Billy Kay

Writer and broadcaster Billy Kay was born in Galston, Ayrshire in 1951, and educated at Galston High School, Kilmarnock Academy and Edinburgh University.  His company Odyssey Productions produces documentaries on Scottish cultural history for BBC Radio Scotland, winning five international awards for series like The Complete Caledonian Imbiber.  Television series he has presented include Haud Yer Tongue for Channel 4 Schools and Miners for BBC Scotland.  He has written two plays for radio and one for Dundee Rep, while his poetry and short stories appear in several anthologies.  He is co-author, with Cailean Maclean of the book Knee Deep in Claret and his work promoting wine  has been recognized with awards in Britain and France. 

He is a passionate advocate of the Scots language and author of the classic work Scots: The Mither Tongue. His latest book on the phenomenal global influence of the Scottish diaspora The Scottish World was published in 2006.

A gifted communicator, Billy Kay has been invited to speak on Scottish culture at venues ranging from the Library of Congress in Washington DC to the Moscow Caledonian Club, and from the Great Hall of Stirling Castle to  Universites in Heidelberg, Warsaw and Belfast. He has just published a new  book in Scots which he describes as a love letter to an Ayrshire childhood. Born in Kyle will be published in late 2023.

Billy was given an honorary Doctorate by the University of the West of Scotland in 2009, the Oliver Award by the Scots Independent newspaper in 2010 and later that year became Honorary Preses of the Scots Language Society. In 2015 the Association for Scottish Literary Studies made him an Honorary Fellow “in recognition and admiration of the valued and major contribution which you have made to the support and enrichment of the tradition of Scottish literature.” In 2016 he was inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame for his Services to Scots. In 2019 he was voted Scots Media Person of the Year at the Scots Language Awards in Glasgow. In November of that year he addressed the 263rd Annual Banquet of the St Andrew’s Society of the State of New York. There, the Society gave him their Mark Twain Award for the promotion of Scotland internationally.  In addition to his native languages, Scots and English, Billy speaks French, German and Portuguese. He is married to Maria João de Almeida da Cruz Diniz and they have three children, Joanna, Catriona and Euan.

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Billy Kay Born in Kyle