By Steph Swales Community Planning Officer
Aberdeen shire

For Inspiring Aberdeenshire – account of Doric Future/ Doric TV

‘Doric language – let’s keep it guan’ Doric belangs te you an me: it’s in the quait o the countryside an the steer o the toons; it’s in the land, the sky an the sea; it’s in the wealth o culture an heritage; it’s in the lives o oor ain folk, past an present, their sangs, stories, an their rich, expressive tongue. Debbie Leslie – ‘Bittie aboot oor Doric Dialec)

This nomination is for Jill McWilliam, and what originally began as a humble vision to capture and preserve a part of the scot’s language ‘Doric’, which led onto become a dedicated life’s work to present a contemporary approach to our culture ‘today ‘ for all ages and backgrounds, to be able to grasp and inspire folk from all over the world. A few short videos over 25 years ago laid the foundations for what is now the Doric Youtube Channel, Doric Future Website and more recently Doric TV, providing a focus on language, heritage and culture through interviews with local people, well known faces such as Iona Fyfe and Evelyn Glennie, showcasing many towns and villages throughout the North-east and other parts of Scotland, promoting local talent through music, poetry, stories, performances, and crafts and highlighting some of our industries with interviews ‘wi local folk’ about fishing and farming.

Across all 3 platforms, Jill’s videos have been watched by thousands of people living in Scotland and all over the world including New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and America. People with an interest in scots language, Scotland and the NE, and those with a connection or affinity to this part of the world. A momentous feat when considering Doric is Scotland’s little-known fourth “language” after English, Gaelic and Scots, in what has been described as ‘colourful yet guttural’, it is nonetheless officially protected by the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. People listening into a recent broadcast for ABC Australia (28.03.21) met Jill through the airwaves, who described herself as a bit ‘halliracket’, joining the show to ‘hae a wee blether’ covering ‘a bit of athing’ on the history and culture of Aberdeenshire and to ‘hiv’ an exchange of Doric words, which the host described as ‘singularly spectacular’, encouraging viewers to give these a go.

Jill who was interviewed on the 22nd of March 2021, for a BBC article ‘aboot’ Doric explains her lifelong passion and interest for the language “One of the driving forces is for our voices to be heard for centuries to come, I want to capture our way of life, to pass on our cultural history as a digital archive to the next generation. It’s an oral, living, social history that helps connect people and places – and hopefully it lets others feel something of the privilege we have in living where we do.”

Since Jill established the Doric platforms back in 2019, there have been many notable milestones including:

• Networking and bringing people together • A nomination for the ‘Business Woman Scotland of the Year Award 2020’ in the Social Impact Category

• Various videos and documentations of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the Buchan and surrounding areas of NE Scotland. For example, Jackie Stuart of Peterhead Prison, local musicians, people in farming, crafts – all portraying the culture and often the language of the North East.

• Oral history – interviewing elderly members of communities in the NE to capture their life stories and the history of the area they live. • Liaising with the Elphinstone Institute so they can archive over 120 videos made to date of people, places etc for future generations to see.

• Highlighting good causes – for example Maggie’s Centre for cancer patients in Aberdeen

• Creating a series of interviews with people who speak of their passion for our culture here in the NE to show what is going on in the wider picture of our culture, for example – Evelyn Glennie, Iona Fyfe, Prof. Robert Millar of Aberdeen University – Scots Language Linguist, Dr Tom McKean of Elphinstone Institute, who promotes the Doric Culture and Language of this area.

• Providing videos for Visit Aberdeenshire to help promote the area • Creating the Doric TV facebook page, to help engage with a wider audience

• Featuring in the BBC /Travel online platform – which can be read all over the world • Creation and launch of Doric TV – with the help of a fellow village resident, Gordon MacKay • Creating a series of lockdown videos including ‘zoom’ interviews which can be viewed at

• Features in the Buchan Observer, Press & Journal, The Scotsman, Scottish Field, STV Originally from the Buchan area, Jill began videoing when living in Inverness 25 years ago whilst volunteering in a highland hospice, dedicating her spare time to visiting old people and organising singing parties within old folks’ homes. It was then she started to interview people with a basic camcorder, so she could have a keepsake of memorable people and their stories. However, a number of personal challenges including health concerns changed Jill’s course in life, resulting in a return to Aberdeenshire with a young family and what she described as her saving grace – her camcorder, and a way to escape through the lens of her camera.

One of her first projects was a year filming Cruden Bay and the life of the village, resulting in a video released in 2000, selling 650 copies and was the talk of the town! Although health concerns continued to affect Jill over the next 15 years including a diagnosis for a bipolar condition, she remained active through an involvement in many voluntary groups especially in mental health and learning disabilities to help people with their creativity and culture.

Jill also took part in the North East Open Studios to showcase her photography capturing the local area and worked as a PSA in a school where she was able to utilise her filming skills to help bring out the best of the pupils’ achievements whilst helping to get them to think about their Doric culture. Jill has been candid about her struggles over the years, although she feels this is all relevant to the extraordinary events which led up to the new Jill emerging and how difficult it was to create something like Doric TV. In the preparation of this nomination and as a person who knows Jill, I feel that she has embraced her experience of the road to recovery as something remarkably positive, to embody a close affinity to the people she has connected with, to make so many marvellous films, to create a lasting legacy of all the wonderful people and their stories who share a great love for the Doric language and culture. It is absolutely staggering to think this has been achieved by Jill’s sheer and absolute determination in terms of time, commitment, resolve and real dedication. It is this drive to continue to shine a light on the NE, that have given Jill even more inspiring ideas now and in the future:

• Starting a series of walking videos in the wide-open spaces of Aberdeenshire, to help people looking to improve their mental and physical wellbeing as part mitigating the impacts of the COVID pandemic

• In March 2021, engaging with Robert Gordon’s University in Aberdeen to provide an opportunity for 2 journalist placement students, to give them experience and to help develop Doric TV

• Also, in March 2021, formulating the Doric TV Zoom Team – who are a group of individuals representing our Doric culture and language in different ways, from different backgrounds and areas in the North East to help plan future developments.

• Being awarded a place in the Doric Film Festival to make a 5-minute film, the theme is ‘just far I bide’ and Jill has engaged with 2 other people who have brought in their skills to collectively create the film

• Plans to enthuse schools and engage with teachers, so they can have a resource that pupils of all ages can begin to use to relate to their culture here today.

• Plans to engage with nursing homes to help stimulate the elderly, so they can recall the culture they were brought up in and to let them know their contribution to our culture hasn’t been forgotten.

• To continue to promote Doric using the banner ‘Past and present we can inform and shape the future’ To conclude, this nomination for Jill in the Culture category is about the work she has achieved in establishing a platform for the Doric Language at home and worldwide, however it is also about how this has created a unique celebration of Aberdeenshire, of its people, its heritage and culture, about what makes us different from other parts of Scotland. I like to think that Jill has reminded us that there is ‘a little bit of Doric in all of us’, as we use many of these words in our everyday language to help express our thoughts and emotions of what we are saying but also to exude the pride and connection we feel to this part of the world we feel immensely proud to be part of.

Steph Swales

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