Lorna & Bill & the Samye Ling Archives A Tribute



Bill Trotter

I first met Lorna Watson at Johnstone house, in the old shrine room of Samye Ling Monastery in Eskdalemiur, Southern Scotland. It was 1987 and Akong Rinpoche was beginning to formalise his Tara Rokpa Therapy Process:  we were both part of a group that spent three days in retreat with Rinpoche and Edith Irwin, completing a Back to Beginnings programme begun three months earlier. 

Lorna lived with her family up the road at Bentpath and was a close student of Akong Rinpoche. It was September, autumnal but not cold, and she caught my attention because she always wore a coat and gloves which I learned were to combat the difficulties encountered following a diagnosis of severe Raynaud disease. 

On the day our retreat ended, Tai Situ Rinpoche arrived from India to begin his annual teachings and he stayed in rooms on the first floor of the newly constructed but unfinished temple. Next to his apartment was the recording studio that Akong Rinpoche had asked Lorna and her then-husband Dell to establish to preserve any teachings given at Samye Ling.   Tai Situ was a regular visitor, not only to the studio but to their home in Bentpath, where he came more than once for afternoon tea – he wanted to understand the intricacies and nuances of family life in the West.

When the Temple officially opened on 8th August 1988 they were able to capture those events on film.

Annie and Lorna

Several years later Lorna was devastated to learn that her illness was schleroderma, a rare, debilitating and progressive auto-immune disease in which the metabolism and thus the whole body slowly breaks down; there is no cure and her doctors gave her 2 years to live.  Tai Situ and Akong Rinpoche supported her both physically and spiritually as did Khenpo Tsenam who gave her regular consultations when he visited to teach in the Tibetan Medical College. Between these sustaining supports and orthodox medicine she outlived the initial prognosis by more than 12 years.

Another support who came along was Bill Trotter.  In 1989 he arrived at Samye Ling, having been employed by British Telecom as an electrical engineer.  Lorna and her husband had separated and Akong Rinpoche had with his usual astuteness recognised a potential working partnership between the pair: Lorna required help in the increasingly busy audio visual department and Bill was to become her apprentice, which he eventually did in 1992.

In December of 1989, Ringu Tulku also came to Samye Ling to acclimatise to our Western weather before embarking on his first teaching tour in Europe.  He continued to visit annually, leaving a treasure trove of teachings in the Samye Ling Archive.

Initially Lorna was wary of training Bill in, because this was not your usual run of the mill recording studio;  there were protocols around the visiting lamas as well as the logistics of recording, editing, and archiving the teaching material, making tapes and later CDs to sell in the shop, and later again, online.   The work was very precise and her immersion in study and practice of buddhism informed a particular understanding of what was needed which must all be passed on. Once seated (often quite high up) on a throne, the teacher or Rinpoche required a microphone, the sound tested, camera rolling, while upstairs in the studio audio and visual recorders were set to run. All recordings were on cassette tape at that time, numbered and labelled and stored in order, ready for editing.  Lorna usually set up the recording equipment in the shrine room, and remained there, training the camera on the teacher or audience while Bill stayed upstairs operating dials and switches, as well as doing any heavy lifting, all the while keeping an eye on sound levels and several screens. They had a private intercom running between them to enable communication.

With Lorna Hensey and Lorna Watson

Then in 1993, Akong Rinpoche instructed a small group of us to train as Tara Rokpa Therapists, including Lorna Watson, Lorna Hensey and myself:  for Lorna Watson this was no small task alongside the recording work she was already doing.  But while her health was fragile, her mind was strong, and she carried both roles like a warrior.  That same year, when Rinpoche took a party of his students to Eastern Tibet to attend the crowning of the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, Orgyen Trinlay Dorje, Bill joined him and photographed the event.

There were also occasions when Bill travelled with Lorna to training weekends, including several trips to Dublin, one of which in 1996 coincided with Christmas when Bill, wearing his kilt and sporran, cooked a clootie dumpling and presented it to we trainee therapists to celebrate the New Year.

As Lorna gradually lost the use of her hands,  Bill became her housekeeper, chauffeur and valet. There were many crossings over, and as the Therapy training under Akong Rinpoche progressed, we watched as Bill also absorbed the finer details of Tara Rokpa as if by osmosis, sitting in as he did on the many conversations held around training events, even filming some of them for Rinpoche to show his esteemed friends and colleagues in Tibet.  The first Tara Rokpa Summercamp was held in Germany, during the wettest week of July 1998: participants camped and workshops were held in marquees, Rinpoche directed Bill to each marquee to record the action on film accompanied by the sound of rain thundering onto canvas.  Bill also managed to make yet another trip (his third) to Tibet, circumambulating Mount Kailash with a group organised by Marianne Dreyfuss and led by Doug Scott to raise awareness and funds for the Samye Ling Stupa Project.  When the stupa was finally completed, Lorna and Bill were there to record the crowning ceremony. 

Lorna  had applied for and received a car allowance, naming Bill as her driver, and because it was a large and comfortable SUV, Bill also became chauffeur to Akong Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe as well as to visiting lamas, occasionally involving a drive to and from Manchester airport, or Glasgow or Edinburgh, or the Lamlash ferry; and sometimes to London.  He treasured those trips, a few hours alone with a wise Rinpoche, sitting in silence or chatting and planning; or receiving advice on whatever was on his mind.  He accompanied Akong Rinpoche to Edinburgh Airport on what transpired to be his final visit to Tibet in 2013.

Once she had completed her Tara Rokpa training in 1999, Lorna spent less time in the recording studios, more time travelling to TR workshops and thus before teachings in the shrine room, it was more often Bill who laid out microphone cables and cameras, fully present and focused while smiling and chatting to the now familiar faces of Dharma students. He was at ease attending to visiting lamas, attaching a microphone to a collar or adjusting the angle of a camera lens before disappearing back upstairs to roll tapes and perfect sound levels. He often boasted that he had never attended a single teaching, and yet it was clear to those who knew him that he was deeply immersed in the Dharma.

He and Lorna continued their shared life journey in this way until she eventually died in Dumfries hospital, on 9th March, 2003 with the profound but distant blessing of Akong Rinpoche, who was in Tibet. Rinpoche had visited Lorna before leaving Scotland and reassured her that all would be well on her onward journey. 

Bill carried on devoting his time to the recording studio, now taking charge of all aspects of the work with a quiet dedication and regular cappuccinos in Samye Ling Tea Rooms and finding the resources for replacement equipment and novel interventions to make the job a bit easier, or as he would say, “ticketyboo”.  When plans were drawn up for the new recording studio, library, offices, and guest rooms to complete Samye Ling Monastic Centre, Bill was offered living space beside the new audio rooms. He refused because in his off duty periods he loved the freedom to hold film nights and house parties, often in fancy dress, each with a measure of wine or whiskey – which are forbidden in the monastery grounds – even though some of this work necessitated leaving home at 4.45 am to drive to the temple.  For him there was no conflict of interest, it was all part of the rich rhythm of his life.

Bill’s own health had begun to cause problems after Lorna died, when he experienced a recurrence of arthritis. In his latter years, he struggled with continuous pain as it slowly took hold of his body, necessitating medication and special equipment to ameliorate its ravages. Basic household tasks became very difficult, but despite this he carried on working in the new hi-tech recording studio where every visitor was greeted with hilarious birdsong as they stepped on the doormat, alerting Bill to their presence: it was an effective piece of gatekeeping and he was never caught napping.   In April 2015 Brian Patterson joined Bill in the studio and together they began the mammoth task of digitising 25 years of recordings for the archives.  This went on right up until the pandemic arrived in early 2020, when Samye Ling had to close its doors. 

When the Monastery reopened in 2023, the audio visual studio along with all administrative aspects was taken over by resident monastics and Bill was able to retire gracefully with his cappuccinos.   In the early winter of 2023, Bill contracted covid which left him a little weak and after a fall on the early hours of the 13th December an ambulance was called and he was taken to Dumfries Hospital where he was given a room in the critical care ward.

By coincidence I happened to be driving through from Cairnryan to Northumberland that day and was able to call in to the unit for a visit.  We had our usual cheery banter, despite my regulatory hazmat suit and his being wired to half a dozen machines all monitoring him – the irony. While I was there, several of his friends phoned for a chat. I promised to come look after him once he got back home and as I left, Bill told me he was dying for a cappuccino.  To his delight Lorna Hensey brought one in the following day and Bill’s family also visited. Later that afternoon Lama Yeshe called from Africa on Whatsapp. 

Bill died that night, only two days after his fall and almost exactly 20 years after Lorna, in Dumfries hospital. Between them they left an unparalleled legacy of Buddha dharma for us all, on behalf of Akong Rinpoche, a most precious refuge.


Lorna Watson        17th May 1950 – 9th March 2003

William Greenock Trotter    13th February 1946 – 16th December 2023

Thanks to the kind generosity of Lama Yeshe, Bill Trotter and Brian Patterson these teachings can now be accessed digitally on https://bodhicharya.org/teachings/archive

From the Sacred Letter for the Transmission of the Clootie Dumpling

Emaho! Self awareness is always bliss;

The dharmadhatu has no centre and no edge.


From here to the north in the centre of the land of the Gauls

is a country where divine Trotters spontaneously blaze.

In a beautiful Govan place with the sign of the ship,

the method is John and the wisdom is Margaret.

Born in the first month of the year of the dog

with the miraculous, far reaching sound of the foghorn.

This is the one known as Bill.


He is sustained by one Lorna;

Being a wires man he empowers the communicators.

By staying close to the temple and high in the video room,

he keeps the sacred teachings safe

on cellulose.

This son of the Buddha’s Dharma that benefits all others.


The transmission is his for the dumpling;

boiled in a pillow case, baked in the oven:

through Trotter generations the secret is kept

by the wisdom of the female lineage.


Till now, when,

with raisin, wheat, oriental spice,

and the skill

of the wires man:

this son of the Trotters,

this son of the dockyard

dispatches the feast that greets the new year.


Emaho! A full belly is always bliss,

This Clootie Dumping has a centre and an edge.


With apologies to the Karmapa.  AD    Dublin.   New Year 1996.


Recently,  I was on my way to Holy Island off the coast of Arran for a short retreat. When I arrived in Arran the weather was dreich, an expression for a not untypical, wet, windy, winter’s day on the west coast of Scotland.  As the small ferry from Lamlash to the Island was cancelled, I stared at the choppy waves and decided to drive further up the coast to Whiting Bay for a couple of nights’ stay in a Hotel.  On the third day, we drove again to Lamlash hoping to catch the ferry across the water: but the weather had deteriorated further and we made for the Lamlash Bay Hotel.  We were met at the check-in counter by the owner, David Trotter, although we hadn’t realised at first that David was Bill’s son and had recently bought the hotel.  David said, “I told my father the day before died about the hotel and he was pleased as he loved Lamlash.” 

I have fond memories of Bill at Samye Ling.  He was so gentle and mindful, standing behind his camera, absorbing the teachings of Rinpoches.

The weather had cleared and I left the next day for Holy Island after an extremely comfortable stay in David’s grand hotel. 
Ed, AH




2 responses to “Lorna & Bill & the Samye Ling Archives A Tribute”

  1. vicky segal Avatar
    vicky segal

    This is a beautiful telling of a special times, beginnings and people.
    The extraordinary loving devotion of Lorna and Bill created a unique and precious Archive of the Teachings and Teachers for our benefit and comfort. Thank you both.

  2. Annie Pargiter Avatar
    Annie Pargiter

    wondeful article- thank you

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