Scotland, a country I embarrassingly first fell in love with through the show and movies, The Highlander, was the destination of a weekend adventure Steve and I were given as an amazingly curated wedding gift. Neither of us had been before and were surprised by Scotland’s magic and mystery.
Scotland’s beauty is haunting, or maybe that feeling was just fueled by the repeated claims of ghosts at many of the pubs and B&B’s we visited. It is easy to see how JK Rowlings was inspired to imagine the world of Harry Potter as much of its sharp gothic architecture, lochs (lakes) guarded with troops of pines, and land carpeted with mist and fog create an eeriness that is mesmerizing. You can’t help but feel the weight of centuries the rain washed by.
We started with a couple of days in Edinburgh that culminated in my own personal haunting. A piper, fiddler, and an accordion player were jamming in the back of a pub and based on my enthusiastic head bopping they asked me to sing a song for them. Steve egged them on by saying that I sing like a bird. Every bone in my body wanted to join in, but I was paralyzed. What to sing? There is no bouncing ball to follow and I don’t think Baby’s Got Back performed with a bag piper pair well with the single malts surrounding us. I froze, haunted by a failed performance of New York, New York in Northern Ireland with a famous folk singer and my friend Jacks, where people actually stood up and walked out. After verbally vomiting the story of that botched performance all over the accordion player, I ran out of the pub, torturing Steve the rest of the night with different renditions of songs I should have sung. It seems like I will need to go back to Ireland to smudge that ghost away with one killer performance.
Licking my wounds, we started off the next morning on our long drive along Loch Ness to Inverness and ending in Loch Lomond in time to catch the Euro Cup final. Along the way I was struck by the pride the Scots take in being the birthplace of arguably the best Bond, Sean Connery, my personal favorite actor/singer Ewan McGregor, and of course the only true whiskey, Scotch. I was surprised by the lack of bravato around what I have learned to be one of Scotland’s most precious gifts, their ship building heritage.
Now married to a boat builder, I have found myself a student of this new water world. Steve has spent the past couple of years building a boat designed by the Scottish designer, William Fife III. Famous for the two America’s Cup yachts he designed amongst many other classics, he is known to not only design beautiful yachts, but ones that last the test of time. As luck would have it, we were near the small village of Fairlie, just outside of Glasgow, where Fife lived and worked so we decided to make a stop to see if we could meet his ghost.
The village is as one would imagine, right on the rocky sea, with stone cottages lining a walking path. We found the single pub in town, The Village Inn, and stopped in to see what we could learn about Fife. The grandfather of the pub’s manager had worked at Fife’s now closed boatyard but she didn’t know much about Fife himself. All that was left to immortalize him was a small statue of a bronze sailboat, with plaques honoring three generations of Fifes, as well as some photos of his yachts on the walls. Without an heir to run it, the yard was shut down in the late 30’s. As a renaissance of wooden boat building is underway around the world, I was struck by how quickly a dynasty can turn to dust.
Maybe Conner MacLeod from The Highlander was on to something about these sort of creative geniuses or immortals when he said “in the end, there can be only one”.