Dispatch #8: Dumfries and Galloway

We are on break this week, so I took the opportunity to head further south. Traveling in Scotland is easy. You can get most anyplace you have a hankering to go to via train. If we had a railcar system like Scotland does, I’d be able to take the train from Redmond to Bend, and on to Eugene if I wanted. But we don’t have a system like that.

We could have had such a system had it not been for Mr. Ford and others in the automobile industry who took upon themselves to do away with mass transit in favor of individual travel.

Rich men are still making decisions for the masses which keep them rich and impoverish the rest of us. It’s shameful really that we haven’t done more in our country to invest in mass transit. I am impressed with the timeliness of the trains. They are efficient and so rarely off schedule. They try to keep the trains clean. Certainly even the dirty trains here are much cleaner than the subways in New York City.

That is not to say it is inexpensive. A trip to Edinburgh from here cost me about $37,00 and that’s with a senior discount. Without it, it’s about $50. Of course, a tank of gas would cost me that, too.


I wish there was a train I could take between my home in Oregon and my daughter’s home in Washington State. The great thing about trains is they come equipped with Wi-Fi and tables with power sources, so I can actually work while getting from one place to the next. I love that.

It is odd though, to be without a car for so long. I could rent a car here if I wanted to, but the thought of driving on the opposite side of the road is enough to dissuade me. I’m happy to let someone else do the driving for now.

Train travel also allows me the opportunity to take in the vast landscapes of Scotland. It’s like Oregon in that you can go from mountains to rolling valleys to beaches in a matter of hours.

The trip to Dumfries was through those rolling green hillsides.


I am sure you literary types think I went to Dumfries for the Rabbie Burns pilgrimage. But believe it or not, that wasn’t my primary focus. While I did pay my respects at his gravesite, my primary focus was another writer dude.

Perhaps you have heard of him?

That fellow who wrote about living in a land where kids never ever have to grow up.


I can’t tell you how many times we watched that movie when my kids were growing up. You too?

Now, of course, the grands love it.

I called my grands the night before I took off for Neverland. Just in case I don’t make it back, I told them. The boys were already excited that I’d seen an owl in Edinburgh and got to see part of the Harry Potter film sites. Mathilda only wants me to bring her a real unicorn home from Scotland. So far all they are getting is more books.

The story behind Peter Pan, however, is a tragic one. JM Barrie was 6 years old when his beloved older brother David was killed in an ice skating incident. It devastated their mother. There is some debate as to whether the accident was caused by a friend of David’s or whether young JM caused the accident. At any rate, the tale was JM’s way of keeping his brother near, for both him and his mother.



Barrie learned at an early age, what we all come to understand one day: When we are gone the only thing of true value that we leave behind are the stories others share and the love those stories represent. The story of Peter Pan is ultimately the story of how his older brother David never got the chance to grow up. He was stuck in Neverland for the rest of Barrie’s life.

What better way to remember the sibling you adore than to immortalize them in a story that children of all generations come to know and love?

Moat Brae in Dumfries is a magical place. J.M. Barrie, who lived in Dumfries in 1873-1878, said this of Moat Brae: “For our escapades in a certain Dumfries garden, which is enchanted land to me, was certainly the genesis of that nefarious work.”



Like a lot of boys, J.M. Barrie came to Dumfries to attend school at the highly regarded Dumfries Academy. It was there at the school that he met his good pals Hal and Stuart Gordon, whose family owned the estate where the boys spent so many hours playing. It is literally right around the corner from the academy. Both places back up to the River Nith, which is so lovely and scenic, edged by farmland across the way.



One of the things that strikes me over and over and over again is the tradition of story-makers that do Scotland proud. Walking through the cemetery where Burns is buried, headstone after headstone, both male and female, listed “writer” as a profession.

Not once did I read a headstone that claimed “hobby writer”.

Being a writer was a title they wanted to be remembered for, so much that they had it engraved on their eternal resting stones.

And all Mark Zuckerberg will be known for creating is a Social Media site that contributed to global unrest.

If only he had ensured that it was a front porch where we all sat around and swapped stories instead.

Karen Spears Zacharias is a graduate student at Shepherd University, West Virginia, and is doing a study abroad program at the University of West Scotland. Her next book, The Murder Gene: A True Story, is available for preorder now. 








Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.


Elizabeth Adams

about 1 year ago

Hi Karen It was nice to meet you both today. Glad you are enjoying Scotland. If we can help you out with anything just let us know. Elizabeth and Lynn


Karen Spears Zacharias

about 1 year ago

Hey gals! It was lovely meeting you. Will you be at the Kiltwalk tomorrow? Thinking of going. Would love to see you again...


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