Michael Feeley, KILTR’s new Head of Media Relations, explains why he believes in the power of “the Scottish connection”…
Around ten years ago, I was lucky enough to be awarded a travelling scholarship by the Scottish branch of the English Speaking Union (www.esuscotland.org.uk) and, as a result, I visited New York to attend the ESU’s annual global conference. My girlfriend (now wife) Samantha accompanied me on the trip and one day, after an afternoon exploring and shopping in downtown Manhattan, we decided to stop in at the bar of the Tribeca Grand Hotel for “one drink” before returning to our midtown hotel.
As I stood at the bar and ordered a couple of drinks, I noticed that a man a few years older than me was sitting at the bar, watching my interaction with the barman closely.
“Hey man,” he called to me, in what I would shortly discover was a Californian drawl. “Are you Scottish?”
I nodded and explained that I was from Glasgow and Samantha from Greenock.
The Californian smiled and said: “My old man is from Paisley. My mother is from Renfrewshire.”
Like me, this was the gentleman’s first time in New York. He was in the travel business and had just concluded a big deal for his company. I bought us both tequilas (his drink of choice) to celebrate his success – and he later reciprocated by sending two fishbowl margaritas over to Samantha and me as he was leaving.
Our “one drink” thus turned into two and we then started watching a guy who we ascertained was the maitre d’ of the hotel’s restaurant. He looked busy, harassed and not in the best of moods. Nevertheless, as he scurried past our table we both smiled at him and he smiled and said hello in return.
“Hiya,” said Sam and I in unison.
The man stopped dead in his tracks and his face lit up.
“Oh my God, are you guys Scottish?!” he said breathlessly. Yes, we said, we were from Glasgow.
“Oh my God!” shrieked the increasingly excited maitre d’. “I spent 3 years in Glasgow, studying at the Royal Academy of Music and Drama!!”
His name was Querelle and, at his invitation, we ended up back at the hotel’s restaurant the following night, both with shocking hangovers, queasily trying to swallow a plate of complimentary shell fish!
By this point, the hotel bar was filling up fast with young trendy New Yorkers and we were soon joined at our table by a young couple who revealed that they were actually on their first date. The guy, Bobby, would dissolve into hysterics every time I opened my mouth. “You sound and look exactly like Groundskeeper Willie from The Simpsons!” he told me through the tears of mirth.
To cut a long story short, the evening went so well that neither Sam nor I could remember getting back to our hotel that night, thanks in no small part to our “Scottishness”. The warmth and friendship we were offered by one stranger after another, almost all of whom would claim some link to Scotland, was incredible.
Now, ten years later, as I take up my position as Head of Media Relations for KILTR, I know that the same warmth and goodwill felt towards Scotland by those overseas is a powerful and valuable resource that, if properly harnessed, can lead to the creation of new friendships, relationships and opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
I hope to play my part by raising awareness of KILTR globally and helping to make those new relationships happen.