Getting to know you: Rachael Hamilton
The Conservative MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire talks dream dinner dates and guilty pleasures with Peter Urpeth
Image credit: Holyrood
What’s your earliest memory?
My earliest memory was when my mother was pregnant with my sister in 1976. She just couldn’t get comfortable because it was so hot, she tried everything. She sat inside, she sat outside, she put her feet in cold water, she used a fan, nothing worked. Finally, my sister came along and I was outside somewhere, playing on the farm and my father came to get me and said, ‘quick, your mother’s going into labour’ and he bundled me into the car, with my mother actually having contractions in the car. And this was in the day before seatbelts and we drove along the main road, and he dropped me off at my granny’s house, but because there was a child-lock on the car, he came round and opened the door and shoved me onto the pavement, shut the door and screamed off.
What were you like at school?
I went to an all-girls Catholic school, a convent school in Wales. I tried my best to be wayward. I tried my best to prank people and create mischief and the nuns weren’t having it. I owned up to pranks, and they wouldn’t accept it, they always blamed somebody else. So eventually I conformed, and the best part of my school life was being an understudy, and I’m incredibly competitive and I didn’t like being the understudy. My best friend got the part of Will Parker in Oklahoma, and she got tonsillitis two days before the first performance and I came in as understudy and took the lead role, and I knew every single word off by heart, but just to be sure, I managed to get out of Latin in order to practise. At school I felt stifled, it was a very strict school and I was glad to get out of that and I eventually left and went to a sixth form college.
Who would be your dream dinner date?
I really like entertaining and cooking and I love having dinner parties, and so I can’t imagine having just one person there. But if I could choose just a couple, I’d choose George Eliot, because she touched on some incredible subjects all those years ago, and one of my favourite books is Silas Marner, and I actually would have had her character round for dinner with George Eliot and we’d talk about his ostracisation when he moved from one community to another and then eventually adopted Eppie. I would also have David Niven, based, again, on reading his book, The Moon’s A Balloon, because he met so many glamourous actors and actresses in his time, and I would have loved to have heard his tales.
What’s your greatest fear?
I love being able to enjoy the outdoors every day. My greatest fear would be for my feet to not touch the earth, for the wind to not touch my face and the sun not to warm me. If I didn’t get a little bit of the outdoors every day, I wouldn’t be the person I am.
What’s the worst thing anyone’s ever said to you?
When people say terrible things to you, it speaks of their insecurities. I always learn from people who say bad things to me. However, on a lighter note, one of the worst things anyone has ever said to me was my father in 1987. I was washing my hair at 5am to go to a Madonna concert at Wembley. My father came down in his pyjamas and said, ‘you won’t be going to the concert, it’s too dangerous’, that was just after the Hungerford massacre. Being a countryside dweller, my father had huge fears of terrorist attacks and shootings and bombings and he just didn’t want me to go. I didn’t speak to him for three days.
What’s your most treasured possession?
I’m not a materialistic person but I have a few things that I treasure that tend to be passed down through the generations – a silk scarf from my grandmother, old black and white photos, and a canteen of cutlery from Hamilton and Inches that was given to us on our wedding day and that had been passed down through three generations. My husband’s grandfather was the Provost of Edinburgh and he gave his daughter the canteen of cutlery 100 years to the day that we got married.
What do you dislike about your appearance?
Nothing. On the basis that we have to use what we have, what we are born with.
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Game of Thrones. I feel guilty even taking the time to watch it!
If you could go back in time, where would you go?
I wouldn’t go back. Never. We can learn from history, we can learn from mistakes but if anything, I would go forward and I’d want to see that everything was tickety-boo.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever had?
To tighten my girth and harden my heart (from my father-in-law).
What skill should every person have?
Everyone should know how to cook, how to fridge forage and about kitchen management and food management. Because if you don’t, you are wasteful, you throw food out, it’s not good for the climate and if you know how to cook, you can be quite frugal and live on a budget but also enjoy food that’s not stuffed full of additives, preservatives and is not full of salt or sugar.
What’s the worst pain you’ve ever experienced?
I have rheumatoid arthritis and before I started on medication and before I was diagnosed, the pain was unbelievable and I had the condition straight after I had my third daughter. I couldn’t move without experiencing horrendous pain.
What’s your top film or TV programme of all time?
I love children’s films but the film that had the most impact on me was The Silence of the Lambs. Anthony Hopkins was brilliant, and it was shocking and so scary.
What was your best holiday ever?
Down in Wales in Borth, we stayed in a house on the beach and the weather was incredible and we cooked fresh fish, which we bought locally, on the beach on a barbeque. We went canoeing, we just had an amazing time, such an easy holiday
.What was the last book you read?
The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks.
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