Living close to the York-Chester-Fairfield county borders offers great advantages. If you need "high livin'" and sophisticated things to do and see, drive to Rock Hill. If you need to sink your heart in Scotch-Irish history, dip into the culture of Chester and Fairfield counties.
If you maneuver your automobile toward Winnsboro, you will hear that a dancer named Martha Macdonald, from Rock Hill, is going to be at the Red Tree Gallery at 3 p.m., Jan. 20, presenting classical Scottish dances. This offers us a chance to see her perform historically pure routines that honor the Scots' history. "The Geese in the Bog" or "The President's Dilemma" or maybe just the high-stepping moves of the Fling or the famous Sword Dance -- a little will be offered of many.
Hear her read the magical poetry of Robert Burns, while we sit pensively and listen as she delivers the rich pronunciation, telling us the unvarnished truth about the nature of man. No matter if he be from Scotland nor from a bygone century, you will hear glorious prose that illustrates Burns' profound understanding of people from then until now.
Meet Martha, daughter of the late Dr. and Mrs. Roderick Macdonald. She schooled at the Winthrop Training School, then went forward in her educational pursuits to Erskine College. Not yet satisfied, Martha traveled to the University of Maryland, where she attained her master's degree, and then after working halfway through the journey to achieve her Ph.D., she moved to William and Mary.
Never miss a local story.
Her heart was in that historical place. Her mother's family were Virginians, and she felt at home. Inspired by the college of her choice, she developed a course into an honors colloquium entitled "Folklore and the Arts." She began to seriously work on her dissertation, "Women in Southern Fiction." The all-important degree was added to her resume at Walden College in Minneapolis: Little, shy, sweet Martha was now Dr. Macdonald.
She began singing ballads and folk songs, and joined a Scottish dancing group. She attended tartan balls sponsored by the St. Andrew Society and began to honor the wondrous words of Robert Burns, as she will do at the Red Tree Gallery.
Beautiful memories still enrich her life, she said as she talked about the similarities between York Technical College, where she teaches English, and Rapphanock Community College. After teaching there, she and her children, Sara and Wynne, moved to the old Macdonald mountain house in Montreat, N.C., where Martha taught at the University of North Carolina-Asheville.
Returning to Rock Hill was a natural part of her adult life. She came home to care for her gentle, loving mother, who had encouraged and aided her in all the phases of her active intellectual and challenging existence. Her mother's demise left a gentleness that has never forsaken this artistic woman, who continues to give to any one or any group that needs her assistance.
A friend once explained that there are two kinds of folks, the giver and the takers. If you are a giver, you are richly rewarded, and Martha is generous of spirit -- she gives at every opportunity. She participates, she is a part of every interesting and artistic event and we, the roamers and searchers, are most fortunate to know and meet her.
Dr. Macdonald was the 2007 Teacher of the Year at York Technical College. She offers a dance class once a week, between English classes. She also teaches at the YMCA on Charlotte Avenue in Rock Hill, and received national certification as a historical interpreter last year. To top that, she has written a book, "Psaltery at White Oaks," that will be released in the spring.
She is a member of Daughters of the American Revolution, The Virginia Society and Daughters of Colonial Wars. She garnered a national bicentennial award for an original play with music and dance revolving around the story of a little Williamsburg boy. She also was honored as outstanding junior of the DAR in Virginia, another proud moment in her mother's dedicated life to her children.
She is a member of the Episcopal Church of our Saviour in Rock Hill. In addition, she is active in the Over the Teacups Book Club and is vice president of the Rock Hill Music Club. She is a hiker and an appreciator of folks who contribute. She has enjoyed that gift most all of her life, and is the owner of three St. Bernards.
She and her late twin sister, Mary, had the singular honor of being presented at the Chester Assembly by Angus Macaulay and Will Lyles Craig, gentlemen whose personalities have never been forgotten.
It is impossible to write about Martha without mentioning Linda Dye, artist and gallery owner, a gentle soft-spoken lady who is undergoing some traumatic events in the life of her very ill mother. So Martha, Phyllis O'Connell and Kate O'Neill have taken on the serving of a Scottish tea at the upcoming event in Winnsboro. Linda has given her gallery, The Red Tree, and Martha will perform.
You will be entertained and delighted with the fun; you could even try a little dancing. Those three ladies will serve some highland treats, and everyone will smile while enjoying a sweet Southern Sunday afternoon, where music and the soft words of Burns will be spoken in a gentle, Scottish way. This event is free, open to the public, and the location is 143 S. Congress St. So come join us.