Like many Outlander fans, I’m madly in love with Scotland, a place I’ve never been. When I discovered Diana Gabaldon’s stories about Jamie and Claire and read her descriptions of the Scottish landscape, castles and the families who lived there, I fell in love and never looked back. Diana has brought Scottish culture alive for people of many countries and in the process has greatly contributed to the Scottish economy and tourism industry. Have you ever wondered if any other American women have made a splash in Scotland? Hint: The answer is yes!
Carly Brown (Full Disclosure: I’ve known Carly since she was four weeks old. She was an alarmingly alert baby.)
Carly Brown is a young Texas woman who has lived in Scotland for six years…first as an undergrad student at The University of St. Andrews and now at The University of Glasgow where she received her Master’s and now is studying for her Doctorate of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.
While at St. Andrews, Carly not only distinguished herself as a student and actress, but she combined her brilliant writing and performance skills and was named the 2013 Scottish National Poetry Slam Champion, eventually placing 4th at the World Competition in Paris. That’s right, the Scottish National Champion was from Texas. Yee haw! If you’ve never seen a Slam performance, you’re in for a treat. Think strong opinions, combined with humor stuffed inside a performance. A comedic Turducken if you will, delivered at high speed, with passion and purpose. You can watch her here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27ZOipXtlQw
Carly has published two books, one of which is a children’s picture book about her years at St. Andrews called ‘I Love St. Andrews‘.
Carly is obviously a brilliant young ginger woman check out her website here: http://carlyjbrown.com/ so I was shocked to learn she was completely uneducated in the ways of Outlander. What are they teaching up there at St. Andrews?!? I’m relieved to say, this past holiday, I filled in the gaps of her education at her mom’s house in Texas when I introduced her to cardboard Jamie Fraser and brought her up to speed on all things Outlander. I’m sure she’s very grateful to me and I know Jamie was glad to get out of the house.
For the past few years, my family, friends and I have attended the Austin Celtic Festival. The Celtic Festival is held each October and we love to watch the Highland Games, sample the food (Haggis!) and listen to the musicians. In 2014, my husband and I stumbled upon a fiddle player on the Main Stage and she absolutely blew us away. We knew nothing about Mari Black until that day, but now we are HUGE fans. Mari is able to make you laugh, cheer and cry while watching her play, something I’ve rarely seen in a performer. I think she was amazed by the enthusiasm of the Austin audience who did not want to let her leave the stage. We saw her again this past October and again the crowd was on their feet, cheering and not wanting to let her go.
Mari is from the Boston area, BUT she is the 2015 & 2013 U.S. National Scottish Fiddle Champion and the 2014 Glenfiddich Scottish Fiddle Champion!
I could not find any live performances (and believe me I looked) but she has a Youtube Channel where you can watch her perform many songs, here’s one with her bandmates here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lR3R2kM_tyI and another one of my favorites is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tmBzsRGlxs
Girl’s got credentials too! Mari holds a Masters’ Degree and Artist Diploma from the Yale School of Music, and a doctorate from Columbia University’s Teachers College. I know that sounds a bit stuffy, but she’s anything but. She plays her fiddle behind her back and behind her knees, she brings audience members on the stage, has them hold her fiddle while she works the bow. I’ve seen her perform three times and each time, the audience started out quiet and polite and by the end of her set, they were on their feet, stomping, cheering and begging for encores!
You can visit her website and check out her schedule and try and catch a performance when she’s in your town:
You can also order her debut album, Flight: http://www.mariblack.com/watch/ which I really wish Bear McCreary could hear because she’s really that good and Bear knows talent.
So thank you to Carly and Mari for your intelligence, talent and for making us proud of American women in Scotland! By the way…you two really should meet someday… and I’d like to make that happen!