I have no logical explanation for why I
ended up choosing the city of Aberdeen as my Scottish destination. But
once I picked it, my mental landscape solidified around a resolve to Go
Ahead. I quickly contacted a friend I have leaned on over the years for
advice: John MacDonald of Igloolik, who was born in Glasgow, whom I call
Sikaatsiuqatik (My fellow Scot). He just as quickly set up an
appointment for a radio interview about my search on Scottish Northsound
radio in Aberdeen.
I sent my Grandfather search story by
e-mail to the radio station well in advance. The show host, a popular
personality named Cammy Campbell, would read it at his leisure ahead of
time, and be familiar with the subject by show time. I had to caution
myself periodically with this thought: “Be mentally prepared for the
possibility that you might never find out anything more about your
grandfather. This whole thing can come up empty. Don’t be disappointed
if this happens.”
My only brush with Aberdeen in my search
had been coming across a man named William John Peters, who had worked
for the Hudson’s Bay Company starting in 1920. He had been hired in
Aberdeen, where he had been born. The similarity of his name to my
grandfather’s was intriguing, but not of any use in my search. My late
mother’s unwavering certainty of her father’s name never left any room
for doubt. The man I was looking for was William Mackenzie Peter.
I had not even looked at the map when I
chose Aberdeen. Studying the picture of a haystack does nothing to
narrow down the area where the needle in it might be located. My
ignorance of Scotland and its cities may have been a blessing. I was
vaguely aware of places called Dundee, Peterhead, the Orkney Islands,
and Edd’n-BURRA. But to me, one wild guess was as good as any other, and
my chosen wild guess was Aberdeen.
As I lined up at the boarding gate at
London’s Heathrow airport to get on the direct flight to Aberdeen, I
felt strangely “among familiars” with the other passengers. Many of them
looked like half-breed Inuit whose physical comportment closely
resembled people I knew. I saw two women who reminded me of my mother,
and I was almost sucked into one of those clear, saran-wrap-like walls
of a warp in time we see in science fiction movies.
So, off I went, come what may. The
duration of the flight was only a half hour less than going from
Montreal to Kuujjuaq, so felt somewhat like “heading home”. In some
fateful, inexplicable way, I didn’t choose Aberdeen: Aberdeen chose me.