Fairlie, Scotland, June 27th

Yesterday I went to Fairlie, on the Ayrshire coast. An unusually warm day for this year so far. It was a pilgrimage of a kind, as in 1940 Moshe Feldenkrais had himself ended up in Fairlie. He’d escaped on the last boat to leave France in June 1940, as the Nazis were occupying Paris, and after a brief spell in one of the internment camps on the Isle of Man (a German sounding surname being a problem in Britain at that time), was recognised from his work in Paris in the Joliot-Curie laboratory and employed by the Royal Navy to work in Fairlie’s newly set-up anti-submarine base. Feldenkrais already had experience researching sonar technology.

Fairlie, Ayrshire, Scotland
Fairlie, from the north of the bay

The village still has its handsome rows of victorian terraces, and by the looks of it, the Village Inn Fairlie is going strong too. Tempting to imagine Moshe Feldenkrais drinking in there…

So during the day he was working on anti-submarine technology, and in the evenings was teaching his fellow scientists Judo and giving lectures on movement and learning. In 1949 he published the groundbreaking book Body & Mature Behaviour, writing in the Acknowledgements at the front of the book:

“The substance of this book was presented before the Association of Scientific Workers at Fairlie, Scotland, in a series of lectures given in 1943-44.” – Moshe Feldenkrais, from Body and Mature Behaviour pVI

The first person mentioned in the Acknowledgements is Professor J.D. Bernal, one of Britain’s key war-time scientists and the person who has secured Feldenkrais’s release from internment.


Fairlie, Ayrshire, Scotland
From the north of Fairlie, looking over to the Clydeport Cranes. The mountains of Arran in the distance.

I was telling my father about my visit yesterday. He visited Fairlie in the war years, and remembers the intense buzz of military activity there. I wonder if he and Feldenkrais passed each other in the main street…


View of Hunterston from Fairlie
From the south of Fairlie looking over the SSSI Southannan Sands to the Clydeport cranes

So I have the views in my mind that Feldenkrais himself had when he was doing all of that thinking and exploring in the 1940s. And it was all happening an hour away from where I live now.

Marie Curie Field of Hope, Fairlie, Ayrshire, Scotland
Marie Curie Field of Hope, Fairlie

To the south of Fairlie I came across The Marie Curie Field of Hope. A poignant connection. Feldenkrais worked alongside Marie Curie’s daughter Irène Joliot-Curie in Paris. It’s also strange to think of Hunterston B just around the corner, one of Scotland’s nuclear power stations. It was in the Joliot-Curie lab the the atom was first split in March 1939.

acknowledgements: Norman Doidge’s The Brain’s Way of Healing, Chapter 5 Moshe Feldenkrais: Physicist, Black Belt and Healer – Healing Serious Brain Problems Through Mental Awareness of Movement

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