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 …

Celebrating Halloween in New Zealand

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-15-15-23It’s that time of the year again when people all over the world celebrate Halloween – a good moment to remember that Halloween has long since been one of the many cultural traditions Scots took with them to places all around the world where they settled. This included New Zealand, where Scottish communities in both the North and South Islands made Halloween celebrations a central part in their annual events calendar.

In Wellington, in 1908, a Scottish festival was held in Burns Hall. The event was advertised as ‘a night of Scottish song and story’, and there was also a lecture entitled ‘The Love Songs of Scotland’, which was delivered by the Rev. J. Aitken (see advertisement). The musical programme had a number of contributors, including a Mrs Dempster who …

The Scots in New Zealand

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 14.14.53This time a decade ago I had just started packing. I had sold my car and a good number of other items. And all that because I was soon to head off to New Zealand to commence my PhD at Victoria University in Wellington, investigating the Scots in New Zealand.

Coincidentally I’m back in New Zealand just now for a visit and a number of activities (see here for details). So I though it would be a good opportunity to post a few stories about  the Scots in New Zealand here on the Blog – one of which already came, as it fit so well with Burns’s birthday, at the end of last month (see here). New Zealand, described a report published in Wellington’s Evening Post in 1931, was …

Waipu and its Scottish heritage

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 11.51.15A few days ago the Waipu Caledonian Society in New Zealand held its 145th annual Highland Games – Games the Society has thus organised since its foundation in 1870, though the first Caledonian sports meet in Waipu took place even earlier than that. This does not make the Waipu Society New Zealand’s oldest Caledonian Society, but the Games are among the longest-running Highland Games in the country. While the 145th Games were marred by poor weather, the tradition is still going strong (let’s just ignore that hurling of a hairy haggis … or even of a whole haggis family).

What makes the Scottish heritage in Waipu even more interesting than its long-standing Highland Games, however, is how Scots came to settle in Waipu in the first place. While …