Tonight I am in Scotland, the land of my genetic ancestors, the land of my literary ancestors, and the land of my spiritual ancestors. My grandfather’s grandparents farmed in the Aberdeenshire region of Scotland. Driving through that area yesterday I was impressed with how similar it is to portions of Central Alberta where I grew up. If you substitute sheep for cattle, stone fences for barbed wire, and big hills for slightly smaller hills, Great Bend could be a New Aberdeenshire. I guess others thought so too because Alberta is filled with Scottish place names like Nevis, Erskine, Craigellachie, and Banff. We drove through “Keith,” the place, and the clan, from which I received my name.
We drove through Huntly where George MacDonald lived and wrote such literary classics as Phantastes, Lilith, and The Princess and the Goblin. I could see how his great imagination was stirred by the wonder of these hills, valleys, deer, and springs. It was MacDonald’s writing that would inspire writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. This is the land of Robert Burns, and Robert Louis Stevenson.
It is also the land of Eric Henry Liddell, the Flying Scotsman, upon whom I meditated as I went for a run in the hills near Dufftown. Liddell was the winner of the men’s 400 metre race at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris but it was his faith in God and convictions about right and wrong that are most strongly depicted in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire.
And it is the land of Columba and the Celtic Monks. They brought the gospel of Jesus Christ to the fierce Pict people and the murdering clans that lived in this area. They spoke much about the Trinity of God and used simple descriptions of how God was at once both Three and One. Columba came in the sixth century AD and he and his followers had great influence over the land for more than two centuries. Evidence of this influence can be seen in the architecture and art that survives to this day in Scotland.
Today we made it to the windswept North Sea and the Firth of Moray where Bottle-nose Dolphins swim and play. Tomorrow we head on to Inverness. What wonders lie in the highlands beyond?