Belfast Telegraph

Larne blue plaque honour for Ulster-Scots expert

Professor Robert John Gregg was one of Larne's most gifted sons
Professor Robert John Gregg was one of Larne's most gifted sons
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

A Co Antrim-born academic in Ulster-Scots studies is to be recognised in his home town.

The life of Professor Robert John Gregg, one of Larne's most gifted sons, will be marked on Thursday when his son William unveils a blue plaque in his honour.

William, who lives in Toronto, is travelling to Larne especially to unveil the town's first Ulster History Circle blue plaque.

The plaque will be at the Larne Museum, formerly the Carnegie Library, a place that would have been well-known to Robert Gregg as a young boy.

Born on July 2 1912 on the Glenarm Road, Robert was the eldest son of Thomas Gregg and Margaret McDowell.

His grandfather George Gregg had set up a very successful road contracting business and many of the roads in and around Larne were built by his company. The young Robert attended Larne Grammar School, and graduated from Queen's University in Belfast with a BA Honours in languages.

He attributed his interest in the Ulster-Scots dialect from a very early age to his mother and his McDowell aunts, whose farm was in the Glynn/Gleno area, where it was thriving.

Robert began collecting linguistic material and by 1930 he had started intensive research into Ulster-Scots, which was to last for seven decades.

His passion for languages led to a very successful early career as senior modern language master at Regent House School in Newtownards and senior master at the Belfast Mercantile College.

In 1954 he emigrated to Canada with his wife Millicent and family.

He taught in Vancouver for the next 25 years, becoming assistant professor of French at the University of British Columbia; then in 1969 as professor in the department of linguistics, and finally as head of that department from 1972-1980, when after a distinguished career, he retired.

His years in Canada saw him set up a language laboratory in the University of British Columbia, write at least six articles on the English spoken in Vancouver and the surrounding area, and edit the prestigious Gage Dictionary of Canadian English.

Much of Professor Gregg's own material was donated to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, and he was very generous in making all his research available to others.

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