Scotland’s Buchanan Castle…. Ruins – Oh, If The Walls Could Talk!

It was thirty-four years since I had last been to Scotland with my only son, my first-born.   At that time, we saw the Buchanan Castle – only in the distance across Loch Lomond.  But, this time my grandson, Shaun was with us and we truly wanted to see Buchanan Castle up close and personal.  In a strange way, I was trying to connect the generations of us living with those in the past.

Our wonderful travel guide, Gerry McAllister, Markris Executive Chauffeur Service said “Aye, right, Margaret, ’tis nothing there. ‘Tis nothing but a ruin.”  And so it is…. but beautiful, majestic and one of the best parts of our trip to Scotland in May, 2017.

Fortunately, Gerry knew exactly where to find Buchanan Castle.   No signs or billboards indicated the way, as this particular castle is not a normal tourist stop.  Had we been traveling alone, we may have driven right past it.  We stepped out of Gerry’s Mercedes, just a short trip northwest from Glasgow in Drymen, Stirlingshire, Scotland.

The Castle Was Calling Us!

The boys and I sauntered down an unkept trail seeing faint glimpses of the castle in the distance.

Beautiful Buchanan Castle as we approach on foot

The sun was warm, casting shimmering flashes of light through the overgrown plants.

A beautiful day as we approached the side of Buchanan Castle at the fence line.

Welcoming streaks of sunlight crept through the shadows of the trees.  And, we listened as the birds seemed to call us hither.

In our effort to get closer we encountered a wire fence that circled the outside of the castle. The fence was mangled in spots with a sign, “DANGER, Keep Clear by Order of Montrose Trust.”

Well crap! I didn’t see a sign… did you?  We really wanted to get in!  My son, Patrick and I just looked at each other…thinking.  We had come all this way, three thousand miles across the ocean.  Were we going to let a flimsy wire fence stop us?  But, maybe it was dangerous.

Just then, the head of a young man came popping through the fence.

“There is an easier way in, just down the fence line a bit, he said.  It’s fantastic, but careful where you step.”

And so, trespass we did!

LadyRose walking through an opening in the fence line at Buchanan Castle.

A ruin, and yet a picture postcard wherever we looked.

Buchanan Castle … Talk to Us!

One of the amazing highlights of our trip to Scotland, seeing the ruins of the Buchanan Castle – our heritage!

As my maiden name is Buchanan, all three of us explored the castle as if it belonged to us. At the same time, it felt as if we were treading on sacred ground.  I imagined what it might be like to have my father or an old ancestor alongside us, whispering tales of their life and time. We were here NOW, and maybe never have this opportunity again.

We stepped over and around fallen logs, and missing steps.  But the castle walls seem to be full height and part of a turret still had its shape.

We ventured up spiral stair cases almost buried in muddy earth and found something fascinating wherever we looked.  It was hard to take it all in.  What might be right here in front of us that we were missing?

There was no roof  and the wooden insulation has been left exposed and rotting, vines taking root on them. My son, Patrick inspects something on the wall.

“Wow! Come look at this!” Patrick called.  We tried to make out what it said.  I wondered when and how it came to be on the inside wall of the castle.

Writing on the wall inside Buchanan Castle
Closer photo of writing in Buchanan Castle.

We found the writing is English but unintelligible! And probably not nearly as old as the wall.  Still, our imaginations ran wild as we took in the smell of earthy moss and envisioned what it was like to live here so many years ago.  Perhaps, the highland fling had been danced to bagpipes in the very spot where we were now standing.

Eventually, we found our way out of the fence and to the car.   “Well I was ready to call the Bobby, thought you Keelies fell in.” said Gerry.

Fortunately Shaun captured a short video as he explored this great gem of history – a ruin, yet still alive for the adventurous to check out for themselves.  Play the short  clip below for a glimpse of the castle for yourself.

More of Buchanan Castle

  • See some truly excellent professional photos of Buchanan Castle in an article on The Forgotten Scotland in the Daily Mail.
  • For more video, you should really click here for a different glimpse into the haunting and mysterious past within the castle walls.
  • For more history, check out the article in AtlasObscura.  Interestingly, Buchanan Castle was turned into a hospital during World War II and Rudolph Hess, Hitler’s right had man was treated for his wounds there after his airplane was shot down.
    “Lang may your lum reek, we other folks coal.”

    Until next time …. please, comment below.

Life is a Gift – Not So Fast, Make it Last!

Photo: Kim Turner at Heart of American DanceSport 2017, receiving her Top Teacher Award

Life is a Gift

“Can I pick you up at four on Friday?” I text a caretaker friend. My cell phone beeps, she was hospitalized last night, blood clots in both lungs. She is only fifty. How can it be? Could that be me?

Cherish the moment, enjoy each day.
What a blessing it is to wake up and play.
Smile, be grateful, love and laugh.
Life is a gift. Not so fast. Make it last.

A call last night, it’s family far away. We will have to get together soon, I say. His job is a nightmare, it is killing him, he says –  each work day feels like a month off his life. The stress, the stress. How can it be?  Wish I could take some of his burden on me.

Cherish the moment, enjoy each day.
What a blessing it is to wake up and play.
Smile, be grateful, love and laugh.
Life is a gift. Not so fast. Make it last.

Read a post on Facebook, a dancing friend says she is doing better. Awaiting lab results today from the mass doctors took out of her colon the other day. We shared the dance floor just a few weeks ago. How can it be?   Wait and see.  That could be me!

Cherish the moment, enjoy each day.
What a blessing it is to wake up and play.
Smile, be grateful, love and laugh.
Life is a gift. Not so fast. Make it last.

Friends and family in harm’s way. Hurricane Harvey overpowers Texas. I look out the window, it stormed last night. A few branches down, lightning zapped my microwave. What a hassle, such a pain. But, nothing like in a hurricane. How can it be? How would I cope if the flood reached me?

Cherish the moment, enjoy each day.
What a blessing it is to wake up and play.
Smile, be grateful, love and laugh.
Life is a gift. Not so fast. Make it last.

Life Dedication:

This post was written in the moment.  As my readers know, I have not posted much lately.  But, this post is dedicated to Kim Turner, a wonderful and dedicated professional dancer and dance teacher.  She almost always has a smile on her face.

Kim received her diagnosis and posts: “The results are that it is stage 4 colon cancer and has spread to the diaphragm and liver……I was emotionally drained and just slept for a while. And woke up needing a pain pill then decided to walk the whole floor came back and made up my mind I’m a fighter and I will win….. I believe we will get through this one step and day at a time!”  

Unfortunately, Kim’s medical insurance is already exhausted. To contribute to fundraising on her behalf, contact Tara at 913-221-4430 of   Melange Dance Studios who is organizing fundraising efforts on her behalf (along with many other dance venues in the Kansas City area).  And, consider coming out for a great fundraising dance on her behalf, click here for details. Above all, please pray for her!


The Interview: How I Launched My Career in the Wonderful World of Advertising!

At age twenty-six, it was high time I made some decisions.  Could I interview and land an interesting job that had growth potential?   Or should I figure out a way to support myself and go back to college? Did I even know what degree I wanted? Maybe something in law or journalism?

I loved to learn, I just loathed studying and theory.  It seemed so much easier and faster to learn by doing. And, my husband had already shown during our five years of marriage that he was not a reliable means of financial support.

On a Thursday morning in the fall of 1973,  I got ready to hop out of my yellow Pinto to interview for a job that seemed questionable.  The newspaper classified ad asked for an “Enterprising Gal Friday”.  That could mean anything! And the word “enterprising” gave me visions of working for sales commissions.   But, I was definitely not going to leave my three-year old son without the assurance of a decent salary.

The banks I interviewed with the week prior, felt a little too corporate and stodgy. I knew in my gut that I would be miserable there. And, that other interview closer to home?  Well, the owner there looked a bit disappointed when I could not muster more enthusiasm for his foam rubber manufacturing business.

Watching people in the city scurrying around, rushing to be on time during the morning rush hour, I wondered if I should run away from the work-a-day rat race. It seemed like a trap. Could I ever come across a great job that was really exciting?

It was Time to Focus

It was time to focus – to think of the interview from the employer’s perspective.  In most businesses, performance trumps degrees.   The ability to save or make money for a business is critical.    So, I just hoped I would find a job growth opportunity where I might have the potential to seize the day, learn, and make money for my employer and myself.

Glancing again at the ad, I noticed that it mentioned “secretarial and bookkeeping” which suggested a salaried office job.  So I brushed the donut crumbs from my mouth and off my red dress, and took the elevator to the fifth floor of the Beneficial Bldg. in Wilmington, Delaware. My confidence would have to make up for whatever else I lacked.

I was to interview with Mr. Peterson, President of Enterprise Publishing Company at 1:00pm. Working with the president could have advantages if a career opportunity was really there.

Upon arriving at Suite 509, I found a hand-written note taped to the door.  It read, “I went to play tennis, come in and wait.  Nick”  What the hell is this?  I am paying a babysitter and I am supposed to wait for tennis?  Taking a closer look at the door, I saw three company names:  Enterprise Publishing Co., The Corporation Company and Peterson Advertising Agency.

I opened the door expecting to find a reception desk. Instead, the door opened into a small area not larger than an overgrown walk-in closet.  The area was divided by a partition with the far side facing out a window that offered an angled view of Market Street.

The office area was expensively furnished with solid walnut desks and cadenzas, one slightly larger against the window and the other in the area behind the partition near the entrance door.  The shag carpet looked new. I saw office chairs and a visitors’ bench all in cushioned royal blue leather with bright chrome supports.  On the wall of what must be Mr. Peterson’s office was a nude, yet tasteful painting.  Another suggestive painting by the same artist decorated what must be the area for Gal Friday.

What Could Studying My Surroundings Tell Me?

My head started swimming with questions.  Is this some kind of bizarre joke?  Am I safe here?  Might I be waiting for an eccentric lunatic?  Could I get out the door quickly if he showed up right now, or would I be trapped?  So, I propped the door open imagining I was on the TV show, Candid Camera.  Is someone looking at what I am doing right now, wondering what my reaction is going to be?  I was looking around the office again for a hidden camera when I noticed a pile of magazines on the walnut credenza next to the custom-colored file cabinet in royal blue with white drawers.

Since the desks were clear of paperwork and there was no other evidence of any business activity, except for two white desk telephones, I decided to look through the magazines.  Soon I found that there was a full-page ad in several of the magazines with a coupon to mail to: Enterprise Publishing Co.  Sure enough, every one of the magazines contained the same ad.

So, I studied the heavily copy laden ad for clues.  The ads were selling a book by Ted Nicholas called How to Form a Corporation without a Lawyer for Under $50.  So, the Corporation Co. had to have something to do with the book, perhaps a service company of sorts. And Peterson Advertising Agency? Well, maybe they placed the advertising in the magazine.  But, where were the people who ran these companies?

Then, in strutted Mr. Peterson with a big smile on his face, bright blue-green eyes, and a nice gut tennis racket in one hand.  He seemed relaxed, confident, and well-tanned in his late thirties.  “I see you found my ad, what do you think?” He seemed mildly surprised that I had figured out the basic connection between the companies, and added that the author, Ted Nicholas, was his pen name.

Establishing a Rapport

We hit it off, as the conversation flowed easily or perhaps I came under his charm.  We talked about politics, child-rearing, and tennis in addition to the needs of the business and the job.  Unlike the crazy guy I feared, Mr. Peterson was knowledgeable and very open, a charismatic businessman who wanted only the best for his business.  He made good eye contact, and was an attentive listener.   I sensed that I could learn a great deal should he become my mentor.

Nick explained that independent contractors working for home were conducting the day to day business.  He liked being able to pay for performance, piece work, etc. rather than for time.  But, the nature of the Gal Friday position actually required someone to be on site during business hours and he needed relief from phone inquiries from advertisers and customers.  If hired, I, in fact, would be his first employee.

Closing the Interview

As the interview was coming to a close, Mr. Peterson looked again at my application and asked:  “Why are you asking for a starting salary that appears to be thirty percent higher than you have ever earned?”   This told me he was interested and maybe even sold, so it might just be a matter of negotiating the salary.  I wanted him to be confident that he would be getting a great deal and look no further.  So, I looked him in the eyes, smiled and said:

“Because I am worth ten times more than I am asking.  And, if after the first month you have any doubt whether I am worth every penny, I will refund my salary and walk away.”

The phone rang an hour after I got home.  “Can you start Monday?”  Now, it was up to me to deliver on my guarantee.  (Stay tuned for more of the story in a forthcoming blog.)

The world has changed tremendously over the last forty years, but there are some things that never change.

Career Shopping and Interview Ideas That Have Stood the Test of Time!

  • Know your worth and ask for more than you expect. Then, be ready to negotiate.  Study industry salary averages online at sites like Career Trend or PayScale in the area where you will be working.
  • Evaluate what type of work you are good at, what interests you, and what you will not accept.  What you got a degree in is not always what is best for your life.  If you don’t have a clue, take the free test at 16Personalities or visit Erica Sosna’s website.
  • Understand your skills and your limitations, but be ready to find a way to supplement what you don’t know.
  • Learn as much about the company before your interview.  Every business has a website you can study.  Find out who their main competitors are and give yourself a short course on the industry, if need be.  Websites like GlassDoor offer useful feedback from prior employees.  Think about some insightful questions you might ask about the company and the position. The better equipped you are, the more confident you will be.
  • Listen carefully to find out what goals or benefits the interviewer hopes to achieve with the person who fills this position.  Target that goal before closing the interview
  • Persevere in the quest! Look for a job you will love – don’t settle.   You are bargaining for your precious time – your life!  Don’t sell your life too cheaply, or spend it miserable in a career that isn’t right for you.  You deserve better!

Featured image:  Lily Tomlin, Interview Magazine, May 1988




Buffalo Nickels & Memories of Yesteryear

Packing for a flight to Philadelphia to visit family and celebrate my granddaughter’s birthday, I ran across a small bag of Buffalo/Indian head nickels in the dresser.  Buffalo Nickels have always had a special place in my heart.  They brings back fond memories of the 1950s.    I recall sorting through the coins collected with my brother when I had the privilege to join him on his paper route. Continue reading “Buffalo Nickels & Memories of Yesteryear”

Dream Vacation in Hawaii on the Cheap!

Imagine a dream vacation to Hawaii or wherever your heart desires, without running up bills or blowing your budget.  Now, I love a bargain and am always on the hunt to get something for nothing.  But, everybody knows its expensive to get to Hawaii.   And, the hotel costs alone can eat your lunch! So, what is all this about doing it on next to nothing? Continue reading “Dream Vacation in Hawaii on the Cheap!”

St. Patrick’s Day – Five Tips for Celebration!

Everybody in the U. S. knows to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day if you don’t want to get pinched.  But, are you ready for the celebration?  To make the most of  St. Patrick’s Day, just follow the tips below. Continue reading “St. Patrick’s Day – Five Tips for Celebration!”

Online Dating – Five Steps to Cut Thru Fantasy & Fraud

Have you ever felt like the time you spend engaging with online dating sites is a waste of your time?  Join the club!  But what can you do about it?  Sometimes, it seems there are a whole lot of weirdos out there and only one perfectly normal person – you!

Maybe it is time to cut through the clutter, and seek out a genuine, eligible online date.  If you are willing to examine this a little further, you may also find that you – yourself are the one who lives in fantasy or lies –  just a little.  But, that doesn’t constitute a fraud, or does it? Continue reading “Online Dating – Five Steps to Cut Thru Fantasy & Fraud”