Honoring Our Scottish Heritage: Day Three

Written by: Ann Dillon, First Vice President General, and Jennie Rehnberg, Curator General
October 9, 2014

After a wonderful breakfast buffet of fresh fruit, sausage, croissants, pastries, and such Scottish treats as blood pudding and birken, we departed the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh for Paisley. Heavy fog  and traffic congestion slowed our progress, but our Scottish guide Hilda shared the adage "dinna fash" yourself, meaning do not worry or be anxious -- and we settled in for the day knowing that our schedule would be impacted.

As we arrived in Paisley the weather cleared to reveal a glorious day. We had arrived in the home of West Scotland University, where we were welcomed by Provost Anne Hill to begin our recognition of native son John Knox Witherspoon, who served as president of Princeton University and signed the Declaration of Independence. Sculptor Alexander Stoddart, whose studio is located on the campus, delighted us with highlights of Witherspoon's extraordinary life and the details of the massive statue erected to Witherspoon, a duplicate of which resides on the Princeton campus in New Jersey.

Historian General Bana Weems Caskey led a Memorial Service to honor Witherspoon's contributions to American Independence, which included the laying of a beautiful thistle wreath by President General Lynn Forney Young.

Back on the bus! Next stop was the magnificent Dumfries House, which is managed by the Scottish National Trust and which was featured in a recent PBS documentary on the great homes of Scotland. Though our delayed schedule kept us from touring the house, we did enjoy a delicious lunch beneath a tented pavilion on the beautiful grounds.

Our next stop was the Robert Burns Center, where we received a warm reception from Provost Helen Moonie and Dr. David Hopes, the Center's Director. He discussed Burn's life and his influence on the American Revolution. Though his early sentiments reflected concern for the hardships caused by the Revolution, he ultimately embraced the American cause.

Our tour buses headed south, with an astounding view of the Irish Sea along the route to Culzean Castle, built in 1569 by Sir Thomas Kennedy, who traced his ancestry to Robert the Bruce. Rising from its cliff and surrounded by 600 acres of spectacular scenery, the castle was remodeled by famed 18th century architect Robert Adam, who was equally famed as a decorator. He was commissioned to rebuild Culzean, but did not live to see its final state as he died in 1792 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Archibald Kennedy became marquess in 1938; with no children, he approached the newly formed National Trust of Scotland to turn the castle grounds over to the nation. His brother negotiated the final details of the transfer, which occurred in 1945. The family requested that the top floor of the castle be converted into a self-contained apartment for General Dwight D. Eisenhower for his lifetime tenancy as a gesture of thanks from the people of Scotland. Eisenhower visited in 1945 and then three more times, including once during his second term as president, when Culzean became his Scottish "White House."  Visitors today may choose to rent the apartment, with proceeds helping to defray operating expenses at the estate.

After a long and enjoyable day exploring America's connection to Scotland, we headed back to the Bamoral, grateful for the opportunity to explore the history of this fascinating island nation.

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