11 Jan George Duncan
George Duncan manages his own Innovation Architecture consultancy (France)
1) Where did you grow up and when did you leave Scotland?
I’m a pure product of “the Kingdom”. Born in Kirkcaldy, early childhood (‘til 6) in Ballingry – to pinch a quote from an old sketch of Billy Connolly “the kind of place where even the bread vans had rear gunners” (at least in the early 60s) – then Dunfermline until beginning university in Edinburgh in 1974.
I first left Scotland in 1978 to work in Libya in the oil industry – returned in 1979; left again later that year to work in France, returned (to Edinburgh) in 1980; left for the USA in 1983 – returned (to Edinburgh) in 1985; left again in 1988 for France – and have been there (or rather “here”, since I’m writing this from my home near Paris) for the past 23 years.
2) What is your job/sector and how many countries have you lived in?
Since 1995, I have my own consulting company, providing “innovation architecting” services to industry – mainly in information and communication technologies and applications. In, essence, helping my enterprise clients to weild both innovation and collaboration as competitive weapons – and to transform new ideas and knowledge into new sources of revenue.
As can be counted from my answer to (1) above, I’ve lived in 3 different countries outside the UK. But I guess the elastic that kept pulling me back to Scotland, finally snapped in 1988.
3) Do you sometimes visit bonny Scotland?
I occasionally get back to Scotland. I used to say “back to the homeland”, but having now been resident for so long in France, my wife of 30 years being French, and both my daughters having been brought up in the French primary & secondary school system, I guess that “motherland” is a better description.
My beloved mother was laid to rest in Scottish soil, in Lochgelly, her home town. My father, in Dunfermline, is still going strong at 80.
4) What do people in your host country think of Scots and Scotland?
The French – at least, the more erudite ones – have the same romantic image of the Auld Alliance as we do. “Perfidious Albion”, is their term for the Auld Enemy. Each of us however conveniently forgets that it was more of a love-hate relationship. In the 1400s, Scots mercenary garrisons had planned to take over vast areas of central France and had to be “bought out” to be persuaded to leave. Conversely, in the 1500s, French troops occupied Leith and Edinburgh, eventually being driven out by Scotland allying itself with England. At which point I guess it was time to bid “adieu” to the “Auld Alliance”.
Today, thanks(?) to television and a few caricature comedians, the French see us as a kilt-wearing, tartan-clad, bagpipe-playing, good-natured people (or less euphemistically, far too willing to put up with garbage) whose national dish is some kind of (in their opinion) tripe-filled object that you can play football with. They see golf as our prevalent sport, our grass as lush and green due to the continuous rain, and that there’s a risk of sunshine (as my wife will confirm for them, based on her personal experience) for a couple of days sometime between mid-July and the end of the first week of August.
5) Should haggis be a protected species?
Definitely. It should be protected from (a) having to share the same deep-fryer as pizzas and Mars bars (no-one in France will believe me when I say these are actually sold for human consumption – not to mention neeps, which the older French consider as animal fodder, and was all the Germans left them to eat in the 2nd World War) ; and (b) the fate worse-than-death of (or should that be “the fate that hastens our death by”) being deep-fried in the first place.
6) Has being Scottish abroad changed the way you think about Scotland?
Yes. But I would prefer to plead the 5th amendment.
7) What do you miss most and least about the auld country?
Least missed – a joint “first” – a toss-up between: walking to work over the Edinburgh Meadows with driving rain coming at me horizontally; and the NHS (e.g. my father having finally had his hip replacement after 3-years, because someone further up the list died while waiting.).
Most missed: the haunting sound of a lone piper, at midnight on Hogmanay, walking the local streets to welcome in the New Year.
8) What about the independence referendum coming up? How will it affect you and Scotland’s international image?
For me personally, it will have little effect. For my sister and her family who are in Fife, and for my eldest daughter who chose to begin her career in Edinburgh in the brave new world of genetics research, I hope an independent Scotland will allow better control and exploitation of the Nation’s prosperity for the common good. I especially hope that it confers the ability to offer Scotland’s citizens a truly social contract, where Society treats them with dignity no matter their economic or social circumstance.
Unfortunately, however, it’s unlikely to have any effect whatsoever on our dreich weather.
9) When are you coming home for good and do you have a message for Scots back home?
When will I come back to Scotland for good? I have to say that come that day, I’ll probably be surrounded by pinewood, but realistically, it might not be ‘til a’ the seas gang dry, and the rocks melt wi’ the sun. But that said, I will luve thee still, while the sands o’ life shall run.
As for a message for Scots back home: if your personal circumstances permit, I encourage you to seize all opportunities to exploit our – your – Scottish fame beyond our shores, and experience life and work in less oppressive and more rewarding climes where general behaviour and attitudes to consuming alcohol are more mature.