The next interview in my “Outlander- the fans who make it” series is with Deborah Kennedy, who I have met a couple of times at Conventions in England. I am also the proud owner of one of her “pickle pins”
• Please tell us about yourself.
My name is Deborah “Debby” Kennedy. I live in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the US. I’m a retired high school Social Studies Teacher. In my career of 33 years, I taught nearly a dozen courses, developing two of them. In my career, I also co-directed 28 school plays, writing two of them. For 16 of my summer vacations during my teaching years, I coached softball for little girls in my community.
My hobbies include researching my ancestry, playing golf and singing in my church choir. For many years, I wrote 76 fan fiction stories in the “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” fandom, mostly after the show was canceled. I’ve also enjoyed portrait drawing, painting and playing guitar, though I’ve gotten away from them lately.
Here are some samples of my drawings:
As for my age, I used to tell my students if they wanted to know how old I am, they’d have to look up the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture in the year I was born. It was “The Greatest Show on Earth.” I also informed them that I had a theory about the Best Picture Oscar being a determining factor in a one’s personality. That didn’t sit well with my students who had been born in 1975.
• How long have you been an Outlander fan?
I was introduced to the books in 2013, when a longtime friend in the Dr. Quinn fandom, Laura Dickey, urged me to read the first of Diana Gabaldon’s books. Within two months, I had read the 7 that had been published up to that time. Diana was releasing book 8 with an appearance in Seattle, Washington in 2014. It happened that Laura, then a commander of a Coast Guard cutter in Seattle, invited me to stay with her and attend the release of “Written in My Own Heart’s Blood.” I went, of course!
While there, Laura asked if I thought Diana might enjoy a tour of her ship. I replied in the affirmative, so she sent an email to Diana with her phone number. It didn’t take long for Diana to call and accept Laura’s offer! The next thing I knew, I was tagging along in the surreal experience of touring a Coast Guard cutter with its captain and my most favorite author in the world!!! Diana was snapping photos of things with her phone, but I encouraged her to be IN the pictures! So, I took several photos of her with her phone. One is kind of iconic, as it is of Diana sitting in the engine room of the ship. She has used it as her profile picture on Social Media.
Around that time, Diana began to follow me on Twitter. I think it might have been an accident on her part, but she’s stuck with me, and I’m honored by her patience with me.
It depends on the time of year and airing of new episodes. I’ve really gotten sucked into the “black hole” of Social Media, following Diana, the cast, production people and several others associated with the show. I think I’m too embarrassed to comment on how much time that involves. I probably most engage with Terry Dresbach in her Costume discussions. I think I was the first to teach her about emojis on Twitter and, because she’s not a fan of so many hearts for liking things, I use a PIZZA emoji with her.
• What do you like most about the Outlander books and show? What do you like the least?
I most love that at the heart of the books is a timeless story of two characters who despite every challenge, tragedy and turmoil they’ve faced, are purely and totally devoted to one another. I most love that the show has cast such superb actors in the roles of Jamie and Claire.
I least like what happened to Faith and the Claire-Lord John “event” in book 7. In the show, I don’t like that the number of episodes per season keeps declining, but for the sanity and health of cast and crew, I do understand it.
• Which character in Outlander is your favourite? Please explain why.
I have to pick Jamie and Claire together as my favorite! The couple is everything. As Claire once said, “Bad things tend to happen when we’re apart.” Their journey in the books encompasses every aspect of the human
condition. War, adventure, romance, tragedy, heartache, history, religion, philosophy, family, marriage and a bit of science fiction thrown in.
• How has Outlander affected your life and/or lifestyle?
It has prompted me to travel to Scotland several times, along with Ireland and England. Scotland has gotten into my soul. Through my genealogy research, I’ve learned that I have mostly Scottish and Irish ancestry. It’s in my blood, literally. I was diagnosed with hemochromatosis two years ago. It’s nicknamed “the Celtic Curse,” and it is the most undiagnosed genetic disease in many countries, including the United States. I’ve become an advocate for people of Celtic ancestry being tested. It can save lives!
In addition, I’ve met some wonderful fans along the way. There is a sort of shorthand with fans of Outlander. It’s like you don’t have to explain why you’re at a convention or gathering. EVERYONE “gets it.”
I helped to form an Outlander group in Pittsburgh, and it’s grown to over 600 members. We raise money for the St. Andrew’s Society of Pittsburgh and for the charities of Sam and Caitriona. By the way, our name is “Ahtlander”, because Pittsburghers speak with a unique accent (actually influenced by the Scottish settlers who came here). In “Pittsburghese,” the word “out” is pronounced “aht.” Pittsburghers also use the word “yinz” for “you all.” Thus, our nickname is “Yinzers.” In Ahtlander Pittsburgh, we have Yinzernachs and Ahtmanders.
I’ve attended numerous fan conventions and have met the cast several times.
Because the cast started to appear in so many fan conventions and gatherings, I also founded Outlander Events, a sort of clearing house website, Twitter and Facebook platforms for fans to find everything in one place. Fans can follow Outlander Events on Social Media and on the Internet to see photos and videos of my encounters, plus find out what’s on the horizon with cast appearances. The URL of the website is: http://www.outlander-events.com
• Is this the first fandom you are a member of? What made you decide to join this fandom, rather than any other one? What do you like and dislike about this fandom?
I was a devoted fan of “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.”
I think it was a rather organic set of circumstances that drew me into the Outlander fandom. Once you read the books, that’s a major step. The engagement of the cast and crew with fans made it more fun, as did attending events along the way.
I like that this fandom has done such great things for charities! Millions of dollars have been raised. Through Sam’s charity, hundreds of people have improved their health and lifestyle. The fandom can be very supportive of one another, creative in their works and wow, can WE VOTE for our show and its stars!!!
I least like that fans can be quite judgmental of the actors and of one another. As a teacher, I observed that sort of behavior quite a bit in school, but to see it happen among grown women just horrifies me.
• Which personality (Diana and the actors of Outlander) did you enjoy meeting the most?
That would be like asking a mother who her favorite child is! Again, I cannot pick one. I call Diana, Sam and Cait the trinity. They are gracious, generous, friendly, funny and charming. They’ve never turned me down for a photo, autograph or just a brief hello.
Please see my answer to your second question. Touring the ship!!! My first meeting came in Tempe, AZ in 2013 when she autographed the first book for me. (See the photo with “Psycho” over my shoulder) My second meeting was at the release of MOBY (and ship tour). My third was at her hotel in 2017, when she took time to share a beverage with my friend Arlene Boeree and me at her hotel. That’s when she got her pickle pin!
I think working with the Pittsburgh Ahtlander group keeps me connected locally. Certainly social media helps to connect me internationally. Also, several of my best friends are big fans like me!!! Arlene, Nancy Tucker and I love to do Outlander
• What do you have coming up next?
I’ve been so blessed to have the opportunity and means to attend nearly all of the fan conventions and premieres. As long as they continue to have them, I hope to be there.
Some background info on the pickle pins and how you give them out to fans and why?
In 2015. the first Outlandish UK Gathering was held in Scotland. Fans discussed bringing something for a grab bag gift that tied in with where we are from. This idea prompted me to consider something that Pittsburgh is famous for, and among its many corporate
standouts is Heinz, maker of ketchup, baked beans and pickles. At the 1896 Worlds Fair, Heinz Company handed out pickle pins as an advertising gimmick. They became so popular, that people started to collect them. SO, I brought pickle pins to distribute
to the fans as a token of friendship from Pittsburgh. I’ve given out close to 1,000 pins to fans since then. Ron, Terry, Diana, Sam, Caitriona, Tobias, Richard, Sophie and most of the cast have them, as well.
You can find Deb on Twitter: @DebsterPA1
Swellendam is the 3rd oldest town in the Republic of South Africa and has over 50 provincial heritage sites, most of them buildings of Cape Dutch architecture. Here are some samples of this architecture.
The Olijfkrans college, established in 1825, deserves a special mention for it’s symmetry:
Early travellers and explorers who visited the Cape in the 16th century traded with the Khoikhoi people who lived on these shores and in the interior. When the Dutch East India Company established a replenishment station at the Cape in 1652, trade continued inland as far as Swellendam. In 1743 Swellendam was declared a magisterial district, the third oldest in South Africa, and was named after Governor Hendrik Swellengrebel, the first South African born Governor, and his wife, Helena Ten Damme. Swellendam was the last outpost of Dutch civilisation on the eastern frontier.
Swellendam has a superb museum, the Drostdy museum, which was built by the Dutch East India Company in 1747 to serve as residence and official headquarters for the Landdrost (magistrate). Soon after a prison, a house for the secretary, a mill and various outbuildings were erected.
On the one hand, the fully preserved magistrate’s house:
On the other hand, the prison, where all the prisoners were obliged to partake in activities to occupy their days and to earn them a wage:
We had a superb dinner at La Sosta restaurant, which is Michelin star quality food and wine, without the prices to match. It’s a family run restaurant, with both husband and wife as chefs in the kitchen, and the wife’s father being our host and sommelier. The restaurant has only 18 seats, so it’s a must to reserve in advance.
We also spent an afternoon at a beautiful game reserve near Swellendam called Bontebok national park. The scenery, with the clouds almost touching the earth, was truly sumptous.
The next day, we left Swellendam for Franschhoek (French Corner), which is a village in the Cape Winelands of South Africa, and is known as the country’s food and wine capital. Here’s an impression of the scenery during the 2 hour drive:
It’s almost impossible to take bad pictures in South Africa, even with an iPhone, which is what I used for all my pictures.
During this entire trip, I kept thinking each day that I had seen the most beautiful places and things; till the next day, which surpassed what I had seen before.
Franschhoek lies nestled in a valley, and the drive down to it is especially beautiful.
Here are some impressions of our hotel in Franschhoek, which was situated in it’s own vineyard with stupendous views:
The hotel came with a resident peacock family. Here’s the male trying to impress the female (it didn’t work).
A few impressions of Franschhoek, which is basically one main street (Huguenot street), with shops, art galleries, restaurants, hotels, wine shops, and the Huguenot church, which is a reminder of the French influence in this area.
We left Franschhoek for Stellenbosch the next day but, as I wasn’t very impressed by Stellenbosch, I won’t be blogging about it. The next stop will be cape town, where we spent the last few days of our vacation.
On the way to Stellenbosch from Franschhoek, however, is the Delaire Graff estate, one of the best wine estates in South Africa. The estate also has a hotel and restaurant, so we dropped in there for lunch. Surrounded by live music, sunshine and beautiful scenery, we had a delicious lunch before driving on to Stellenbosch.
My next and last section of the blog will be about Cape Town, which you can read here as soon as I post it: South Africa part 5
We flew to Port Elizabeth, picked up our rental car at the airport and started out on the next part of our vacation.
We didn’t find Port Elizabeth itself special, so we didn’t stay there longer than was necessary. Our next destination was St. Francis Bay, which is a small village about 1-2 hours’ drive from Port Elizabeth, close to the beach. To reach it, we drove through a strange town called Humansdorp, which was full of shanty towns.
St. Francis Bay itself was a town of just one or two streets with shops and restaurants, but the beachside was very pretty. The lighthouse was at the Southwesternmost point of South Africa.
Cape St. Francis, which was 10 minutes away, was much more interesting. Here’s an impression:
The next day, we packed our bags and drove to Knysna, a town at the heart of the garden route, situated on a lagoon, about 2-3 hours away from St. Francis Bay. Vincent got used to driving on the left quite quickly, even though I heard him mutter “left! left! left!” to himself regularly.
Knysna had been ravaged by a fire last year, so a lot of places that were interesting to see around it were no longer accessible or advisable to visit. Unfortunately, while we were driving through the mountains, we saw many forest fires..
We took a tour to Knysna Heads from Knysna harbour, here’s an impression.
Our next destination, Oudtshoorn, was a 2 hour drive from Knysna, through the beautiful Swartberg mountains. Oudtshoorn is located between the Swartberg mountains to the north and the Outeniqua mountains to the south, and is considered the ostrich capital of the world.
I absolutely loved the location and scenery from our hotel in Oudtshoorn, which was on an olive estate. It was extremely hot, though, around 44 degrees C.
We also decided to visit an Ostrich farm, as we had not seen any Ostriches so far in any of the parks we had been to. I had been told that the Marataba game reserve had released 20 Ostriches in the park the previous year, but had quickly discovered that they were considered a delicacy by the lions; the result being that all of them had disappeared within 6 months.
I love Ostriches, but I would not recommend visiting a farm. It was one of the saddest places I have ever visited and it broke my heart to see these majestic birds being treated only as meat. Though ostriches can live to between 50-75 years of age, the farms kill them off by 30 years maximum, as they don’t want them taking up space.
Fun Fact: Contrary to popular belief, ostriches do not bury their heads in sand to avoid danger. This may have been a misunderstanding of their sticking their heads in the sand to swallow sand and pebbles to help digest their fibrous food or, as National Geographic suggests, of the defensive behavior of lying low, so that they may appear from a distance to have their head buried. Another possible origin for the myth lies with the fact that ostriches keep their eggs in holes in the sand instead of nests, and must rotate them using their beaks during incubation; digging the hole, placing the eggs, and rotating them might each be mistaken for an attempt to bury their heads in the sand
Almost 30 kms outside of Outshoorn in the Klein Karoo, lie the Cango Caves, some of the biggest stalagmite formations in the world set in limestone, about 4500 million years ago.
Not only were the caves just beautiful, they were a welcome escape from the 45 deg C. temperatures outside.
We had not yet seen meerkats and, having found a game reserve close by that had meerkats, we decided to go on a meerkat game drive early the next morning. The Buffelsdrift Game lodge was a perfect place to do this.
I could watch meerkats for hours….these little animals move as though they are Energizer bunnies.
Fun Fact: A group of meerkats is called a “mob”, “gang” or “clan”. A meerkat clan often contains about 20 meerkats, but some super-families have 50 or more members. In captivity, meerkats have an average life span of 12–14 years, and about half this in the wild.
Later that day, we left for Swellendam, which was the next place on our itinerary. Swellendam is the 3rd oldest town in the Republic of South Africa and has over 50 provincial heritage sites, most of them buildings of Cape Dutch architecture. The 3 hour drive through the Outeniqua mountains was very beautiful.
When I saw that we were passing by Ronnie’s sex shop on the way, we had to stop and investigate! No sex, just a bar/ pub.
And then some beautiful scenery…
I will share more about Swellendam in the next part of my blog.
Click here to read the next part of my blog South Africa Part 4
PART 2 – SAFARI AT MADIKWE – KOPANO LODGE
As sad as we were to leave the magical Marataba Safari Lodge, the next part of our adventure awaited us, so off we went.
Here’s JJ again, taking off in that 5 seater Cessna again…
The flight was quite short, about 30 minutes, as Marataba is not far from Madikwe, here’s the map I posted earlier, so you can see how close they are.
and a very smooth landing……
Our guide, Wayne, was waiting to pick us up at Madikwe airstrip.
After a short drive of 10 minutes, we reached Kopano lodge, where we were staying.
This lodge, though very different from Marataba, is beautiful in it’s own right. Madikwe game reserve is approximately 73,000 hectares in size, so it’s 3 times the size of Marataba.
We had already seen four out of five of the big five: Cape Buffalo, Lion, Elephant and Rhino, but the leopard had remained elusive at Marataba. We also wanted to see cheetah, but had been unable to do so at Marataba.
What should we see on our very first game drive at Madikwe?
This female cheetah was relaxing in the hot afternoon sun and was not at all interested in us. Cheetahs are usually notoriously shy animals and difficult to find in a game reserve. This cheetah had a tracking collar on her neck because she was new to the park and her movements needed to be recorded. These collars are usually removed after the first year.
Half an hour later, we came across 2 lionesses relaxing under a tree.
And right after that, a herd of elephants.
And then we got caught in a thunderstorm, which was truly spectacular.
A note about elephants: they can strip huge parts of the forest bare in a matter of hours, leaving the landscape looking bereft and apocalyptic.
In the first part of this blog, which you can read here, (South Africa Part 1), I mentioned how surprised I was to see how good the camouflage of the animals was.
Here’s an illustration: we were parked here for a while….I couldn’t see much…
and then, all of a sudden, I could see….
The afternoon game drive brought a huge gift…we found 2 young leopards, brother and sister, about 1 1/2 years old, relaxing and waiting for their mother to return with food. Leopards are usually shy and very difficult to track, as their territory is not limited to the reserve. They can climb trees and jump over electric fences and move from park to park in this way.
Halfway during every game drive, we take a break, get out of the car, stretch our legs. The rangers carry coffee and biscuits in the morning and wine and snacks in the evening, so that we can relax and enjoy.
Here’s what happened on one of our after drives:
Our guide Wayne had just finished explaining to us that the park had taken in a lot of elephants from Zimbabwe in the last year, and these were known to be aggressive and charge the vehicles for no reason. These elephants had been tagged with collars so that the rangers could recognise them at a distance and avoid them.
On that day, I saw a herd of elephants heading in our direction while we were on our coffee break and out guide Wayne, after taking one look at them, said : in the car. NOW!!! He later explained that one of the females in that herd was from Zimbabwe, known to be aggressive, and she had a baby with her.
Some images from that day:
Suffice to say that we slept really well after such an interesting and busy day.
The staff at Kopano Lodge is really cool; they leave sweet notes on your bed every morning and every evening. Here’s a sample:
The next morning, we were up bright and early at 5 a.m and off on a game drive by 5.30. The morning brought an encounter with 2 lionesses who were in a playful mood.
And a family of giraffes feeding on acacia trees;
On our last game safari of the trip, we were lucky to see 2 cheetah brothers at the start of their hunt. Only the male cheetahs hunt together, the females remain solitary, which is one of the reasons cheetahs are on the endangered list.
We followed them for about 10 minutes, after which the sighting was closed, and they were left to continue on their hunt in peace.
Here are some images from our last day of safari:
The next morning, we relaxed at the pool side, before catching our afternoon flight to Johannesburg and then on to Port Elizabeth.
The pool is conveniently close to a watering hole, so we spent the morning animal watching…
That afternoon, we took a flight to Johannesburg. Here are some pictures from the air….
This was the end of the safari part of our vacation. Here’s a promotional film about the lodge where we stayed.
My next blog will be about the Garden Route that we drove for the next 2 weeks.
Click here to read it: South Africa Part 3- Garden Route
PART 1 – SAFARI AT MARATABA LODGE
As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to go on safari to Africa. My mother went to Kenya in 1974, when I was a young girl, and the stories she told me about the animals that she saw on safari made me want to go. Once I got married to Vincent, we travelled the world but I couldn’t convince him to go on safari to Africa. Until this year.
Our adventure started the day after our arrival in Johannesburg, when we were picked up at the airport by a representative of Angel Gabriel tours and taken to the local Grand central airport.
‘Hang on’, he said to us, “let me go find the pilot”. He came back 10 minutes later with a blond Adonis from Ireland named JJ, who took us to a 5 seater Cessna for our flight. I remember thinking: I know that going on safari to Africa was going to be an adventure, but this may be too much adventure for me!
5 minutes later, on a seat with my knees tucked in to my neck, we were off.
I must say that I was surprised at how well the flight went and how much I enjoyed the scenery above Johannesburg.
About an hour later, the scenery started to change and I knew we were close to our destination, Marataba Safari Lodge, which is a part of the Marakele National Park and is next to the Waterberg mountains in the north of South Africa.
Here’s an idea as to the location of the park in the north of South Africa.
Once we landed just outside the park, our ranger guide Russell was waiting to pick us up in his jeep, a modified Land cruiser, which seats a maximum of 11 people.
We watched and waved JJ off as he left, and in to the park we went.
The park is 23,000 hectares in size and surrounded by an electrified fence to keep poachers out. The drive from the air field to our lodge was supposed to take 45 minutes, but we came across so many animals on our way, that it took us a couple of hours.
And then, this happened…
Well, after this warm welcome, nothing was going to spoil our first day!
More was waiting for us, though. We finally arrived at the lodge.
To say that we were Totally Gobsmacked by the vistas and the surroundings would be putting it mildly. Impalas on the lawn, giraffes at the watering hole in front of the lodge, wildebeest and warthogs at the swimming pool and naughty, thieving monkeys at the dining table.
The lodge has 16 luxury tents available, so there is a maximum of 32 guests at any time. Your ranger fetches you from the airport and takes you on safari twice a day for your entire stay.
Upon arrival, guests are given firm instructions to never leave their tents without an escort once it is dark. Apparently, one of the guests has still not quite recovered from a lion making a kill outside her tent in the dead of night a couple of years ago!
We decided to have a late lunch before going on safari again that evening, but were quite amazed at the company that joined us for lunch..
One thing that became clear to me very quickly was that the animals are perfectly camouflaged to suit their surroundings and one may drive past the largest of them several times before seeing them.
That afternoon, we came across 4 lion cubs (6-9 months old) from 2 mothers, relaxing at a water hole, waiting for their mothers to return from a hunt.
They were completely unafraid of us and approached us to within 10 feet and lay down in the shade of our jeep.
Meanwhile, elsewhere, the 2 mothers were working hard to find food for their cubs. We came across them in hunting mode…
Some of the animals we saw on safari on our first day…. zebras (considered to be the Drama Queens of the bush because they make a fuss about nothing), kudu female, giraffes and our resident family of warthogs. The hogs camped out at our swimming pool and were to be seen scratching for roots every day. Oh, and loads of Impala.
Whenever we came across Rhinos in the bush, they immediately stood back to back, so that they had a 360 degree view of everything that is going on around them.
On our next day, we were up bright an early at 5 a.m. to have a quick cup of coffee and a biscuit, before going on our morning safari, which lasted 3-4 hours. it was quite cold, so we were happy that there were blankets in the jeep to keep us warm.
Here are some impressions from that day.
The backdrop of the Waterberg mountains makes for a dramatically beautiful landscape.
And here are some elephants crossing a dry river bed..
And a giraffe, leopard tortoise and a young bull elephant…
On our last day at Marataba, we were taken on a River Safari on the Miss Mara, which was truly magical.
Elephants are my favourite animals, but on this trip I actually realised how dangerous they can be. A night encounter with a herd of elephants, 2 cheetahs and a giraffe left us really scared and with a new respect for these magnificent creatures.
Here’s an idea of how a night safari feels in an open jeep. The parks use red lamps to look for game instead of white lamps, because the white lamps blind the animals and can make them more vulnerable to hunters.
Unfortunately, we had to leave Marataba the next day, but we still had a few days of safari left.
Here’s a video about the property:
Part 2 of my blog will focus on Madikwe safari lodge, which is where we went next. To read that, click here: South Africa Part 2
The next interview in my “Outlander- the fans who make it” series is with Emma Chalmers, one of the two owners of Mary’s Meanders Tours in Scotland. I have met both Emma and her business partner Anne, and enjoyed a day tour with them, visiting season 2 Outlander locations.
- Please tell us about yourself (name, age, country where you live, profession, hobbies, etc)
Hi, I’m Emma Chalmers, 46 years old, born & raised in Dublin. I lived in San Francisco in my 20’s, and moved back to Ireland in 1999, where I met my Scottish husband and moved with him to Scotland in 2003. I have 3 children, 2 dogs and a cat and am now separated, so life is very busy! Thankfully I love what I do for a living, so I don’t really call it “work” and I guess you could call it a working hobby!
- How long have you been doing your tours in Scotland for Outlander fans? Please tell us a little about the history of your company.
I set up Mary’s Meanders in 2013. I had been running a children’s party business for 5 years and was ready for a change. We initially started with walking tours of Linlithgow, and that was when I met Anne and she came on board. Outlander was being filmed near us in Beecraigs Woods, and that was our first experience with the filming of the show. We did a trial tour once for Outlander UK fans and that helped us to put together a filming locations tour, one of the first to be launched! We began to spread the word about how huge Outlander was going to be to the local tourism boards, historical sites etc – they didn’t believe us then, but are now fully aware of The Outlander Effect!!
We have been awarded the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence 3 times now, and we are very proud of our 5 star status.
- Please tell us about the Outlander related events you organize in Scotland.
In 2014 we created an Outlander Dinner Show, as we wanted to give people a full sensory experience in the world of Outlander. These events were great fun, and guests thoroughly enjoyed eating the food, listening to the music & hearing readings from the books, it was an immersive experience. We still offer these dinners to groups.
We are part of Filming Fife, which is made up of a number of businesses who are passionate about making sure Outlander fans get great experiences when here, and we put on different events throughout the year too – screenings, attending fetes, quizzes and teaching other businesses about Outlander.
- Please tell us about the shootings you have seen of the show
We have been very lucky and have had quite a few experiences of watching filming. My favourite would be when Anne and I spent a freezing cold afternoon watching them film in Beecraigs woods for the end of season 2. We were the only two people there that day and were allowed to be right up close as they shot. That was pretty special.
- How much time do you spend every day on Outlander?
Gosh, I spend a huge amount of my day in the world of Outlander. I am answering e-mails last thing at night from future guests, and in the mornings I am online looking at groups and pages on Facebook. I don’t ever have a day without Outlander in it somehow!
- What do you like most about the Outlander books and show? What do you like the least?
I guess it would be the development of Jamie and Claire’s relationship over the years. there aren’t many books that provide you with the same opportunity to get to know the characters so well.
I wasn’t so fond of the military aspects of the books and I am sometimes guilty of glossing over those!
- Which character in Outlander is your favourite? Please explain why.
Jenny is such a great character, her strength is really admirable and I love how she tells it like it is! In the last season when Jamie was being taken away, she had me in tears as she cried out “You gave me no choice brother, and I’ll never forgive you, never.”
- How has Outlander affected your life and/or lifestyle?
Firstly, I would say that Outlander has changed my life by giving me so many new friends. You get to a certain age and think that you have made all your friends, but that all changed for me in 2014. It came along at a challenging time in my life, as I was separating from my husband. But through Outlander I have met so many amazing and inspiring women through our tours, trips to conventions, Tartan Week (3 times), that I feel very blessed to have friends from all over the world.
My children are fully involved in the Outlander world too. Even though they have never read it, they have seen the occasional scene. We visit historical sites all the time and the chat generally comes around to Jamie and Claire somehow! They see how history can be interesting and also how it connects to us today.
Our profile has been raised by our Outlander tours and that has helped us gain clients for our Ancestry Tours. A lot of Outlander fans have been inspired by the books and show to research their own ancestors so we now do many Outlander/Ancestry tours too, which are always interesting.
Without Outlander, Anne and myself may not have had a chance to have the friendship and the great working relationship we have. We are both committed to making sure that anyone who books with Mary’s Meanders has a truly fabulous experience. We understand that a trip to Scotland may be the most special trip for our guest and we feel it is our duty to give them a memorable visit.
We have had many fun times together both personally and professionally; one that stands out for me is when we were invited to talk about The Outlander Effect in Westminster to MP’s in London in January this year. That was a proud day for us both.
- Is this the first fandom you are a member of? What made you decide to join this fandom, rather than any other one? What do you like and dislike about this fandom?
I was part of the U2 fandom many years ago, when I was growing up but that was very different. No social media for a start! You only knew if someone else was a fan if they wore a badge really. I have pretty much had good experiences through this fandom, as I don’t read anything unpleasant or move away quickly if I come across it.
By being a part of the Outlander world, I have traveled to the States 3 times for the Tartan Week festivities in New York, attended 2 premieres, went to the official Starz Season 2 premiere party which was a pretty amazing and surreal experience. Most of the cast and writers were there, and I am fairly sure it was Maril who complimented me on my dress that evening.
- Have you met any of the actors or Diana? If so, which personality did you enjoy meeting the most? If not, whom would you like to meet the most?
I have seen Diana speak a couple of times, met Cait twice, watched Sam and Cait film but didn’t get a chance to say hi to Sam, met Graham when he was the Grand Marshal in New York, had my photo taken at a fan convention with anyone I could! Richard spoke at the 2nd Outlandish UK Gathering which was great and I was brave enough to ask him a question!
As a fellow Irish lady I liked getting to have a quick chat about Irish things with Cait. I really admire her and her devotion to causes that are important to her so I would say that was my favourite experience.
- What keeps you connected to the Outlander fandom?
I am in a number of different groups online, but I guess what really connects me is the friends that I have made through what I do. I chat daily to friends from all over the world online, and I love how we all are connected and share details from our daily lives.
- What do you have coming up next?
We started offering week long tours this year, so we have at least two of those next year. They are different to other tours, as we all stay in self-catering cottages (with hot tubs) so its like a week long Outlander slumber party! Honestly the one we did in May was so much fun, I can’t wait to do it again. The group got on so well and there are plans for a reunion in 2019.
I am also hoping to visit Canada and the West Coast later on this year so will be able to chat to people about how to plan and prepare for a trip over here.
We are also launching tours that will include visiting Ireland so that is really exciting.
Lastly the new Mary Queen of Scots movie will be out later this year, so we are looking forward to sharing her story and showing the film locations.