Loretta Dunbar Oral Correspondence Collection, 1974-1979
Department of Oral History
Loretta Dunbar, who eventually settled in Aiken, South Carolina after a life of travel, served in the Peace Corps in West Africa (specifically Nigeria and Ghana) from 1971-1979. It is where she met, fell in love with, and married Scotsman James “Hamish” Dunbar. In these audio-recorded letters Loretta sent to her mother and step-father (Lola & Wesley Kelley), we are offered rare, unguarded glimpses of the daily life and culture of West Africa. It is also a love story, and one that grows as the years pass, mixed with good humor and, on Hamish’s part, a deep Scottish brogue.
Decades later when the cassette tapes, long gathering dust, were gifted to Loretta, she donated them to the Office of Oral History at the South Caroliniana Library. The transcripts and sound recordings are now cataloged, digitized, and allow for full access.
From Loretta to future researchers:
“I hope that scholars will listen to the recordings where possible…..to hear Hamish’s accent and spontaneous laughter….Hamish was unaware of his charisma. However, the chemistry between us was recognized by both of us. Even in the worst of times, that chemistry prevailed; it was the glue that united us.
Hamish passed away in Aiken, South Carolina, on June 27, 1999, just a month short of his 75th birthday. He is greatly missed. I believe that our years together in West Africa were our finest years. We were living in neutral territory; we needed and nurtured one another. The tapes reveal a glimpse of our life in the 1970s in third-world Africa, where amenities were often non-existent.”