‘Culchie and Proud’ – BBC Radio programme explores the concept of ‘culchie’

March 23, 2015

A BBC Radio Ulster programme which examines the concept of being a “culchie” is set to hit the airwaves at the end of this month.

Stories In Sound: Culchie and Proud, produced by Mullaghbawn native Louise McCreesh, takes listeners from Kilrea to Crossmaglen, through the country roads of Tandragee and Pomeroy and as far along as Cong in County Mayo, to sample the rural richness of accent and dialect to be found in the countryside.  According to Louise, despite its original derogatory connotations, the term “culchie” is often worn more recently as a badge of honour, as many country people demonstrate a deep sense of pride in their rural backgrounds and communities.

“We wanted to tread carefully when speaking to people about the term culchie so as not to cause any offence but it was amazing how many people were happy to admit to being a culchie – and in fact considered it a badge of honour,” Louise told The Examiner.

Hailing from rural Mullaghbawn herself Louise is no stranger to the term and says she first heard it when she attended secondary school in Newry.

“I didn’t realise I was a culchie until I went to Newry and that’s what we girls from the rural areas were referred to as!” she says,

“Being from a country background and, having lived in various cities since university, I’ve often thought about where I now sit on the “culchie” spectrum.  Since making the documentary, I tend to agree with one of the contributors who asserts that “once a culchie, always a culchie.”

“The accents, stories and dialects found in rural areas never fail to entertain and surprise me and the programme was a delight to make and it was great to meet the contributors, each of whom was “outstanding” in their own field.

The programme hears from self-confessed ‘Culchie Gangster’ – Martin Hearty former Bard of Armagh,  Kings of the Culchies, young farmers clubs and a host of country people as it explores the accents, dialects, characteristics and customs that make the world of the ‘culchie’ unique. South Armagh listeners will hear a few familiar voices as local contributors have their say.  Indeed, local men Pius and Benny Tierney – well known for their long and strong association with Lislea Drama group provide the listener with a glossary of culchie words and phrases that crop up throughout the programme.

Crossmaglen girl Eva Conlon explains the words “munia, rulia, feen and beor” to BBC listeners and laughs about her experiences as a student from south Armagh living in Belfast:

“I’m studying in university in Belfast at the minute and going from south Armagh to Belfast and trying to use the language is not working well,” says Eva.

“No one has a clue what you’re trying to say and you have to think, what is that supposed to be in English?  I find that whenever you’re in Belfast, you try to just get along with everyone, sometimes the words just slip out and you’re thinking I didn’t mean to say that, and people look at you like “What? I don’t know what you’re saying.”

The programme also features Linguistics Professor Alison Henry, who talks about the origins of dialect and how differences can be so pronounced from village to village.

“Professor Henry also reveals how people can sometimes be discriminated against because of a rural accent and how that shouldn’t be acceptable but somehow is acceptable even in terms of employment,” says producer Louise,  “so while there’s definitely a tongue-in-cheek feel to the programme there are some serious cultural and social undertones examined as well.”

Louise, who is a Radio Producer for BBC Gaelige and produces the Irish Language Radio Programme “Blas”, hopes the programme will strike a chord with her fellow south Armagh listeners as well as “culchies” up and down the country.

Stories in Sound: Culchie and Proud will be broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle on Sunday 29 March at 12.30pm (Repeated Thursday 2 April at 7.30pm)