The Scottish Horse

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 06.01.54A very specific politicization of Scottish ethnic associational activity is worth pausing over as we continue to remember the First World War: in that war the Scottish Horse played an important role. The regiment’s roots, however, lay in the South African War over a decade earlier, and were in no small way a direct expression of a strong sense of duty many Scots felt towards Empire. This is most immediately seen in one particular activity several Scottish ethnic associations in Africa pursued: the idea to form Scottish units in support of the war effort. The Johannesburg Caledonian Society, for instance, supported the formation of a unit to be known as Scottish Horse, a cavalry regiment that was raised in Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg and Johannesburg under the leadership of Lord Tullibardine.…

A Scottish Physician in Hong Kong

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 22.17.08 I am currently in Hong Kong for fieldwork and went for a meeting at Hong Kong University today. On the way up from the new HKU station panels telling the University’s history have been installed. Among the early panels were many references to the the medical training the University provided in the early days. And that reminded me of Scot James Cantlie.

Born in Dufftown in 1851, Cantlie studied at the University of Aberdeen, gaining a degree in arts and medicine. He then proceeded to London to finish his medical education at Charing Cross Hospital, where he subsequently became demonstrator of anatomy – a position he held from 1872 to 1887. He also became assistant surgeon at the hospital in 1877, moving on to surgeon in 1887.

His work brought …

Tartan Day

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 13.59.31‘We are the better Americans for the Scottish heritage.’ John Foord’s assessment in the foreword to Black’s exploration of the Scots’ role in making America is clearly celebratory in tone, but nonetheless has currency. At an official level, the importance of the Scottish contribution to the development of America was acknowledged in 1998, when a group of Scottish Americans, supported by United States Senator Trent Lott from Mississippi, proposed National Tartan Day ‘to recognize the outstanding achievement and contributions made by Scottish Americans in the United States’. The resolution was passed, designating 6 April as National Tartan Day. The date was specifically chosen because it was on 6 April 1320 that the Declaration of Arbroath was signed: the spirit of independence inherent in it provides a critical link across the …

The St Andrew’s Society of New York

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 11.10.17In North America St Andrew’s societies were at the heart of Scottish club culture. These societies were not simply set up, however, to offer migrants a means to interact socially, or to celebrate Scottish culture. At the core of the activities of St Andrew’s societies lay the provision of charity for fellow Scottish migrants in distress.

The first North American St Andrew’s Society was founded in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1729, with Philadelphia (1749), Savannah, Georgia (1750) and New York (1756) following suit. The setting up of the New York Society provides more detailed insights into how and why St Andrew’s societies were founded. It was on 19 November 1756 that ‘a number of gentlemen, natives of Scotland or of direct Scottish descent’, came together in New York City ‘and …