Home thoughts from abroad…

In conversation recently with a transatlantic visitor, I mentioned casually that I had had the Stars & Stripes specially flown over the United States Capitol on 14 June 2000 in my honour.  The look on their faces showed that they had no idea what I was talking about, so I had to go and fetch the flag and the certificate, which confirms that the Stars & Stripes were flown in my honour by the request of the Honourable John Warner, United States Senator for Virginia.   At this point, they began to enquire as to the why this, in their opinion, extraordinary gesture should have been made. I had to dredge back through my memory, but then I remembered that not long after we opened here in 1987 we received a rather strange envelope in the post, and all credit to the Post Office for the fact that it was even delivered!  It was addressed to ‘The young couple who have restored an old mill somewhere not too long a drive from Kilmarnock‘, and in it a couple from Kilmarnock, Virginia, asked pleasantly if we could send them some information about how we restored Dalgarven as they had been brought there by relatives I think on a recent visit to Kilmarnock Scotland.  It appeared that in the other Kilmarnock in Virginia there was a similar building in disrepair, a Mill I think?, and they were hoping to raise funds to restore it.  So being us, we sent off copies of the plans, and the history of Dalgarven, and how we had raised money through the Manpower Services Commission, and through our own funds, to restore this historic building which we had inherited in poor condition.  After several exchanges of letters, we received in return a copy of the plans and photographs we had sent them, and a call to local residents to form a society to restore some significant building in their town.  Later, we did receive news that this had happened.  So I guess the flying of the flag by Senator Warner was their way of saying thanks fo the help we had given them.

As we explained in all our writings, the flour or meal Mill was a significant part of any society in any country in Europe and the Americas, as the diet consisted, certainly in Scotland, of ninety per cent of the products of the Mill, ie flour or oatmeal.  And I have been lucky enough as an architect travelling through many countries, to come across remaining mills and it is my experience that one is always assured of a warm welcome by those who have either restored such a building or, in many cases such as in Scandinavia and Czechoslovakia, where, on architectural visits with students, we have accidentally come upon working mills and they have worked their magic on young people who have never experienced them before.  Some of you will have seen photographs of fabulous end results of the restoration of our waterwheel here.  We await the final pieces of the puzzle to be put in place so that it can contribute to work its magic on people from every country and continent in the world who have visited us this year.

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