Hawick writer brings ‘Alice’ to life in Scots

The back cover page of Cameron halfpenny's new translation of Alice in Wonderland into Scots dialect to mark the 150th anniversary of the book's original publication
The back cover page of Cameron halfpenny's new translation of Alice in Wonderland into Scots dialect to mark the 150th anniversary of the book's original publication

The first translation into Border Scots of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been done by Cameron Halfpenny, originally from Hawick.

Ahlice’s Adveentuurs in Wunderlannt was commissioned by the Lewis Carroll Society of North America, as part of its ‘Alice 150: Celebrating Wonderland’ conference to mark the 150th anniversary of the book’s first publication in 1865.

Hawick writer Cameron Halfpenny

Hawick writer Cameron Halfpenny

Cameron’s unique edition was part of the society’s ‘Alice in Translation’ exhibition in New York City last October. He has also produced a back-translation of The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in ‘Alice in a World of Wonderlands’, a major collection of Alice works published by the society.

Cameron told us: “I was discussing new writing opportunities with Scots poet Rab Wilson, who was familiar with my work as Scotland’s first Poet in Residence to a football club, writing about Queen of the South FC for three seasons.

“Rab set me on the path to finding the Alice 150 project, and my experience as a comedy writer, football poet and lover of nonsense helped me to get on board.

“When I started to change the words of such a familiar text, the challenge of bringing a Borders dialect to life in written form really hit home. Finding reliable written sources for a dialect that is primarily an oral one took nearly as long as the translation itself.

“But when the end result includes Borders favourites like ‘gliff’, ‘teesh’, ‘muckle’ and ‘stramash’, I saw that the shires of Roxburgh and Selkirk have a vitality and energy to their language that enhances the telling of Alice’s tale.”

He plans to promote written Scots by showcasing the Alice 150 project and his translation across the Borders in the coming months. However, his version is just one of a number of translations into Scots. “The society wanted a translation into every dialect of Scots, so these can be used as an academic resource for comparison of Scots being spoken across the country at a single moment in time,” explained Cameron, who now lives in South Lanarkshire.

•Ahlice’s Adveentuurs in Wunderlaant is available from Amazon and bookshops.