With Cameron Hilditch, I have done a Q&A: here. He is a William F. Buckley Jr. fellow at National Review. He’s from Northern Ireland, “right across the lough from Rory McIlroy,” as he tells me. Rory is the most famous Northern Irishman in the world, Cameron and I agree. (To the uninitiated: Rory McIlroy is one of the greatest golfers in the world.) But Cameron is just starting out, so gaining on him. Cameron says that the most famous Northern Irishman of all time, probably, is C. S. Lewis.
The great man taught at Magdalen College, Oxford, of which Cameron is a recent graduate. (Lewis also taught at Magdalen College, Cambridge, but let’s not confuse things.)
This year, Cameron Hilditch has been sheltering-in-place in Carrickfergus, his hometown. In our Q&A, we talk about this town, and identity — Are you Irish? Northern Irish? British? Some blend? – and democracy, and other things.
One of those things is the United States, of which Cameron is a great lover, and about which he has extensive knowledge. Indeed, he hopes to become an American one day.
He caught the American bug, he says, on a field trip as a boy. Kids in Carrickfergus are taken to see a thatched cottage in the middle of town. From this cottage, Andrew Jackson’s parents emigrated to the New World, in 1765. Let me paraphrase what Cameron says, in our podcast:
There’s a marvelous cognitive dissonance that happens when you’re a child here and go to visit that cottage. You hear who Andrew Jackson was and what he grew up to do.
By the way, the adult Hilditch is no admirer of Jackson, but this is tangential to the story.
It was during that tour that I first heard the phrase “head of state.” They were explaining what the American presidency was, and how the child of this couple, from this cottage, grew up to be the head of state in the United States of America, which is pretty mind-blowing for a child in our parts, because you think of the queen, and Buckingham Palace, and generation upon generation of inherited privilege and royalty.
The senior Jacksons had three sons, two of whom were born before the Jacksons left Carrickfergus, the third of whom was born after their arrival in the New World, becoming president of the young country in 1829.
Anyway, Cameron Hilditch is a delight to listen to, and one can learn a lot from him. Again, our Q&A is here.