In 2014, the Foundation was given the responsibility for delivering a major conference on behalf of the Ministerial Advisory Group – Ulster-Scots Academy. Consequently, over two days at the end of March, the Foundation hosted Ulster and Scotland: Ulster-Scots contributions to a shared inheritance in the Europa Hotel, Belfast.

This was a significant undertaking and an unqualified success. More than 150 people attended what is now regarded as a groundbreaking event to hear talks from a range of experts ranging from Dr Frank Ferguson of the University of Ulster to Dr Roger Blaney, author of the Foundation’s Presbyterians and the Irish Language, and comedian Tim McGarry who provided a lively account of his journey from arch-critic to proud celebrator of his Ulster-Scots lineage as he traced his family roots.

Ulster and Scotland conference 2014

The keynote speaker, Billy Kay, from Glasgow and author of Scots: The Mither Tongue and The Scottish World, set the scene by exploring the many historic and cultural links spanning the Irish Sea and focusing on the ties that bind and separate Scotland and Ulster today, in the context of the wider Scottish diaspora. Ulster-Scots and traditional Irish music and dance was provided by Sontas and Nigel Boullier and friends.

The conference exhibition area, brimming to capacity with stalls and displays from 37 groups from across the community, reflected the inclusive and shared nature of the event and included: Culturlann McAdam, Ultach Trust, Spectrum Centre, 174 Trust, the Orange Order and the Gaelic Athletic Association.

The conference achieved its key aim of reaching out to the many who are not of the Ulster-Scots community, identifying the many shared historical and cultural connections between the Ulster-Scots and those of a different background. As one participant remarked, 'This conference may well be talked about for years to come as having pioneered a breakthrough in community relations.'