Blethering Away in Maryville: a Scot Finds His Place
Updated: May 27, 2019
By Ashley Perham
Photos By Savannah Odeneal
MTSU/Seignthaler News Service
Like many citizens of Maryville, Walter McQuade has an accent. However, his is not the long drawl of the southern mountains, but rather the lilt of the Scottish Isles.
McQuade and his family – wife, Carol, and three kids - moved to Maryville from Glasgow,Scotland, in 2007. He has assimilated to a degree, but McQuadeholds dear to much of his Scottish identity, including his citizenship, his accent and even his breakfast routine.
But it’s not easy for a Scot living in East Tennessee.
“My teabags, I get sent from Scotland to here because I don't like American tea..white sausages, I have to send to Florida…black pudding, Washington,” McQuade explained. “I have to send all these places just to get myself breakfast.”
For those unfamiliar with standard breakfast fare in dear old Scotland, white sausage is made from beef suet, oatmeal and leeks or onions, and, for the stronger stomach, black pudding adds pork blood to a mixture of suet and grains. The determined Scot has found places that makes his breakfast of choice in those locales.
McQuade has run a store featuring Scottish antiques on Lamar Alexander Parkway in Maryville with his wife since 2011, according to the store’s Facebook page. They also opened an American antique store next door a few years ago.
McQuade, whose hands are tan and leathery, also builds and restores furniture. He works in the antique shops six days a week and builds furniture on the seventh. This summer, he noted wryly, he and Carol plan to take a two-day vacation.
“Antique dealers don't retire; they just bury them,” he said.
McQuade was born in an Army hospital in England in 1957. McQuade’s father was in the military and was transferred to Germany two weeks after McQuade was born, but for the majority of his childhood, home to McQuade was Glasgow.
McQuade, who has five sisters and two brothers, dropped out of school at 15 and started selling antiques like his older brothers.
He is proud to say he has never worked for anyone.
He told his three children that when he came to America, he thought he would get a job. By this he meant a job with a boss. His kids told him that he would last two hours.
“They says, ‘The first time someone says something you don't like, you'll tell them where to go.’ I says, ‘I'm not like that.’ They says, ‘Oh yes you are.’”
McQuade told the story with a smile separating his gray moustache and beard. “I didn't think I was like that, but maybe I am.”
McQuade is very proud of his adult children, Andrew, Stuart and Rachael. Andrew and Stuart, who live in Maryville, came to America with their father. Rachael, who lives in North Dakota, stayed in Scotland for two months with Carol to finish high school before moving here.
McQuade said there was no particular reason he came to America.
“I could have gone anywhere, but I applied for America because my sister's been here for a long time, and every time I came it was always warm,” he explained. IMMIGRATION LOTTERY
McQuade and his family chose Maryville for its Scottish heritage.
“We just traveled 'round, and when we drove into Maryville, there's a Scottish church, a Presbyterian church. It looked like it had just been lifted out of Scotland and put there,” he explained, his voice still touched by awe.
McQuade, whomay be prone to exaggerations, said that the amount of money he earns here pales in comparison to his income in Scotland.
“I've done okay, but not like I've done in Scotland,” he said. “I can make more money in Scotland in one month than I can make here in a year.”
McQuade said he’s had to learn everything again about antiques and the differing tastes of Americans and Scots. He said that while Americans want the furniture of their ancestors, Scots do not care so much.
“Over in Scotland and that, we don't want that, what mother had. It's not good living in the same house all your life with the same furniture, same color walls and everything,” he explained, the words tripping off his tongue in his Scottish cadence. “We want to make new memories. Old memories are in the past.”
McQuade explained the secret he has learned to succeed in the antique business.
“How to make a small fortune: start with a large one,” he chuckled.
With a twinkle in his eye, McQuade said that stupidity was the reason he succeeded in the antique business, but also said that he is good at judging prices and memorizing antiques.
“I couldn't tell you your name, but I could walk in your house and tell you what everything is in your house. My brain's always worked that way,” he said.
Every few years, McQuade goes back to Scotland to buy more antiques for his store. In the meantime, he also stocks Scottish antiques from American sources.
As hard as he works, McQuade has no qualms about chatting with visitors for hours. He is a natural storyteller who has stories aplenty about the successes of his children, the gossip about his neighbors and stories of his customers.
“A man came with a sports car. So he's got a sports car, and I've got an American Indian headdress in a big case,” one such story started.
This particular customer said he intentionally drove his sports car so he wouldn’t have room for any purchases. But when he saw the headdress, he had to have it.
“Well, it's a soft top so he sets it up, and as he's getting in the car, he says, ‘You know if it rains, it's gonna ruin this car of mine.’ I says, ‘I know. Your top's off. The top's not gonna come up over that.’”
“South Carolina to drive to,” McQuade concluded the story. He shook his head. If he knew whether the headdress and the car made it to South Carolina without being ruined, he didn’t say.
McQuade has done well in America, but he still gets homesick for Scotland.
“My wife and my kids are really happy here. I'm ok,” he explained. “In the winter here, I get fed up because everything dies here… But it changes back.”
McQuade chafed at the idea of becoming an American citizen.
“I'm Scottish. Like a lot of people, they come over, and they put the hand up and they swear that they'll protect this country and all that. They're all telling lies,” he said. “If Britain and America ever got in a war, I'm on the British side. I'm sorry. My family's all over there. I wouldn't fight them for nobody.”
McQuade said he sometimes tells his wife he wants to go back to Scotland.
“I said, ‘I'm fed up.’ She says, ‘Wait till the summer comes.’ She says, ‘You'll be back to normal’,” McQuade said.
“She's right. I think everyone gets homesick.”
Ashley Perham is a Middle Tennessee State University journalism student. She is in Blount County as part of a feature writing class called the Road Trip Class.