Thursday, June 27, 2013

Americans and the Family Castle in Scotland

Fast (Fause) Castle, Berwickshire, Scotland

I’m Scottish, and I’ve lived in the USA for twelve years. I know my place of birth (Edinburgh) and that of many of my past generations (Ayrshire). It was important to me to know my roots and Americans like to know their origins too. In fact most Americans Ive met are quite keen to know and share their heritage. That’s why when they hear my accent they introduce themselves with the full handshake; “Hi, Troy Haffenberger III, third generation Dutch/Swedish/Irish, from Leningrad!” although there’s not a trace of anything but cold midtown Kansas City in their own mid-western brogue.

As I’ve spoken to thousands of Americans, I'v found that one subject rises to the surface more than most- the Family Castle. I’ve run into it a hundred times. “Oh, we visited Scat-land, and been to Edin-borg, and we visited the Family Castle”, as if you’d just turn up at the front door and demand a cup of coffee and a bed for the week. I mean, come on, not everybody lived in a castle. Well, maybe all Americans did. I digress.

Fast Castle. The drawbridge area is still identifiable, and part of the north wall.

Even after discovering this amusing American quirk, I still considered myself fairly content with my status as a castle-less European. Until last week, when I got a taste of my own medicine. I was browsing Wikipedia, looking at pictures of castles, when I came across Fast Castle, (Fause castle) just north of Coldingham, near the Scottish/English border.

Owners: The Hall family.

Crap. My pet peeve had actually raced behind me and kicked my own butt; I’d actually found my own Family Castle. Now, okay, there’s just a couple of walls left now, but I’ve been to others and never felt the connection that I do to these two bare walls and a piece of rock pointing out into the North Sea. But stories point to the owners dark, nefarious deeds; back in the 1500’s leaving the light on, and encouraging ships to their doom on the rocky shores below, where the wrecking crews patiently gathered. Great information for a historical writer.

One day, I'll go back to those lonely Berwickshire cliffs, and like every true American; visit the family castle.
Beware, you have been warned; this castle will be in one of my books… one day. Watch out for it.

Ian Hall

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