Schools ex­tend hands across the At­lantic

The Oban Times - - Leisure -

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.

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