It was June 17, 1994 and Doug had just finished his first stellar round playing the famed St. Andrews golf links in St. Andrews, Scotland. I was not as yet playing golf, but I was permitted to walk the round with Doug and his caddy. It was a typical June day, a little overcast and cool, the last of a 2-week Scotland adventure where we’d driven from one of end of the country to the other.
1994: The Swilcan Bridge spans the Burn between the first and eighteenth fairways on the Old Course, St. Andrews,
and has itself become an cultural icon in the sport of golf.
How do I remember that date? Because the Scores Hotel bartender told us that OJ Simpson had just led the Los Angeles police on a two-hour chase through Southern California in his white Ford Bronco. We were the only ones in this small hotel bar that afternoon. It was a wee bit early, even for the locals, but Doug wanted to celebrate and toast his round. The bartender had the Scottish television on, which was wildly reporting the news from California.
And then. The door of the bar opened and in paraded an entire wedding party. Bride in gown, groom in kilt and a large entourage. Some took a seat; the groom stood surveying the empty bar.
“What are they doing?” I asked the bar keep, thinking maybe this was their reception location, but that seemed odd.
“Pub crawling,” he answered, without looking up. “They’re looking for patrons to buy them a pint.”
The group began to leave, presumably because there was no one to support their party, when Doug shouted, “Wait! A round for all on me.” They let out a rousing cheer!
I have a few pictures, as the evening progressed, but by 2 am, when Doug was wearing one of the groomsmen’s kilts, it's fuzzy for both of us. I remember eating wedding cake decorated in fruit. That spectacular evening ended in the apartment of Kathy and Len Cheyne, the bride’s sister and her husband. And we became lifelong friends.
The wedding party, 1994. Michelle Cheyne, Kathy Cheyne, Monica and Declan Quinn, Doug and me.
Len Cheyne in their St. Andrews apartment, 1994. Doug in their kitchen.
The internet was new, and email scarce, so we wrote letters. On the millennium, they called us to wish us a Scottish, “Haud Hogmanay,” and we replied with a loud American, Happy New Century! We began sending small Christmas gifts and trying to share some part of our culture, our lives. We’ve received Scottish Christmas ornaments and scarves. I sent New York city souvenirs and American flag ornaments. We watched their pre-teen daughter grow up in photos. When we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, the same year as them, they sent us a Scottish quaich (pronounced "Quake") - a marvelous symbolic gift of love and friendship. It’s a shallow bowl with two short handles at opposite sides, colloquially known as "Lugs". It is used for welcoming visitors or bidding farewell to friends by tipping whisky. We treated them to a weekend at a little Scottish Highland inn they’d been longing to visit.
In 2006, when Doug was turning 60, we decided to return to Scotland and celebrate with the Cheyne’s. We brought 3 other couples and traveled from Glasgow to Edinburgh with the boys playing many glorious Scottish courses along the route, ending our journey in St. Andrews. The Cheyne’s had arranged Doug’s birthday party in the famed Locker Room of the Russell Hotel. Designed with encircled lockers bearing the names of past winners of The Open Championship at St. Andrews. It was an unforgettable celebration. They gave Doug one of his most treasured possessions; cufflinks designed with the Scottish flag.
2006, Doug's 60th birthday party at the Russell Hotel Locker Room. Kathy, Doug, Len and me.
Len at the Doug's birthday party table, in the sensational Locker Room of the Russell Hotel, St. Andrews.
The Cheynes and the Duncans, 2006
Our friendship has continued, although we have not seen them since 2006. Despite numerous invitations for them to come to America, they’ve declined. A simple couple, it was too much to consider. In 2017, after a brief illness, we sadly lost Len.
Kathy has remained in their modest St. Andrews apartment, now retired as a nurse practitioner with a senior care facility. Their daughter, Michelle, a grown woman, has moved in with her mother and together they are doing a bit of traveling in Europe. This year, Kathy took her first plane ride to Italy and thoroughly enjoyed it all, but disliked flying. I guess my continually asking for her to come to America is not likely going to happen. Instead Doug and I are planning a venture back to St. Andrews next summer for yet another milestone birthday. We love the town, the people, and now that I play golf it might be time for me to give the motherland course a try.
We’ll greet a dear, cherished friend, to celebrate this very unlikely friendship. And raise a pint to the memory of our Len with one of his favorite toasts;
I drink to the health of another,
And the other I drink to is he
In the hope that he drinks to another,
And the other he drinks to is me.
This past Christmas, Kathy and Michelle send both Doug and I these towels for our golf bags. We love them.