Federated Caledonian Society of South Africa

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 06.28.18While the South African War had a significant effect on the Scots in southern Africa in terms of their sense of imperial identity (see previous post), it also had a direct effect on Scottish ethnic associational culture there: it served to boost the idea of federation. First proposed in the early twentieth century, federation was framed as a unifying movement in what was a fractured society. Perhaps as one might expect, however, association members were more concerned with bringing their own lives back on track after the war, and hence no action was taken immediately.

The outbreak of the First World War provided another impetus, however, and the Federated Caledonian Society of South Africa was eventually established in 1918. Initially, it operated only in the Transvaal, but it soon extended …

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 …