Heritage Society welcomes American visitors to town

Sisters Debra Niesen, Barbara Vitacca and Joan Moskal with piper Mandy Rae and Joan's son John Fairley
Sisters Debra Niesen, Barbara Vitacca and Joan Moskal with piper Mandy Rae and Joan's son John Fairley

The Buchanhaven Heritage Society welcomed their guests from the USA on Tuesday after they made contact through their Facebook site.

John Fairley along with sisters Barbara Vitacca, 73, Joan Moskal, 68 and Debra Niesen, 59 travelled nearly 4000 miles from Chicago to Buchanhaven after discovering their original links to the Baird family.

John, Joan’s son, has been in contact with the Heritage Society for a few months which led to their visit.

A special Homecoming was held for them at Buchanhaven Community Centre on Wednesday night where they were overwhelmed by their reception which included piper Mandy Rae, and enjoyed a plate of traditional Scottish stovies and oatcakes for the first time.

John compiled folders full of old documents, family photos and even maps to take over and share with his North-east relatives.

Chair of the Society, Alex Geddes, said: “The society is delighted to welcome them, especially as they have travelled so far to get here.

“We have ensured we have done the best we can to make them feel at home.”

Speaking to the Buchanie, John said: “Everyone in Peterhead has been so welcoming and to walk around the same streets our grandmother did has just been amazing, you couldn’t put a price on it.

“The buildings our family lived in may be gone but we can still see where they used to be and thanks to the Buchanhaven Heritage Society we can get the complete picture to see what it used to be and what it is now.

“We are really interested in seeing the people and the places to really experience a connection with the environment our family originated from.

John explained that his father left for America when he was 16-years-old and never returned, although he did keep his North-east accent.

The visit was John, Joan, Barbara and Debra’s first time in Scotland, despite the fact they traced their family roots back to Buchanhaven.

They have had a taste of Scottish life in America as Debra said: “There is a Scottish shop in Chicago so we have had oatcakes, tea, Scotch Pies and our mother used to make us mince.”

It seems the dull weather didn’t have an effect on the group as John explained: “We are from the Windy City, it was cold and windy when we left and it is cold and windy here!”

Before the stovies were served, John surprised everyone by playing a recording of his father singing ‘Roamin’ in the Gloamin’’ and ‘I Think I’ll Get Wed in the Summer’.

John added: “If he didn’t tell us stories, sing these songs or play games with us, we wouldn’t be here.”

Commenting on her first taste of stovies, Debra said: “They are very good and hearty, they would keep you warm on the North Sea! But Im glad we got served this as I don’t fancy haggis or black pudding.”

The group only had a brief visit as they left on Thursday afternoon.

Alex hopes the visit will be the first of many family reunions in the Buchanhaven area.