My next interview in the “Outlander- the fans who make it” series is with Andree Poppleton, who is a blog writer for Outlander Cast. I have read and enjoyed many of her blogs, especially the ones she wrote while she was in Scotland for one year.
My name is Andrée Poppleton. I’m a 64 year old Australian woman and I’ve been living in Scotland for the past year. Just now I am returning to Australia. I am one of those strange (but not unique) beings, a person who is more or less addicted to all things Outlander. Some of you can relate, right?
• A bit about me.
I’m an occupational therapist and I have worked for many, many years in the field of mental health. Mostly working with people who have a really serious mental health conditions, like schizophrenia, and assisting them to make the most of life and achieve the goals they want to achieve. Life is very challenging for people with this condition, made even more difficult by the attitudes of others in society, and the stigma they suffer. So that’s part of the work too, spreading the word that people who have schizophrenia have every right to take a place in society and, unlike what we often see in popular media, they are not people to be feared.
In my everyday life (before Outlander!) my main interests were gardening (I love to grow things and to create wild, messy gardens full of fruits, vegetables, flowers and other ornamental plants) and hiking. In Australia we call it bushwalking, in Scotland hill-walking, but whatever it’s called, I love to walk, climb and experience wild and natural places, landscapes and wildlife. I’m not overly adventurous, as heights scare the bejesus out of me, but within the limits of my anxiety, I like to get out there in nature.
• My Outlander experience.
When I first watched Outlander in December 2015, it had a profound effect on me. To this day, I don’t really get how or why this happened, but I did come to learn that it happened to many, many others, maybe to you, reading this! I was gripped by the characters, the stories, the backdrop of the Scottish landscape and history. Pretty soon I was consumed by all things Outlander, I read all the books in quick succession, and started following all the Outlander peeps on social media. And I waited with bated breath for series 2 to appear on TV.
The concept of ‘home’ was particularly resonant with me (you know, ‘you are my home now’) and the depiction of people so firmly embedded in a place. I felt ‘adrift in a raging sea’ like Claire. I was actually so emotionally taken up with all things Outlander that I decided I wanted to go to Scotland. I felt drawn there. So, I said to my family and friends, I’m going to Scotland and I’m going by myself, just to see what it’s all about. They thought I was a tad unhinged, but in September 2016, my Scottish Outlander adventure began with a months holiday.
Week 1 was a highlands walking tour. Week 2 was an ‘experience week’ at the Findhorn community in Forres on the North coast of Scotland. I spent Week 3 exploring the outer Hebrides (the islands of Lewis and Harris) and the Kingdom of Fife (I walked the Fife coastal path) and Week 4 I left open to see if I could get involved in any Outlander related action. So, weeks one to three were wonderful and challenging and fabulous in every respect, but week four is where my Outlander story really got going and I wrote about it in my first Outlandercast blog.
In the west end of Glasgow I saw Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies filming Season 3 scenes and met some well-known Outlander identities like Gary Steele, the production designer.
I was lucky to watch Outlander Season 3 being filmed in the west end of Glasgow; this was the scene where Claire unloads wood from the boot of her car in Boston, and meets her new BFF, Millie. I met and spent a fun day with 5 other Outlander fans, and we later decided to call ourselves the newglasgowgirls, and to get involved in the Outlander fandom as a group on social media. For the rest of that week, I had outlandish adventures with my German newglasgowgirls buddy, Sabrina. We visited Outlander locations, including seeing Sam Heughan doing the scene at Dunure castle, where he searches for Claire after escaping from Ardsmuir prison, and we also saw them constructing the entrance to Jamie’s cave near Midhope castle (Lallybroch). It was such a fun week and really topped off my Scottish experience.
Filming at Dunure Castle (above), and the beginnings of the Dunbonnets Cave at Midhope (below)
When I returned to Australia, I was still restless, and I began to cook up a plan to return to Scotland for a year. I was so fortunate that my employer agreed to let me have a year off, and pretty soon people were calling this my ‘gap year’ … it wasn’t totally a gap year, though, as I really did need to find employment … but that was another story.
I have never ever in my life before been a ‘fan’ or taken a particular interest in a TV show, author, actors, or any other aspect of TV production or celebrity. So the Outlander thing was ALL new to me from the start. Perhaps that was part of the excitement. Something that I had never experienced before. With the newglasgowgirls, we started to work on a social media presence which was a lot of fun and a learning curve. I started to contribute to Outlander conversations on various facebook pages and pretty soon I gravitated towards the ‘Outlander Cast Clan Gathering’. I liked this page because it was well rounded and didn’t overly sexualize the actors, and certainly didn’t cross the boundary between the show and their personal lives. The blogs and podcasts were really varied and interesting. I liked the balanced and lively conversations that went on there, and I contributed to many of them. So, one thing led to another, and eventually I became a staff writer.
That was a whole other ball game and is so much fun. I get to be part of a group of writers, bloggers and podcasters, many of whom have working backgrounds in the industry. I have learned a lot from this professional group and continue to benefit from my association with them. Of course, most of them are in North America, so we may never meet, but I have been so lucky to meet some of them in various locations.
• What do I like most and least about Outlander?
What I like most is the fabulous stories which resonate deeply with me. Even now I will rewatch episodes, and I listen to the audio books and soundtracks, especially when I am driving or walking. There is always something new to me. The characters and stories are wonderful. I think that Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe bring Jamie and Claire to life with absolute perfection. I love all the people involved in making the show; I don’t know them personally as people, of course, but they just seem like such a great group of professional and oh-so-talented people on every level of production of the show. And people with such great positive energy and humour, who care about the world and the people around them.
What I don’t like is people encroaching onto the personal lives of the actors. Let Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe have their personal lives, we do not know them, nor should we presume to. I imagine it would be horrible to have people publicly speculating about you all the time, not to mention harassing or demeaning your partners.
• Favourite character?
That is so hard to name one favourite. I love Jamie and Claire, of course, but I think I find Lord John Grey to be the most fascinating character. I’ve read all the Lord John Grey books, and I’m loving David Berry’s portrayal of him. I love LJG as the epitome of a person who is ‘different’, and who must hide who he really is, because of the disapproval of the society he lives in. In many ways, he is as much of an outsider as Claire. I love the subtleties, the tensions and the depth of feeling that he and Jamie have for each other. It is such an interesting and unconventional relationship. I loved the scenes between LJG and Jamie in Season 3. Of course they are not as detailed as in the book, nor quite so dramatic, but performed beautifully by Sam Heughan and David Berry.
I visited Craigmillar Castle near Edinburgh where David Berry and Sam Heughan shot the Ardsmuir Prison scenes
• Who did I enjoy meeting the most?
Well, during my year in Scotland I have had a few very brief encounters with Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe. To say I have ‘met’ them might be an exaggeration. In these situations, where you are at a fan convention, on a red carpet or watching the filming, the actors are gracious and friendly, but you really are just one of a sea of people they are encountering at that moment. It is quite surreal actually, and I have trouble staying in the moment and experiencing it.
On the red carpet at the BAFTAs in Glasgow in November 2017.
Sam and Caitriona came to meet fans during their break while filming in Season 4 Glasgow
I think I could say, though, that my last ‘meeting’ with Sam Heughan was the best. I knew I was leaving Scotland, and I really wanted to have his signature on the book written by Cameron McNeish, called ‘There’s Always the Hills’. You may know that Heughan wrote the foreword to this book, and made a TV progam with McNeish. I had attended a talk by Cameron McNeish, and got him to sign the book, too. During my year in Scotland, I learned that McNeish is an iconic figure among hill walkers and nature lovers, and I had enjoyed many of his TV programs.
Unlike my usual hold-back self, I just bowled up to Sam as he was going to lunch at a film shoot, and asked if he would sign the book. I said it was important to me as I was about to leave Scotland, and he asked if I had enjoyed Scotland. I told him yes, and that I had just climbed a Munro (Scottish mountains over 3,000 feet), and he said, wow, good for you .. or words to that effect. So, that was a nice little encounter for me to top off my outlandish Scottish year.
My book is now signed by Cameron McNeish and Sam Heughan – does that make it a collectors item?
My ‘real’ meetings with Outlander actors have been the interviews I have had with supporting actors for my blog post. I was fortunate to meet both Keith Fleming (Lesley in Series 3) and Ronnie Goodwin (one of the highlanders/horsemen in Series 1). These were very interesting and enjoyable conversations with a couple of very accomplished men.
Keith Fleming (above, as Lesley in S3) and Ronnie Goodwin (below)
• My year in Scotland?
During my year in Scotland, I continued to write for the Outlander Cast Clan Gathering, and they started to refer to me as their ‘Scoutlander’. This was because I began to focus on visiting Outlander locations, and attending Outlander film shoots where possible. This did require ‘scouting’, as the locations can be hard to track down. They are kept hush-hush, but often leak out at some point on social media. I know there is a tension between allowing the public to watch, keeping the content of the show secret to avoid spoilers, and maintaining the safety of all concerned. I hope I was able to tread that fine line with care and respect most of the time. That’s what I tried to do anyway.
As well as going to Outlander film shoots, I visited a lot of locations that have been used previously for Outlander filming. I have written about many of these on my Outlander Cast blogs, with more to come, so watch that space.
I also got more and more involved in hill-walking. It started with the Great Glencoe Challenge which I did with the newglasgowgirls in July 2017, as a fundraiser for Caitriona Balfe’s charity, World Child Cancer. We walked 26 miles in one day, through the magnificent landscape of Glencoe, and I felt a great sense of personal achievement. I had some help preparing, as I was a member of Sam Heughan’s My Peak Challenge program, and I started to attend the Everyday Athlete Gym in Glasgow. The sessions I did there combined with ever increasing walking distances got me prepared for the trek.
Preparing for the Glencoe event – looking down on Balmaha
Newglasgowgirls team Sabrina, Ren, Morag and Me – the Great Glencoe Trek July 2017
After that, I felt confident that I could tackle things I never thought possible and, a few weeks ago, I climbed my first Munro with a friend I met through the Glasgow Ramblers.
Terry and I – On top of the world – Ben Lomond
During the year I was there, I travelled throughout Scotland, and had the most wonderful adventures in that most wonderful country. I attended two Outlander conventions, one in England and one in France. I was able to go to the USA to visit friends for Christmas and, when my Aussie friend arrived, we travelled to Morocco and Portugal. All that I did was actually made possible by two great new friends, my newglasgowgirls pal Morag and her husband Sandy, who showed me the most outstanding Scottish hospitality I could ever have dreamed of. They took me all over the place, opened their home to me and supported me in ways too numerous to mention. I am very sad to leave all this behind.
• What next?
But now, the next phase of my life adventure has begun. At the time of writing, I am visiting my daughter at ‘Caballos de Luz’ in Uruguay. This is where she currently lives and works with her partner. It’s a place where people come to stay and experience the wild landscape on horseback. Its years since I’ve ridden a horse, so right now I’m resting up my sore body before the next ride. It is a stunningly beautiful place, and it’s so wonderful to see my daughter after 2 years! My next stop before home is the capital city of Australia, where I will visit my other daughter, who is at University there. Then its back to my home in Tasmania, back to work and to get back on track financially!
Horse riding in Uruguay
You can see my posts on the various Outlander locations and film shoots by going to www.outlandercast.com and searching for my name. I’m going to continue with my blogging for Outlandercast, as it’s something I really love doing. My focus will change, of course, as I am ‘Not in Scotland Anymore’. I hope that I may be able to continue to have virtual interviews with some of the supporting actors and I have one of these in the pipeline.
It funny because I have never been into sports or understood how passionate people feel about their ‘team’. But I think that is something of what I feel like with Outlander, a team feeling, a shared experience and an extended community of people with a strong passionate interest. I hope you will join me in discussions on my blogs and we can continue the Outlander adventure together.
It was fun to see Sophie Skelton and Nell Hudson filming in the village of Culross
You can contact me on Social Media as follows: