While most teenagers use their summers to lounge by the pool or take vacations, senior Katherine McFarlin spends her break overseeing the removal of ivy from ancient Scottish ruins through her nonprofit organization, Ellan Vhow Preservation Fund.
McFarlin established the foundation in summer of 2012 after a trip to Scotland.
“We started the nonprofit for an archaeology project I started two summers ago. I got in contact with an archaeologist in Scotland who had written a book about Loch Lomond,” McFarlin said. “This was of interest to my family because when you trace back our family, the MacFarlane clan, we are from around there.”
McFarlin was initially assigned to take pictures of the island to illustrate the deterioration and damage surrounding the lake.
“We found a lot of storm damage in the area. In particular, there was one large oak tree that had fallen across the only pathway to the center of the island,” McFarlin said. “Hikers and campers were climbing over the remains of one of the older buildings in order to get around the tree.”
McFarlin, her father, and archaeologist Fiona Baker applied for rushed consent from the Historic Scotland organization to remove the tree. This past summer they returned to remove all damaging trees and saplings.
“There is a lot of stuff we need to do, and it’s a long way away in the future,” McFarlin said. “That’s why we started this nonprofit. We couldn’t raise the funds for this ourselves.”
The nonprofit also allows for easier solicitation of funds.
“We’re hopefully going to end up soliciting thousands of dollars, and the IRS might be suspicious if it were just my family doing this rather than an organization,” McFarlin said. “We also wanted to make it clear that all the money was going towards preservation.”
In addition to raising awareness about the condition of the island, the organization has also helped to make maps and to remove invasive ivy from the castle walls.
“We were going to start removing the ivy a lot sooner, but we found a bat species that is protected, so we had to halt our work,” McFarlin said. “We have had issues dealing with the natural elements. Bats and swans are protected, so we wanted to make sure that we didn’t accidentally harm any of them.”
McFarlin also hopes to draw awareness to the historical aspects of the island.
“We can tell by the litter that the island is used mostly for parties and camping, and some people even use stones from the actual buildings to set up campfires,” McFarlin said. “We hope to set up signs that inform people that these are protected sites and to not to move the stones, because it seems people are generally unaware of the history.”
McFarlin visits Scotland at least once every year.
“We went for two weeks in June 2012, we went back in December to meet with Fiona, and then we went again for a week in July of this past summer,” McFarlin said. “Fiona is our liaison because it is not really practical for my family to be there for long periods of time.”
McFarlin said, “The project really helped me learn about Scotland and get in touch with my culture.”