Andrew Shaw and The Memorial Windows

From an address to the congregation of Dalserf Parish Church at the dedication of two memorial windows on 5 December 1999.

A hundred years ago, in the summertime in Dalserf, at the foot of Manse Brae, a young boy sold strawberries.

That boy was my grandfather Andrew Shaw.

In 1892, Andrew Shaw was born in Ashgillhead, and was baptised at Shawsburn that same year. He soon moved to Burnside Cottage in Manse Brae, where he lived with his parents and ten brothers and sisters. The Shaw family raised pigs, chickens, and horses, and grew oats, corn, and hay. After working from sunrise to sunset in the coal mines, Andrew’s ­father played the violin late into the night, while each family member took turns singing by candlelight. On Sundays, Andrew’s dad was the organist at Dalserf Parish Church.

Then everything changed.

In 1905, when he was thirteen, Andrew and his entire family sailed for America. They settled in the Midwest, where Andrew worked in the coal mines, just as his father had done in Dalserf. He became a United States citizen, joined the US Army during World War I, married, and had one child, Margaret, my mother. He survived the Great Depression and later built parts for airplanes used in World War II. He died in Indiana in 1962. At his funeral it was said, ‘There wasn’t anyone who didn’t like Andy. He was a good man.’

My grandfather never returned to Scotland. But his sister Peggy did. And in her 1969 Christmas card to my mother, she wrote: ­‘Margaret, I was so thrilled to find the place where I was born. . . .’ Peggy sent my mother ­pictures and maps—and finally convinced her to go to Dalserf. ‘You will love it,’ she said. So, on my grandfather’s birthday, in May of 1980, my mother and I flew to Scotland. In that daffodil- and tulip-filled springtime in Dalserf, at the foot of Manse Brae, my mother and I discovered the spot where a young boy used to sell strawberries.

We drove down the lane leading to Dalserf Parish Church. A man was just leaving—John Craig, a church elder and the architect who was completing the restoration of the church. We asked if we could look in. Incredibly, he turned around, unlocked the door, took us inside, and spread out his drawings before us. Then John casually asked us if we wanted to go to the Queen’s Garden Party at Holyrood Palace. We thought he was joking and asked if he could give us directions to Burnside Cottage, where we thought my grandfather had been born.

We returned to Manse Brae, and at the top of the hill stood the stone cottage in Peggy’s photographs. We knocked on the door and an elderly woman invited us in. After proudly showing us her terraced garden, she poured some sherry for us in cut crystal, while she used a plain glass. Then, from a very old china cabinet, she fetched a box of jellied fruit and, smiling with delight, handed it to my mother—‘for the car’. We left Dalserf, but a few days later we called John Craig from Perth to see if he was serious about the garden party. Yes, he was! We frantically bought dresses, shoes and hats. The garden party at a real Scottish palace was a sunlit dream for us.

Since that first trip in 1980, we have returned a dozen times to Dalserf—my mother, my sister Linda and her son, my husband Charles and I. Charles’s first trip to Dalserf was for our wedding in 1985. We came by ourselves—alone—to be married quietly in my grandfather’s church. As we drove into the village, little did we know that the villagers were in the process of adopting us—two Americans whom they had never even met. And what a fairy-tale wedding it was: all the villagers attending; a flag ­inscribed ‘our own Charles and Diana’ in the churchyard; a huge forty-eight-star American flag on the stone wall; men in kilts, women in hats; some rain, some sunshine; rose petals, champagne, a piper; a magnificent gift of china; toasts, poetry, ballads, and dancing. I will never forget, at the end of the party, everyone singing to Charles and me: ‘Will ye no come back again?’

Of course we came back—for Christmas and Hogmanay one year, and in the springtime, and in the autumn. And every time we have been overwhelmed by your kindness. ‘Why?’ I once asked. ‘Hands across the sea’ was the reply. With every trip the circle widened. With every trip our connection to Dalserf became stronger. And now, that connection has been made visible through these two beautiful windows.

My mother’s longtime wish of dedicating a window to her father began to take shape only after two Scottish friends became involved. John Craig’s nephew Andrew Merrylees took time from his architectural firm in Edinburgh to diligently search for just the right artist—and worked with him and with us throughout the ­project. Thank you, Andrew.

The Reverend D. Cameron McPherson supported my mother’s dream in every way, contributed ideas, and made certain the project was officially approved. He worked with everyone involved and kept us informed continuously. He was also instrumental in the financial contribution from Dalserf Parish Church. Thank you, Cameron.

To the artist Douglas Hogg, my mother, my sisters Linda and Karen, and I would like to extend our gratitude for a beautiful, sensitive, and spiritual rendering of the original concept behind the windows: an American daughter’s love for her Scottish father.