Page last updated at 17:40 GMT, Saturday, 10 January 2009

'Home' after more than 100 years

Graeme Minty
The young Canadian is enjoying his time in southern Scotland

A young Canadian rugby player in south west Scotland knows better than most the meaning of Homecoming 2009.

Graeme Minty, 18, traded Vancouver for Dumfries and Galloway - more than 100 years after his great-great-grandfather headed in the opposite direction.

A chance encounter gave the teenager the opportunity to come and play rugby for Dumfries Saints second team.

Now he says he is "really comfortable" in an area one of his ancestors used to patrol as a policeman.

The young man's "homecoming" started four years ago when his grandparents Bill and Midge Summersgill visited Dumfries on a fact-finding mission.

Mr Summersgill was tracing the roots of his own grandparents, William McDonald and Janet Alexander.

One thing any visitor to Dumfries and Galloway can expect is great hospitality
Ken Cameron
Former Dumfries provost
William was an Aberdonian who became a policeman in Dumfries where he met Janet, a native of Borgue, near Kirkcudbright.

In 1905 he decided to leave his job policing in Thornhill and start a new life in Canada, with his wife joining him a year later.

About a century after that, his grandson returned to the region where he was given a particularly warm welcome by the provost of Dumfries at the time, Ken Cameron.

The links might have ended there had it not been for a conference in Canada about the abuse of elderly people.

Two of the delegates - Ann Ferguson of Age Concern Scotland and Insp Jacqueline McIlwraith - hailed from Dumfries and Galloway.

Also in attendance was the vice president of the British Columbia Coalition to Eliminate Abuse of Seniors, Bill Summersgill.

He was stunned to find two people from the region of his ancestors and, over time, his family became good friends with the Fergusons.

Vancouver
The 18-year-old left Vancouver behind for Dumfries and Galloway
It was during the Summersgills last visit to Dumfries that Andy Ferguson - Ann's husband - asked if they knew any young Canadians who played rugby.

Mr Summersgill revealed his grandson's love of the game and by August last year young Graeme was on a flight to Glasgow.

"It was a Thursday," he recalled.

"I had a 10-hour flight, was grilled by the customs, met Andy and Ann, drove to Dumfries and just fell asleep.

"A couple of hours later Andy woke me and before I knew it I was training with the rugby club."

Since then he has been a regular with Dumfries Saints second string with eight tries under his belt and a couple of outings for the senior side.

"I've played rugby five years," said Graeme.

"My dad, Duncan, played for the University of British Columbia and I love it - I play for Magee Secondary School back home."

'Life is good'

He is also enjoying his south west Scotland surroundings.

"It is great here," he said.

"The rugby is good, the social life is good and the lads are great.

"I feel really comfortable being here - despite the fact I live in a city I have always been keen on farming and the countryside."

The former provost of Dumfries, Mr Cameron, said he was delighted to see the young man settling in so well.

"I just wanted to help Bill see where his grandparents had lived," he said.

"2009 is the year of Homecoming - I think this sums it all up.

"One thing any visitor to Dumfries and Galloway can expect is great hospitality."

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SEE ALSO
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16 Jun 08 |  Scotland
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