The 600th Anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn in 1914

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 10.08.27The  700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn is imminent and many activities are taking place to celebrate and commemorate the anniversary. There is, for instance, the Battle of Bannockburn Project, a partnership between the National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland, funded by the Scottish Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Project seeks to create an innovative new visitor centre and sensitive landscaping around Bannockburn that will change the way visitors experience the site, ‘making it a truly world-class site for this defining moment in Scotland’s history’. As part of the Project the public could vote on the poem to be inscribed to the new replacement ring beam of the iconic 1960s-built Rotunda monument at the Bannockburn site.

Given the flurry of activity this year, however, it …

A Scottish Christmas Down Under

During the Christmas holidays of 1916 Nan Drennan, a recent arrival to New Zealand, wrote a letter to her mother back in Scotland, noting that she remembered the holidays as a time that they ‘always spend together’. This, however, was now impossible given the physical distance between mother and daughter. The only thing Nan could offer from New Zealand were her thoughts – which she promised would ‘be with [them in Scotland]’. Nan’s experience reflects a broader issue: for many migrants being down under for Christmas and New Year was particularly alien, the reversal of the seasons contributing to a sense of displacement.

It was perhaps because of that feeling that many a Scottish association in the diaspora organised get-togethers and celebrations over the Christmas period. In 1906, for example, …

The Scots in Australia

Thanks to a Visiting Fellowship at the Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University (Canberra), and a grant by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, I got to spend the last two months in Australia, giving me time for some further explorations of the Scots who settled there for my next book, as well as for a new project in which I am investigating the material culture of Scottish associations. So on my departure from Australia I thought I’d write a post about the Scots here.

Overall, between 1861 and 1945, the Scots made up a good 15% of the UK-born migrants in Australia – the Scots were, therefore, the third largest migrant group after the English and Irish. While a larger number of Scots, almost a quarter, settled …

The Scottish Diaspora and the Story of St Kilda

StKildaOn 29 August 1930 the remaining residents of St Kilda were evacuated from the island on economic grounds at the islanders’ own request as the population had dwindled from 73 in 1920 to only 37 in 1928. There is, however, a much longer history of departures from the island, and one directly connected to the Scottish Diaspora.

When, in October 1852, 36 St. Kildans left the island to emigrate to Australia, the Glasgow Herald observed that it was the first emigration from that remote island to the distant shores of the Antipodes. ‘The cause of humanity would be served’, the paper went on, were that emigration to continue ‘until all inhabitants have been removed from the barren rock’. Whether this was a sentiment shared by the emigrants themselves is not …