A little over eleven years ago my family and I were preparing for a sabbatical year in Clydebank, Scotland. My employer had very generously arranged for me to have the entire year off to write and pastor a small congregation. (There you go Helena: something nice about my employer.)
Years before I had opened a Royal Bank of Scotland account. Part of our preparation for the year was to contact the bank to learn how to best reactivate the account so we could use it upon our arrival. So, I rang the bank, and spoke to the branch manager’s administrative assistant. What I thought would be a quick conversation was not. I would ask her a question, she would ask the manager, then she would give me the manager’s answer. This process was repeated for about 15 minutes. I would later learn that such a long drawn out process was par for the cultural norm in Scotland.
Once all my questions had been answered and I was about to say a final thank you and hang up, the strangest thing happened. The young administrative assistant said, “So, you’re coming home then?” I was confused. We had conversed for 15 or more minutes. I didn’t pretend to be a Scot, and I certainly didn’t use a lame Scottish accent to impress my banker. I mumbled, “Pardon?” “You are coming home, Mr. McDermond.” I explained I was an American and my father’s family left Scotland well over two hundred years ago. Her matter-of-fact response: “Yes. I understand, but you are coming home now.”
And then it hit me. Because of the highland clearances, a very dark period in Scotland’s history, there are more people of Scots ancestry living outside of Scotland than those living in Scotland. And the general thinking of those in Scotland is that once you were a Scot you are always a Scot…no matter how long you have been away. And so I responded, “Yes. Yes, indeed, I am.”
I leave for Glasgow in three hours. My traveling companion is Duncan, our youngest son. He claims he can’t recall very much from our year in Clydebank. I think this is a cleaver ploy to visit the UK. I hope the people in the homeland haven’t changed their minds. I will be out of touch for nine days, but taking notes on the trip as fodder for a couple of future blogs. Until then…