emoji). Fir Linda, bein a minority-leid activist means checkin unner yer motor fir bombs.

Fir some Protestants, Irish Gaelic is a “foreign language”. Indeed, it’s the collyshangie aboot whether Ulster Scots suid hae equal fundin an recognítion tae Irish Gaelic that wis the final strae that his left them wioot a warkin assemblie fir years.

Ane o the hings that got the biggest oohs-an-ahs frae the Antrim audience wis Linda’s revelation that maist Scots Gaelic speakers is Presbyterians. She played a clip o a congregation in the Western Isles singin a Gaelic psalm in the maist Wee Free mainner ye can imagine. The ruim wis dumfoonert. Me an ma man wis aw, “Aye. Obv.”

Linda set up an Irish language college cried Turas – Irish fir “journey” – in Protestant East Belfast. Fowk cam tae lessons there wha couldnae get tae Irish Gaelic classes oan the tither side o the Peace Wa as it wis socially, if no practically, impossible. Some o her pupils (an she’s an Irish learner an aw) were een loyalist paramilitaries wha had got interestit in the Gaelic in the jyle.

An sae, as we sit in the complicatit green breenge o St Patrick’s festivities, an we heid alang the year tae the complicatit Orange blorange o Julie, mibbe we can luik tae oor Western neebours an learn frae the connectin, supportin an unitin wark they’re daein wi their leids, as weil as their problems. Thon’s whan guid neebours become guid freens.