About | Billy Kay | Odyssey Productions


Born in Kyle                                   Book & Events

A Time for Reflection                    Scottish Parliament

Scots the Mither Tongue                        On Audible

Indymatters                                            Youtube


 Born in Kyle   

 The book is now published and is available in Paperback & Hardback and on Kindle & Audible.

 If you would like a signed copy and can pay by BACS transfer, please e mail me with your details: billy@billykay.scot   For an address in the UK, the cost would be £11 for the paperback and £16 for the hardback.


Here are links to formats on Amazon. You can see them all by visiting my Author Page:





Kindle Edition:



Hardcover Edition:




Paperback Edition:




Audiobook Edition:




Book Launch Events Kilmarnock November 25    


Many thanks to East Ayrshire Leisure for hosting the launch of my book in the Community Centre, Galston and the Dick Institute, Kilmarnock. Both events are free, but you need to register byclicking below. Hope to see lots of friends and family there.




 Born in Kyle National Library of Scotland  Edinburgh

January 23rd   1730        

 More details to follow but I will be joined by the wonderful Scots singer Robyn Stapleton to celebrate the culture of Ayrshire and         




A Love Letter tae an Ayrshire Childhood


Naebody has duin mair than Billy Kay tae mak fowk awaur o the pouer an beauty o their guid Scots tongue, an tae gie it its richtfu place at the hert o the national culture. In Born in Kyle, Kay gaes back tae his ain linguistic ruits in the toun o Gawston in Ayrshire's Irvine Valley, an scrieves vieve memoirs o growin up there in the saicont hauf o the 20th century. But he duis mair than that in a steirin mell o creative non-fiction an gleg short stories that create a sense o place wi a historie gaun back hunners o years an a sense o belangin for aw the fowk that appear here; fae glaikit gomerils tae wice worthies, fae guid sowels tae sleekit nyaffs, fae braw lassies tae gallus laddies, fae heidbangers tae fitba pioneers! Billy Kay lues the airt an the fowk he cam fae, sae the lowe o this shines bricht in this, his celebration o wha we are.



One of the most important figures in the Scots revival of the late 20th and early 21st centuries is Billy Kay. Through radio, television, plays, creative writing and especially his hugely influential book Scots The Mither Tongue, Kay's work helped change people's negative perception of Scots and paved the way for its acceptance as a key element in Scottish cultural identity. In Born in Kyle Kay goes back to his own linguistic and cultural roots and celebrates a sense of place and belonging in his native Galston in Ayrshire's Irvine Valley. Looking back, Kay realises that his was the last of the pre-television generations, and life was lived in a strong Scots-speaking environment which would be eroded when television in English was beamed into every household from the early 1960s onwards. In a vivid, gutsy and realistic Scots prose shot through with humour, Kay brings alive the characters he grew up with, some in personally recalled memoirs, others in short stories which bring out a history and a literary history inherited by local folk going back hundreds of years. This is his love letter to working class life in small town Scotland.


Hardback ISBN  978-1-9993309-4-1                                   £16.99



"He has shown us images of ourselves that don't conspire with the prevailing media coverage – half pantomime, half Hollywood – and he has shown us that we can and do speak naturally and easily in a language of grace,dignity and power. Much of his work has been moving, delightful, even inspiring."


Cover images: Author pic by Louis DeCarlo; other photos courtesy of the author.   Cover design:  James Hutcheson




PAPERBACK  EDITION    £9.99   ISBN     978-1-9993309-3-4




SCOTS: THE MITHER TONGUE    Narrated by Billy Kay  


Latest news:  Over 1000 copies sold!     


Scots The Mither Tongue is now available as an Audiobook on Audible UK :   https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/B09LXPTTFY


And Audible in the USA:




Scots Promo

Ower monie's the lang year, fowk hae spierit at Billy Kay whit wey he hadnae gotten roond tae record a soond version o the quair he's kent best for – Scots The Mither Tongue?  His repone wis aye the same: "Kennin the wark that gaes intae recordin a seiven meinute script for the radio, I wis aye awaur o whit an undeemous darg it wad be tae dae a guid recordin o a book that's nearhaun eicht oor lang." Houaniver, like a wheen ither things, the muckle scunner o Covid cheinged things wi the lockdoon garin us aw bide langer at hame an finnd projecks that we cuid dae fae hame. "Noo's the day an noo's the oor" thocht Billy an breenged intae pittin a hame studio thegither an stertin oot on the lang awaited projeck in Januar 2021.

It's noo duin, an he's vauntie aboot recordin aw the braw Scots passages that gie the quair its virr an smeddum – fae the aureate scrievin o the medieval makars in the past tae the orra street wice vyces o the urban workin clesses the day, fae the kenspeckle figures o the vernacular revival, Ramsay, Burns an Fergusson, tae the skeely prose warks o Scott an Stevenson. The chapters on the dialecks o Scots shaws variations in the leid fae aw the airts whaur fowk hae a guid Scots tongue in their mooths, fae Shetland tae Ulster wi stravaigs in the Doric hairtlands an the kintrae that gied us the Border ballads. There's humour galore as weel wi Billy recordin for posterity a story he got in the auld BBC biggin in Glesga lang syne, when a rammy atween twa cleaners there endit wi the puit doon, "Whit'll you dae for a face when King Kong asks for his erse back?"  Fae the patter o Glesga tae the spik o the land, it's aw there.


As a native Scots speaker fae Ayrshire wha studied the leid an its literature at Embro University, there's nae better bodie tae bring this classic quair alive for a new audience. Billy threaped "Wi the interest in Scots warld wide noo, the audio book will help full a tuim void in fowk ayont Scotland's kennin o the leid an hou it shuid be pronoonced."  It will gie fowk a richer experience gin they hae the audio version an the text afore thaim as weel. Wha kens, mebbe it will stairt a Scots revival in a wheen fremmit airts discoverin the soonds o Scots for the verra first time.



SCOTS: THE MITHER TONGUE   Audiobook by Billy Kay    English Promo

Over many years, people have asked Billy Kay why he had not recorded an audio version of this classic book.  Knowing what a huge undertaking it would be, he always cited time and other commitments as the main reasons. The Covid lockdown changed everything, so he finally decided to commit himself to making the historic recording. Historic? Yes, because it will be the first time that iconic passages from the great Scots literary tradition have been recorded and made available in the one place. For most people it will be the first time they have heard the work of writers from Barbour's Brus to RL Stevenson's Thrawn Janet  read out loud by someone steeped in that tradition, who has a deep knowledge of Scots as both a living and a literary language. The combination is powerful with memorable moments from e.g. MacDiarmid and the Border Ballads, from Burns only letter in Scots and from rich examples of every Scots dialect from Shetland to Ulster via the Doric heartlands of the North East.  Scots and Scottish literature enjoy a global following, but outwith Scotland few people know how the language sounds, so this will fill a big gap in those people's knowledge and appreciation of a great tradition.


As a presenter of countless series of award winning documentaries on radio and television over the years, Billy has built up a substantial following for his work and recognition for his distinctive take on Scottish history and culture. This is Rachel McCormack's description of Billy's voice from her book Chasing the Dram. "It's a deep, low, warm, authoritative voice, like an old sherried single cask malt. It's a voice that when broadcast over the airwaves on Radio Scotland, the fish in the deepest waters near Ullapool recognise as Billy Kay. If God ever chose to reveal himself to mortals at the top of a Scottish mountain his best chance of convincing atheists of his existence would be to use Billy Kay's voice"






Time for Reflection               Scottish Parliament  April  26th


I wis gey vauntie tae be invitit tae gie the Time for Reflection speech in Scots by Emma Harper MSP. It created quite a stooshie, wi the majority luein it, an ultra unionist Scots deniers foamin at the mooth ower it's inclusion! Their ignorance is as deep as Loch Ness.  Tae thaim I gie ye the words o Burns.


The mair they talk,

I'm kent the better,

E'en let them clash;

An auld wife's tongue's a feckless matter

To gie ane fash.


It was a privilege to lead the Time for Reflection in the Scottish Parliament on April 26th, and to create a bit of history. This was almost certainly the first speech delivered in Scots since the pre Union parliament of 1707.


Ye can see whit I said by clicking here:




Here is the Scots text:


Thenk ye, Presidin Officer, for giein me this honour o addressin oor National Pairlament.

I'll stairt wi a kenspeckle quote fae Hugh MacDiarmid, ane o the skeeliest makars in Scots leiterature's thoosan year history:

Tae Be Yersel's an tae mak that worth bein/Nae harder job tae mortals has been gien. 

It's maybe even harder for MSPs – for you cannae jist be yersel for yersels – but for aw the sels, aw the sowels, aw the brither an sister Scots fae Maidenkirk tae Johnny Groats and ayont, that ye represent, amang whilk theres ower 1.5 million Scots speakers. 

Noo's the day an noo's the oor tae rax oot an bring their words scrievit on the waws ootside the pairliament intae the hert o this chaumer, words perfit for debate like 

SPEIR  inquire THREAP assert JALOUSE suspect, TAK TENT take care OR IT'S TINT its lost, OR gin ye dinnae want tae be douce ye can hae a FLYTIN – for it's a leid hoatchin wi gleg insults - glaikit gawkit  gowk

In daein sae ye'll raise the international profile o this airt wi words fae fremmit leids that touch us hame - French se facher - dinnae fash yersel –

Dutch hunkers, Scandinavian lugs, an Latin dispone.

Ye'll be howkin as weel fae a gowden seam in yer ain histories

MacDiarmid wis a foundin faither o the National Pairty 

- Fellae makar Cunninghame Graham an his frien Kier Hardie the Labour Pairty

The chiel wha first defined oor democratic intellectualism wis the Conservative Walter Elliot….

The Liberal Gladstone – wis oreiginally Gled Stane, Gled bein Scots for the bird o prey the kite.

An the Greens are thirled tae oor ayebydand land whaur Scots words like smir, caller, haar or gloamin seem tae arise oot the yird itsel an haud oor herts.

But mair important than thon ye'll gie a signal tae weans in the schuil that the culture o their hame is valued bi fowk electit by their mithers an faithers.

Bairns like the quaet wee lass in P2 in Fawkirk wha ran an lowped intae her teachers airms lauchin an greetin wi joy when she furst heard her mither tongue in cless,

or the sweirt learners in Dundee, dour teenage boays wha gaed tae the tap o the cless for the first time when the langage they yaised ilka day cam intae the schuil in books they then devoured

…an never luikit back.

 Scottish weans transformed learnin a Scottish leid.   

A nation whaur naebody's excludit and awbody kens they belang – shuirly, dear Members o the Scottish Pairliament, thon's weel worth bein yersel for.





Anyone in search of my programmes when they are no longer available on BBC Sounds, should head over to the Youtube channel Indymatters. They have uploaded a number of my archive series, so you might well find what you are looking for there:



d what you are looking for there: