Scottish Education Research Grant 2012

    Sponsored by the Caledonian Society of Hawaii


    Introducing Billy O’Brien

    Our SERG winner for 2012 is William (Billy) O’Brien of Waianae, who will travel to Scotland for his SERG project late this summer. Earlier Billy will attend our Annual General Meeting luncheon on June 23 so that members can meet him, present his SERG (Scottish Education Research Grant) check and wish him well on his journey.

    Billy’s project is to explore the culture and lifestyle of Scottish rural communities and farmers doing organic and small-scale farming. He wants "to document the lifestyle of the Scottish rural community through its farmers, with a focus on the farm and its relation to the place."

    He expects to find rural people in Scotland as connected to their traditional heritage as people are here in Hawaii.

    Billy is arranging his visits through the WWOOF program (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), which "offers homestays throughout the world to travelers willing to volunteer their time on farms in exchange for room and board with the family." He has chosen to focus on Scotland’s west coast and islands as he wants to compare their lifestyles and practices with those of Hawaii, which also looks toward the sea. "At a place called Turriefield in Shetland I will learn about fertilizing the land with seaweed. At Croft 13 on the Isle of Eigg I will get to spend time with a family of three harvesting potatoes. At Coulmore Farm near Ullapool, I’ll help the family gather sheep during the fall. I plan to visit four to six farms in Scotland spending two weeks at each place for a total of at least two months between July and October."

    Billy, now 26, grew up in Waianae and has worked on Mouna Farm, an organic farm in Waianae "clearing land, building structures, plowing, planting, harvesting, and leading work groups." He has also volunteered to repair and maintain traditional hale structures. He has a glowing recommendation from his farm mentor.

    He completed a BA in Geography from UH Manoa in 2010 with minors in French and Art History.

    He has been seriously involved with hula since 2010 and continues to deepen his experience with Hawaiian culture. His ethnicities are Native Hawaiian, Irish, Scottish, English, Japanese, Portuguese, French and German.

    He has connections with Clan Skene through his grandmother’s side.

    Besides "sticking my hands in the soil and working the land as my ancestors did before coming to America,"

    Billy plans to take pictures and keep a journal, both of which he will use to make his presentation to the Society after his return to Hawaii in the fall of 2012. We expect this personable young man to be a fine ambassador between Scotland and Hawaii and look forward to hearing about his experiences and discoveries.


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