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 …

New Book: Clubbing Together

clubbingI am delighted to announce that my new book, Clubbing Together: Ethnicity, Civility and Formal Sociability in the Scottish Diaspora to 1930, has been published by Liverpool University Press. I have accumulated a host of debts throughout the preparation and writing of this book, so I’d like to take the opportunity and thank a few people and organizations here.

A few ‘thank yous’:

First, I’d like to acknowledge the British Academy for the support I have received through the Small Research Grant scheme (SG100441). I am also grateful to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, which has funded some of my research in Australia related to ethnic associations. The Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University also deserves my recognition for giving me the opportunity to be a …

Happy Easter – Scottish Style

At the end of April 1905,  self-proclaimed Traveller wrote a letter to the editor of the Manawatu Standard, commenting on the Caledonian Games that had been held in Palmerston North, New Zealand, on Easter Monday. ‘Having a spare day here on my tour through the Colony’, Traveller wrote, ‘I sauntered down to your athletic meeting on the Sports’ grounds. … With the continual skirl of the pipes in my ears I went among the crowd to look at the young men preparing for the athletic contests. Visions of the past came into my brain’. Such sentiments of reconnecting to the past were not unusual at Caledonian Games, kilted pipers and caber-tossing providing suitable reminders to awaken the memory of the old home among the spectators of Scottish descent. …

Scottish Connections with Japan

In nineteenth-century Japan Scots were at the vanguard of European arrivals, with Thomas Blake Glover providing the most prominent example of the close ties that subsequently developed between Japan and Scotland. Glover arrived in Nagasaki in 1859 to manage the local office of Hong Kong-based Jardine Matheson, but soon set up his own trading company. He sold arms, developed coal mines and was fundamental in establishing a shipyard in Nagasaki that would later become the Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan, importing the required technology directly from the Clyde. Glover was the purveyor of the Japanese industrialisation. Of great significance too was Neil Gordon Munro, the director of Yokohama’s General Hospital and one of the first Westerners to study the Ainu people of Hokkaido. Yet while the history of Scots like …