Connect… Linking Asheville and Dunkeld & Birnam

ashvilleNews from our twin town, Ashville
How I love you, lovely mountains,
in the summer and the snow,
For the sweetest song I know is here,
where your rippling waters flow.
Jean Ritchie, Renowned Appalachian Balladeer

In a way the late Jean Ritchie helped set the stage for our new twinning partnership, as in the early 1950s she followed her ancestral trail to Scotland and Ireland, tracing the origins of Appalachian ballads back to their source. As she sang and recorded the old songs, it was a reminder to our Appalachian residents of their rich heritage of song and story as drawn from its wellspring.
Both Asheville and Dunkeld & Birnam are nestled in bucolic highland settings by the banks of flowing river waters. Both share a culture that celebrates harmony with nature, music and the arts, outdoor adventure, health and wellness, education, gardens and forestry, tourism, and the cultivation of small business entrepreneurship. So as we sought a Sister City relationship for Asheville, it was Dunkeld & Birnam that we kept returning to as our ideal twin. Although Asheville has six standing Sister City relationships this becomes the only one throughout Britain and Ireland.
It has been worth the five years of planning, idea exchanges, revisits, and yes a song or two over a pint into the evening hours! The proclamation signing and festivities at Birnam Arts August 20, were a memorable part of a festive weekend of concert and music session, ale festival, Heritage and River Tay trail walks, Murthly Castle cookout and tour, Dunkeld Cathedral and service, Scottish Deli cheese tasting, various rounds of golf and even a ceilidh dance. The common thread through it all was the warm and abiding hospitality extended to we eight Asheville Sister City travelers by your community, a place that former Asheville Mayor Russ Martin described on returning home as “a little slice of heaven”. Consequently on September 10, at most fittingly the Highland Brewing Company, Asheville’s first of now thirty micro-breweries, we did our best to reciprocate forDunkeld & Birnam representatives Fiona Ritchie, Alasdair Wiley and Brenda Roddy. Our proclamation activities included the signing ceremony with Asheville’s Mayor Esther Manheimer, abundant Scottish flags and Perthshire display materials, a bagpiper, Appalachian band, square dance, the playing of fiddler Pete Clark’s original composition in honor of our twinning relationship, food and plenty of Highland Gaelic pints, a joined-hands round of Old Lang Syne led by Fiona, and a final rooftop gathering toast drawn from several of Scotland’s fine single malt whiskies.
As next steps Rick Lutovsky and I co-chair and very soon convene a meeting of the Asheville Sister Cities Dunkeld & Birnam Committee. We plan to identify and develop coordinators for our many shared theme areas, as mentioned above. We will initiate a supportive framework for future exchanges (already set in motion is a brief pulpit exchange between Fraser Penny of the Dunkeld Cathedral Church of Scotland and Steve Runholt, pastor of the Warren Wilson Presbyterian Church.). And we will provide future communications for The Bridge, while updates from several of you will be featured in the Asheville Sister Cities newsletter. Should Jean Ritchie still be living, she no doubt would be smiling in approval and singing of our bonds of community friendship, from Caledonia to Carolina.
Doug Orr
Dunkeld & Birnam Committee for Asheville

(c) The Bridge