Schools extend hands across the Atlantic
A TRANSATLANTIC connection between high schools in Oban and Laurinburg, North Carolina, has been further cemented with a celebration ceilidh to mark the 25th exchange.
A group of around 40 Americans, including the 12 currently in Oban as part of this year’s exchange, joined a large local contingent at the event last Saturday in the Argyllshire Gathering Halls to celebrate lasting friendships.
Argyll and Bute Council’s deputy provost, Oban councillor Roddy McCuish, whose son Michael was part of the 2004 exchange, presented Laurinburg representatives Bear Hughes and Kelly Ficklin with a quaich to mark the occasion. Oban High School head teacher Peter Bain gifted two commemorative whisky glasses, before the Oban High School Pipe Band gave a rousing performance to begin the ceilidh.
Oban High School teacher Murray Hamilton was part of the 1998 exchange as a pupil and spent the following academic year at Scotland High School in Laurinburg.
Mr Hamilton, who now leads the exchange in Oban, said: ‘The ceilidh on Saturday was amazing and we were blown away by the number of people who came over from Laurinburg just for the weekend. It is a real testament to what this exchange means.
‘Every year, the pupils involved in the exchange make their own special memories and friendships – that has never changed.
‘But over the years the world has become a much smaller place. The recent groups meet up more regularly and with social media it is much easier to keep in touch, strengthening the bonds made in June and October of each year.’
Mr Hughes, who co- chairs the Laurinburg exchange committee with Ms Ficklin, added: ‘I think the success of the exchange is down to the love and warmth of the families involved. It has allowed people to make lifelong friendships.
‘I came on the 2009 exchange and stayed with the Kupris family in Oban. I am staying with them again this time and it’s as if I have been away for two weeks. We just picked up where we left off.’
More than 500 students from both Oban High School and Scotland High School have now benefited from involvement in the Laurinburg exchange, which was first mooted in 1991. That year a delegation from Laurinburg came to Oban with a view to setting up a twinning of the towns. Among the visiting group was Beacham MacDougald, who remains a leading light in the exchange.
In 1992, Mr MacDougald contacted North Carolina Sen- ator Terry Sanford, who in turn wrote to Oban High School rector Brian Mitchell to suggest a school exchange.
The following year Scotland High School teacher Ann Stack and pupil Spencer Adams visited Oban High School. Then, in April 1994 Oban High School’s head of geography Tom Laurenson took pupils Lisa MacKinnon and Nicola Meekin to Laurinburg to complete the first exchange.
Oban High School Pipe Band played at the opening of the evening’s celebrations.