Robert Burns – Scottish Diaspora Icon

St Andrew’s Day undoubtedly was one of the main celebrations in the annual events calendar of the Scots abroad. On equal footing stood, however, the celebration of Burns Night in honour of Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns. Burns societies and clubs were formed all around the world to organise events, and it was their activities that contributed to making Robert Burns a central Scottish Diaspora icon.

Burns celebrations have their origin in early nineteenth century Scotland. The years when the Burns cult first developed in Scotland were a time of great change. Early nineteenth-century Scottish society was a society in upheaval: industrialisation and the associated modernisation processes brought major dislocation. As a result, many people tried to hold on to their accustomed ways of life and familiar traditions, with strenuous …

Caledonian Games and New Year’s Day in New Zealand

The lusty sports of “Caledonia, stern and wild” have been celebrated in prose and verse by the greatest masters of both. They have a peculiar charm of their own. The combination of massive strength with deerlike agility, which is characteristic of the proficient Highland athlete, is seldom to be found in the athletes of other countries. . . . Scotchmen are the only people who, in these modern degenerate days . . . appear to attach the same importance to athletic sports as the classical nations of old did.’ (Evening Post, 2 January 1880 – click here to download an image of the newspaper page).

At the outset, Caledonian Games were ‘purely Scottish sports’ indeed, athletic feats being merged with the familiar tunes and dances ‘dear to the …

The Global Saint: St Andrew’s Day Celebrations around the World

StAD‘No saint in the calendar’, observed a reporter in the Hong Kong Daily Press in 1886, ‘receives the hearty and regular devotion paid to St Andrew by his flock in all parts of the world.’ And indeed, next to Burns Night, St Andrew’s Day has long since been the key holiday in the annual events calendar of the Scots overseas, offering an opportunity for them to gather and celebrate their Scottish heritage – a tradition that continues to this day. But let’s look at some of the events that have taken place since the mid-nineteenth century, when St Andrew’s Day celebrations began to proliferate globally.

In New York, in 1890, ‘the music of the bagpipes and the pungent aroma of the haggis’ filled the banquet room of the famous …

A perfect associationalist

Screen-Shot-2015-03-13-at-11.30.53When Archie Crosbie Haig died in Mount Gambier, South Australia, in the spring of 1945, the local paper was full of praise for his involvement in the community, focusing in particular on Haig’s contributions to the city’s many clubs and societies. He was, in fact, what we might call a perfect associationalist:

The late Mr. Haig was a member of the Presbyterian Church, and belonged to the Oddfellows Lodge. He took a keen interest in military affairs, and was a member of the Scottish Company … He was one of the originators of the first Mt. Gambier Football Association … For a number of years he was Arbiter for the South-Eastern Football Association. He did great work for the Mt. Gambier Caledonian Society, of which he was Secretary, and many