Robert Burns – Scottish Diaspora Icon

St Andrew’s Day undoubtedly was one of the main celebrations in the annual events calendar of the Scots abroad. On equal footing stood, however, the celebration of Burns Night in honour of Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns. Burns societies and clubs were formed all around the world to organise events, and it was their activities that contributed to making Robert Burns a central Scottish Diaspora icon.

Burns celebrations have their origin in early nineteenth century Scotland. The years when the Burns cult first developed in Scotland were a time of great change. Early nineteenth-century Scottish society was a society in upheaval: industrialisation and the associated modernisation processes brought major dislocation. As a result, many people tried to hold on to their accustomed ways of life and familiar traditions, with strenuous …

The Global Saint: St Andrew’s Day Celebrations around the World

StAD‘No saint in the calendar’, observed a reporter in the Hong Kong Daily Press in 1886, ‘receives the hearty and regular devotion paid to St Andrew by his flock in all parts of the world.’ And indeed, next to Burns Night, St Andrew’s Day has long since been the key holiday in the annual events calendar of the Scots overseas, offering an opportunity for them to gather and celebrate their Scottish heritage – a tradition that continues to this day. But let’s look at some of the events that have taken place since the mid-nineteenth century, when St Andrew’s Day celebrations began to proliferate globally.

In New York, in 1890, ‘the music of the bagpipes and the pungent aroma of the haggis’ filled the banquet room of the famous …

Out now: The Scottish Diaspora

The Scottish Diaspora (Edinburgh, 2013, with Andrew Hinson and Graeme Morton).

Did you know that Scotland was one of Europe’s main population exporters in the age of mass migration? Or that the Scottish Honours System was introduced as far afield as New Zealand? This comprehensive introductory history of the Scottish diaspora covers the period c.1700 to 1945 and examines these and related issues by exploring the migration of Scots overseas, their experiences in the new worlds in which they settled and the impact of the diaspora on Scotland. Global in scope, the book’s distinctive feature is its focus on both the geographies of the Scottish diaspora and key theories, concepts and themes, including associationalism and return migration. By revisiting these themes throughout the chapters, the multifaceted characteristics of ‘Scottishness’ …

Celebrating Robert Fergusson: A New Zealand Connection

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 16.29.05Scottish poet Robert Fergusson died on 16 October 1774. At times described as the lesser brother of Robert Burns, Fergusson too left his mark in the Scottish diaspora. Let’s look at the story of New Zealand Burns enthusiast James Craigie in a bit more detail to see what role Fergusson played for him.

Born at Coupar Angus, Perthshire, in 1851, Craigie arrived in New Zealand at the age of fifteen together with his parents. He was an apprentice to a painter in Dunedin, later setting up a small business in Timaru in 1873 as importer and general decorator; he also owned a farm at Kingsdown, situated 6 miles to the south of Timaru. Perhaps it was his Scottish upbringing that fostered in Craigie a strong civic spirit. He was involved …