William Laughton Lorimer, was born in 1885. His lowland Scots translation of the New Testament, written when he retired in 1955 at age 70, is considered to be one of the finest works in the language.
Although Lorimer himself wasn’t religious, he was born into an intellectually distinguished family of several generations of clergymen. He was a professor of Greek at the University of St Andrews and contributed to the compilation of the Scots National Dictionary.
The huge task of his lowland Scots version of the New Testament was translated from Greek, The work took 28 years to complete and in 1983 his son Robin had it published.
Lorimer was multilingual and his language proficiency included some familiarity with many of Europe’s minority languages such as Low German, Frisian, Faroese, Provençal and Rhaeto-Romansch. This aided him in examination first-hand the difficulties of translating the Bible into languages of restricted literary development. Prior to beginning his own translation he studied versions of all or parts of the New Testament in over two dozen different languages.
As observed by James Robertson (who wrote the introduction to this latest edition of The New Testament into Scots), while the King James translation was done by a team, (from Greek to Elizabethan English) this one was ‘done by twa men!’ (twa men = two men, Lorimer and his son Robin). W.L. Lorimer’s work was hand-written with dip pen in notebooks that are now held in NLS and are currently on display.
“The National Library of Scotland was host to the discussion held on 26 July. It was introduced by NLS’ Modern Scottish Collections Curator, Andrew Martin. The participants were W. L. Lorimer’s granddaughter, Christina Lorimer; poet, novelist and active proponent of the Scots language, James Robertson (who also wrote the introduction to this latest edition of The New Testament into Scots) and Michael Hance, director of the Scots Language Centre and Secretary of the Lorimer Trust.”
The scholars taking part in the discussion agreed that this work is important. I’ve actually started to read it and have no trouble believing that, according to the experts, it carries the weight and gravity of the authorized version and that the language impressively rises to the challenge of the significance of the undertaking.
Having lived the first 21 years of my life in Scotland, I can read and understand the old lowland Scots language. Thanks to my father who introduced me to the works of Robert Burns the Scottish poet. When I hear someone is referred to a “glaikit gowk” it carries a lot more weight than the English words.
If you’d like to take a look or read the book you can read it on Google by clicking on The New Testament in Scots: Translated by W.L. Lorimer.