I realised recently that, at nearly eight years old, my daughter has been alive for as long as I lived in Scotland. I was born there, emigrating with my parents to Australia in 1978.
Thinking about it now, it’s amazing how much I remember about life in Scotland. Playing hide-and-seek by laying low in the heather on the Scottish moorlands in a flecked brown jacket that made me almost invisible. Scrambling across the top of the dry stone wall that separated our backyard from the adjoining farmer’s fields. Picking field mushrooms and wild blackberries with my parents.
Given that it’s so long since I lived in Scotland, it’s funny to find myself – 40 years later – getting nostalgic when I travel to parts of Australia that have their history of white settlement firmly fixed in the efforts of the Scots.
For example, many readers will know Camperdown on the A1 in Victoria as an architecturally impressive rural town and a jumping-off point to the Great Ocean Road. But, for a girl like me with a childhood connection to Scotland, it’s a place I’d like to shove into my pocket and hold. Why? Well, there’s lots of little reasons.
NOSTALGIA FOR HOME
Camperdown is named after the same Scottish naval hero who was commemorated by Camperdown Park located around the corner from my Scottish home in Dundee. Capitalising on the abundance of volcanic rocks that exist in the region, dry stone walls pepper the countryside surrounding Camperdown Victoria – just like they did where I grew up. The town also boasts the earliest-known statue of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, who is similarly celebrated by an impressive statue in my birth-town.
Having spent comparatively little time in Victoria’s Camperdown, I hold it more fondly in my mind than I can really justify. But it shows how much our early experiences fix our outlook in life.
It’s a similar situation when we travel up Thunderbolt’s Way in the NSW Northern Tablelands. With townships north of Armidale like Ben Lomond, Glencoe, Glen Innes and Dundee, there’s no doubt that the settlers who established pastoral holdings around these parts in the 1800s grew up in exactly the same place as I did. And they found reasons to anchor their new lives around geography that reminded them of their Scottish homeland. Their place.
SENSE OF PLACE
I’ve always reckoned that developing a sense of place is something that happens very early in life. Based on my brother’s experience, it seems pretty hard-wired by ten years old – which was his age when we arrived in Australia.
In his case, despite the amount of time we spent as a family exploring this country’s back-roads, the vast interior never inspired a deep connection in him. He simply wasn’t that interested. Which probably explains why he returned to the British Isles to live permanently by his early 30s.
More surprisingly, the same thing happened to my parents who – at nearly 80 years old – recently left life on a small NSW rural property to re-establish their roots within 100 kilometres of where they were born in the UK.
A NEW HOMELAND
So where does that leave me, the girl who still goes gooey-eyed at the sight of a haggis or a red deer? The answer’s simple. It leaves me here – happy to enjoy a bit of indulgent nostalgia now and again while appreciating everything this great country has to offer.
Happily, I’ve been in Australia long enough to have established roots that are sufficiently deep in the dirt and dust of this ancient Southern Land.
I’ve come to really appreciate vast expanses of earth punctuated by only those species of flora and fauna that can deal with the harshness of the conditions. It makes me enjoy even more the pockets of verdant country that exist around the continent’s fringes, predominantly in the tropical latitudes but also in the southern reaches where the rains are fueled by the Roaring Forties.
Importantly, it leaves me actively nurturing a sense of place in our daughter that’s deeply rooted in our great outdoors. If I can do this while she’s still so young, I know from personal experience that – wherever in the world life’s journey takes her in the future – there’ll be a place in her heart that will always call Australia home.