Hogmanay in New Zealand

HogmanayHogmanay is one of the most traditional Scottish festivals, cherished by people in Scotland and all around the world. For those Scots who relocated abroad it was, however, often a bit of a sad event, reminding them of family and friends left behind in Scotland. Nan Drennan, who had moved to New Zealand in the early twentieth century, for instance, wrote to her mother on New Year’s Eve in 1916 with rather mixed feelings. She remembered the day as one that they ‘always spend together’, but the only thing she could offer from New Zealand were her thoughts, which she promised would ‘be with [them in Scotland] all that day’. Being in New Zealand for Christmas and New Year was particularly alien in any case, with the reversal of the …

Happy Easter – Scottish Style

easterAt 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

JapanIn 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 …

The 148th Turakina Highland Games

Welcome to TurakinaIt was my great pleasure to visit the Turakina Highland Games last Saturday — the 148th Games, making them New Zealand’s longest-running Highland Games. It was in early January 1864 that the residents of Turakina and the nearby villages first gathered for Highland Games. The first Games were not held on the Turakina Domain, however, but on the grounds adjoining the Ben Nevis Hotel. As a newspaper reported, ‘the weather was all that could be desired, and the various games were keenly contested, and appeared to give the lookers on great satisfaction’ (Wellington Independent, 2 January 1864 – click here to download an image of the newspaper page). ‘We have no doubt’, the paper concluded, ‘that this will be the precursor of numerous happy meetings in future years.’ …