Blenheim was the birthplace of one of the few Scots in New Zealand who actively promoted home rule for Scotland: Richard McCallum. His name, as was stated by the New Zealand Truth in 1927, ‘implies something of a fine old “Hieland” strain.’ And indeed, though born in Blenheim, Marlborough, in the South Island in 1863, McCallum developed a keen interest in things Scottish. Perhaps it was his father, Archibald McCallum, one of the pioneer settlers in the Wairau who hailed from Glasgow, who had instilled in his son a sense of Scottishness. One important influence had been Australian Alexander Renfrew, J.P., who first obtained McCallum’s interest in the issue of Scottish Home Rule in 1892. It was shortly after his a meeting with Renfrew, in 1892, that McCallum composed a series of articles for the Marlborough Daily Times to explain what is meant by Home Rule for Scotland, and to assess ‘whether Scotland and her people would be benefited or injured by the concession of a National Parliament’. The premise of McCallum’s articles was that Scotland ‘has an existence as a nation … her national life and patriotic feelings of her inhabitants are as alive and intense to-day’ as they were before the Union of the Crowns. He traced the development that lead to the Union of 1707, and then outlined the demands made by those in favour of home rule. He referred to the Scottish Home Rule Association and its work, summarising the Association’s objectives. McCallum outlined the key grievances the Association and earlier groups, for example the National Association for the Vindication of Scottish Rights, had identified, particularly the issues of Scottish Representation in Westminster and taxation. In fact, in terms of representation,
the people of Scotland by reason of their being under-represented fell into a degraded political condition for a century after the Union cannot be gainsaid … Cornwall with her forty-four members was but one vote less in importance …From this it will easily be understood that the lives and liberties of the Scottish people and all their possessions were at the mercy of those few members who were the favourites of and were controlled by the Ministry in London.
Commenting on the strength of Scottish nationality, citing Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott in support, McCallum position was clear: Scotland had not been well-treated in the Union, which thus should be revoked. ‘Surely’ his final article concluded, ‘enough has been said to convince the average colonist, blest with the right to manage his own affairs of every description, that Scotland would be practically benefited and relieved’ if it had its own Parliament again. Importantly, for McCallum and many of his compatriot propagators of Home Rule in Scotland itself, émigré Scots were important, first, as moral champions of the cause, and secondly, as potential suppliers of funds in support of the Home Rule campaign. ‘It is not to be wondered’, McCallum observed, that
when Scottish colonists after an absence of 20 or 30 years revisit their mother country speedily again forsake her shores and bring back tidings that the country districts have retrograded and have not at all kept pace with their adopted country, many holding firmly that the country districts seem fifty years behind the times.
In terms of the active encouragement of financial support from Scots overseas, the Scottish Home Rule Association’s Colonial Secretary played an important role. Writing to newspapers around the world in connection with the Association’s ‘Statement of Scotland’s Claim for Home Rule’ in 1888, the Secretary asked for the statement to be reprinted for Scots abroad, so that they ‘may be informed of the struggle that we are making … to appeal for sympathy and assistance to our fellow-countrymen abroad, many of whom are enjoying the privileges of political freedom.’ Three years later, appeals became even more directed, asking:
Scotsmen, do you love your native country? – We know you do! … Colonists, we have sent you strong men with strong brains, and they have made their mark wherever they have gone—can you do without them, will the world be richer or poorer by the extinction of Scottish nationality?
Signatories included Professor Blackie, and assistance was sought from all Scots ‘anxious to see a full measure of local government granted to their native land.’ With the crofters’ agitation in Scotland falling away and international threats such as the Boer War and the First World War looming large, however, the efforts of those engaged in the Home Rule Association, and writers like McCallum, quickly faded. The Scottish Diaspora politics they promoted shifted towards a British patriotism of which Scots could be part.