Sustainability and steak pies help explain family’s Bahamas-Dundee bounce
Published on 2 September 2020
When Grant Stirling moves to the University of Dundee from the Bahamas next month he will be going “home” to a place that has come to play a very special role in his family’s life.
Grant (20) will start his Mechanical Engineering with Renewables degree at the University in October. In doing so, he will follow in the footsteps of his parents, Andrew and Hazel, who met while studying at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in 1986. Despite the couple moving to the Bahamas eight years later, Dundee has continued to act as a magnet for the family, with Grant’s sister Karina (22) choosing to study at DJCAD in 2016 and graduating earlier this year.
Grant was undertaking a foundation course in Engineering at the University of Stirling when the UK went into lockdown in March. He then decided to move to Dundee to spend that time with Karina before the pair of them flew home on a repatriation flight organised by the Bahamian government. Having lived in the city for three months he, like the rest of his family, considers himself part Dundonian.
“I think I was always destined to come to Dundee,” said Grant. “Ever since I was young I heard my mum and dad talk about what a great time they had there and I probably thought it was the only university in the world for a good while. Eventually I learned that there were others out there and I even went so far as to apply to a couple of them but as soon as Dundee accepted me I cancelled all my other applications.
“It’s a great University and the perfect course for what I want to do. As well as that, I have family in the area and I know the city so it’s the right place for me.”
Grant’s father was born in the Bahamas, although his mother and father hailed from Broughty Ferry and Forfar respectively. They returned to Scotland when Andrew was a teenager and he spent two years at Carnoustie High School before studying Architecture at DJCAD. It was at the student union bar that his eyes met those of Ayr-born Hazel, then an Illustration and Printmaking student.
Romance blossomed and the pair married in 1993. After spending their honeymoon in the Bahamas, Andrew and Hazel decided to move to the Caribbean nation the following year and have lived there ever since. Annual holidays to Scotland meant Karina and Grant have always been close to their extended family and enjoyed a strong connection to their Scottish heritage.
“Andrew had always had a notion to come back to the Bahamas and after coming here for our honeymoon we decided to give it a try,” explained Hazel. “Student life was fantastic for us and we always go back to Dundee when we are in Scotland.
“I always loved seeing the Duncan of Jordanstone buildings when we went back but it was only when Karina started there that we were inside for the first time since our student days. I was walking around saying ‘that’s just how I remember it’ and ‘I used to have lectures in there’! It transported me back in time.”
In 2003, Andrew started his own architectural practice, Plan It Bahamas, and much of his work involves designing high-end homes for the super-rich who call the Bahamas home. His clients include stars from the musical and sporting worlds. Several of the homes he has designed have featured in glossy celebrity magazines and he firmly believes he owes his success to Dundee.
“I have been fortunate enough to do some amazing homes for some extremely interesting, and occasionally challenging, people with incredible budgets to spend,” said Andrew. “The background education I received prepared me for this as we were taught to be sympathetic to materials, energy systems and the environment. The Bahamas is a very aggressive environment with hurricanes and other challenges so the design has to be able to stand up to those.”
Having switched from illustration to interior design, Hazel now works alongside her husband having previously built up her own business creating bespoke furnishings for the same type of super-rich clients that Andrew deals with. Karina looks set to follow her mother into the industry having graduated from Dundee with a degree in Interior Environmental Design.
Karina’s Bahamian upbringing influenced her work at DJCAD, and her final-year project saw her design a self-sustaining shelter for communities affected by the devastating hurricanes that wreak havoc across the Caribbean each year.
“Hurricane Dorian was the first ever category six hurricane registered in the Atlantic and it completely wiped out two of our islands as well as causing damage and power cuts to the others,” she said. “It was an emotional project for me but I wanted to do something related to climate change because the smaller island nations are taking the brunt of this.
“I had originally applied to both Dundee and Glasgow but with us having family in Dundee it made me feel more comfortable about moving across the world to study. Friends and family looked after me through all four years and I definitely made the right decision. It was a great time to be studying there because we were able to work on a lot of projects relating to the V&A Dundee and I was there for the big party when it opened.”
Karina and her parents will have an extra excuse to visit Dundee when Grant starts his studies at the University. Like his sister, he is heavily influenced by issues of sustainability and is particularly excited about that component of his course, although he admits there are other aspects of Dundee life that he is equally excited about.
“Renewables are the future and it is important to me to get as good a start in the industry as possible and Dundee is one of the few universities to offer a course like this within an engineering framework,” he explained.
“I’m also very excited about going to the Agacan restaurant for a kebab again because my mum and dad went there all the time when they were students and we would always go whenever we visited Dundee. I had my first steak pie from Scott Brothers earlier this year and my life hasn’t been the same since, to be honest. My perception of what good food is has been turned upside down and I’m looking forward to more of them.”
+44 (0)1382 384768G.Hill@dundee.ac.uk