#28 Patricia Morris (WGH 1981)

Alumni from around the world gathered at The Burn, the College's Scottish academic retreat, this summer (26-29 June 2023) to relax, recharge and reconnect with old friends.

Alumna Patricia Morris describes what happened during this very special gathering:

When the invitation arrived to spend a few days at The Burn, it came with no agenda. We turned up there from all over the world much as we once did when serendipity graced our younger postgraduate selves with places in the halls of residence on Mecklenburgh Square.

Now there were about 40 of us. Aside from the Alumni and sometimes their companions or family members, there were the Trust’s Director – Ambassador Alice Walpole – and the two guests of honour, Ambassador Judith MacGregor and Ambassador John MacGregor, and our Goodenough College hosts Melissa Morley and Andrew McGowan.

There were also The Burn’s local members of staff, ten almost invisible midnight elves who keep the place shipshape under the wry military gaze of the Bursar, the main man, the indefatigable Colonel David Turner. He is the engine, the fuel and the spark driving the entire show. Clearly one first had to have been Commander of an Apache attack force to know how to get the lot of us into line now and then.

Lest you suspect that a remote Scottish house party of strangers inevitably morphs into an Agatha Christie plot, you should know at once that the sojourn resembled more an unrehearsed series of genial encounters in a paradisiacal landscape. The vast differences in our ages, interests and nationalities welded and melded the group all the better. Think not ‘Knives Out’ but rather a verse from ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

Aside from an effortless conviviality that arrived with each guest, much was owed to the unobtrusive structuring of our time, arrangements we could take or leave. There were talks (three Ambassadors!) and walks (The Burn’s estate and Glamis Castle and Queen’s Well). There were authentic cream teas and excellent meals and a bar and croquet and a golf putting lawn. There was even an impromptu piano concert. (There seems to be a piano in every room.) There was a gala evening of haggis and kilts and Robbie Burns and toasts and a Scottish cèilidh and Scottish dancing – all optional, happily, for the faint-hearted.

Alternately busy and easy, it was fun to be with a houseful of interesting people yet with no pressure on anyone to perform. Here was a motif taken from the massive project that is Goodenough College under the new-ish Director’s fresh brilliance. She had set in motion at The Burn something beyond the educational, a reminder of the ambassadorial spirit that after all these years can still surprise and inspire. Our time-out-of-time was not so much a lesson as an experience of the cultural joining of hands, of the best values, examples of how one can be. Unexpectedly it was a privilege to be there and deeply moving.