Professor Joe Goldblatt
“I am pleased to inform you that a satisfactory review has now taken place and your contract will continue for its duration.” With these twenty – two words from my Scottish university human resources department, my future in Scotland was sealed. However, our decision to move to Scotland occurred six months earlier when a mysterious caller invited me to come to a land I had only seen in history books. This week, as we celebrate our fifteenth anniversary as New Scots we are still surprised and delighted by our impulsive decision to come to Scotland.
When I received a telephone call from a lecturer at Queen Margaret University inviting me to apply for a new post I was surprised. My wife and I had just purchased a home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I had a secure post at a prestigious American university and our sons lived nearby. I politely listened to the lecturer’s soft Scottish brogue transmitted from thousands of miles away and then I promptly declined to apply for the post for all the reasons stated above.
A few months later, she rang me again and invited me to participate in a teleconference. In the years before Zoom, a teleconference required travelling to a television studio. I interrupted our summer holiday and changed from my swimming trunks to a business suit and appeared at the appointed hour in front of the television camera. However, the equipment failed to operate due to massive summer thunder storms. We therefore managed to communicate via a mobile phone the size of a shoe box.
The lead questioner was from Glasgow and I did not understand one word he said. However, at the end of the visit he said with great enthusiasm, “Pure, deid, brilliant!” I thought that I had failed as the only word I understood was ‘deid’.
A few minutes later my mobile phone rang and the Glaswegian Dean offered me the job. He then asked if I could start immediately. When I explained that I needed to discuss this with my wife of 30 years he said that was a good idea because in Scots law a verbal agreement is equal to a written one. This was my first experience with Scots law and culture.
Upon arrival at our summer home I found my wife and sons anxiously awaiting me in the front garden. When I explained the outcome of the meeting my wife said “I have three questions.” Once I satisfied her queries regarding our beloved ten year old dog being admitted to the U.K. and that we could afford to purchase a home she, as the female head of our Jewish family then asked “Are there any Jews?”
I Googled “Jews in Edinburgh” and quickly discovered that we were considering moving to what could be best described as the new Jerusalem. According to the internet marketing information there were Jewish people everywhere! The city was overflowing with Jewish synagogues, delicatessans, community centres and organisations. Once I relayed this news to my wife she smiled and said “I think we should move to Scotland.” I was gobsmacked!
Our sons quickly concurred and a few weeks later our youngest son announced that he would like to join us an earn his post graduate degree in cultural management. We were delighted.
I decided to accept a speaking engagement at Oxford University so that I could then visit Edinburgh for a rekkie to explore my new University and our temporary flat. After my speech, a gala dinner was held and I was seated at the top table next to a distinguished gent who was the head of Britain’s largest government tourism agency. He asked me about my travel plans after I had left Oxford. I proudly announced that I was moving to Scotland. He immediately pushed his chair away from the table, gasped, and asked “Have you lost your mind?”
Then he told me in no uncertain terms that the Scots wanted to become an independent country. When I asked him what was wrong with that he stated unequivocably “They are too small, too poor, and too stupid!” This was coming from the man in charge of promoting tourism in the UK to the rest of the world. I was appalled.
I then remembered my own humble upbringing in Texas where our family lived in an area that might be called ‘the wrong side of the tracks’ to be close to our father’s hardware store. The people around us were not posh but they were hardworking, kind and generous. I turned to the tourism executive on my left and said “The Scots sound like my kind of people!” Then I folded my napkin. rose quickly and made my way directly to the magnetic north.
During the past fifteen years in Scotland we have discovered that Scots are ready, willing and able to put their shoulder to the wheel for the right cause. We have also discovered how kind and generous they are through the many friends we have made throughout this country. Perhaps most importantly, we have learned that to be Scottish is a source of pride that stems from our complex and storied history, our values that include education and philanthropy, and the gift that Robert Burns gave us when he wrote “We should measure our society by how we treat our fellow human beings.”
Therefore, the decision my wife made for us to move to Scotland was one of the best in our lifetime. Because of her wise decision to start a new adventure in Scotia, two gorgeous grandsons later joined our clan. We are indeed blessed to be proud new Scots.
Many of my friends celebrate miracles during this time of year. From the miracle of survival through faith for the Jews during Chanukah to the miracle of the birth of Jesus Christ commemorated by my Christian brothers and sisters, I have discovered through the miracle of our own decision to come to Scotland, that adventure may indeed be good for the soul.
May the new year bring you an opportunity for adventure and if on Hogmanay there is a knock at your door, consider welcoming the stranger into your home as you may be delighted with the friend you encounter and you may also later cherish this friendship as hopefully the days of your life shall grow long, happy, and fulfilled, as have ours in Scotland.
Professor Joe Goldblatt is Chair of the Edinburgh Interfaith Association and Emeritus Professor of Planned Events at Queen Margaret University. His views are his own. To learn more about his views visit www.joegoldblatt.scot