Love can make a big impression upon a young heart. In my case, Scotland made her indelible impression upon mine for the first time when I was sixteen. I fell in love with the country and her people and knew I would return. I traveled to Scotland a second time
with my mother and grandmother a few years later. In the quest for our roots, we traveled to Oban to see the MacDougall Clan seat, Dunollie Castle, where I met Catherine Gillies, who told me about the scholarship offered by the MacDougall McCallum Heritage
Foundation. Since I had a burning desire to return to the stunning seaside town of my ancestry, I applied for and received the scholarship. It was the recognition of a dream and I owe many thanks to Margaret Carasik and the board for the once-in-a-lifetime
My third visit was unique, in so many ways. I was wholeheartedly excited about my trip. Upon my arrival, because of new visa restrictions, I was detained by customs due to a bit of confusion about my volunteer status at Dunollie. As you can imagine, after traveling for nearly 18 hours, I was exhausted and afraid I would not be allowed into the country. My disappointment was so great, I broke into tears. But I was not to fear! Catherine Gillies came to my rescue by alerting the local parliament representative–and most of
Oban. After a phone call from the First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, customs allowed my entry and within a couple of hours I was on my way to Oban! I felt an overwhelming sense of joy and an even deeper gratitude that Catherine and the people of Scotland cared so deeply about my circumstances. How wonderful that they came so readily to my aid. I’ve never met a warmer or more caring group.
On the way to Oban, I was completely awestruck by the sight of the countryside. Though most of the locals were complaining about the rain, I could not have been happier to see it.
I stayed in the home of Mary Freer and Angus Beaton who took wonderful care of me. They were welcoming and gracious and treated me like family. I wish to extend a special thank you to Catherine Gillies and Mike and Elaine Robertson for helping me gain entry into their beloved Scotland and for inviting me into their welcoming home on so many occasions. I thank all of them from the bottom of my heart.
My time in Oban was devoted to preparing for the Homecoming Scotland events at Dunollie. This was a dream come true. Having just completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Studio Art: Sculpture, I was at a crossroads in my life. Exposure to the management of a place such as Dunollie and my involvement with the Hope MacDougall Collection, made me realize just how strong my interest in curatorial work is. Hope’s passion for preserving traditional Scottish culture moved me profoundly and helped me decide which career path was right for me.
I was honored when Catherine asked me to court made the sculpture exhibit in the gardens at Dunollie. My main function was to communicate with the participating artists and help set up their artwork. Over the weeks I developed a wonderful and important working relationship with these talented local artists. I loved every minute of it. You can imagine my utter excitement when I was allowed to add one of my own sculptures to this fabulous collection. This particular piece was inspired by the history and the grounds surrounding Dunollie. The ruins of the castle, the overgrown rhododendrons and the historical trees spoke a beautiful language to me. In addition, I was able to auction three sculptures at the dinner during Homecoming week–all proceeds benefited the Dunollie Preservation Trust. I had no idea I would have so many opportunities to create and display my own work.
Not only did this experience open doors to future career opportunities, but I was able to explore my roots. I was particularly pleased to be invited to lunch at the home of Morag MacDougall Morley, Madam MacDougall of MacDougall, the clan chief, and her husband Richard Morley. Also, I felt incredibly lucky to work alongside Robin MacDougall Morley, the Younger of Dunollie, the future clan chief on preparations for the Hidden Jewel performance. I would like to thank the MacDougall-Morley family for allowing me to spend so much of my time in and around Dunollie House. I could not be more proud to be an ancestor of this kind and generous family that is so rich with history. I can hardly put into words the vast and inspirational experience receipt of this scholarship gave me. Dunollie, Scotland, and her people are very special and were a great artistic inspiration. Not only did I garner practical experience, but spiritual growth as well. My nightly walks up Pulpit Hill with Mary, Catherine and the dogs (and sometimes alone) reach deep into my soul and left an indelible image in my mind. The sunset over Oban Bay made the water sparkle and the glitter of the town below seemed vibrantly alive. These images will always warm my heart and I can only hope that others have the opportunity for Scotland to touch their soul.