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Billy Kay (b.1951)

Writer and Broadcaster

Billy Kay was born in Galston and was educated at Galston High School before transferring to Kilmarnock Academy. He graduated in English Literature from the University of Edinburgh.

Kay now lives in Newport-on-Tay, Fife. He has published poetry, a play and short stories, and he has also co-written Knee Deep in Claret: a celebration of wine and Scotland (1983) and edited The Dundee Book: an anthology of living in the city (1990). But it is his work for radio and television for which he is best known. His radio series 'Odyssey' gave rise to two books: Odyssey: voices from Scotland's recent past (1980) and Odyssey: the second collection (1982). They were exercises in oral history, preserving testimonies from Scotland's working classes such as the lace workers of Kay's native Irvine Valley. His TV series 'The Mither Tongue', a survey of the history and current state of the Scots language, also produced a book of the same title (1993).

In his work Kay has been concerned to explore Scottish culture. His approach is fresh and modern in its use of oral history and valuing of the Scots language. He pays attention to forgotten and marginalized peoples within Scotland: Glengarnock steelworkers, the Lanarkshire Lithuanians, Dundee jute workers. He points to the ways in which spoken Scots is still vibrant and he is part of a contemporary move to keep it central to Scotland's culture. Kay's oeuvre is part of a reassessment of what it means to be Scottish.