Federated Caledonian Society of South Africa

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 06.28.18While the South African War had a significant effect on the Scots in southern Africa in terms of their sense of imperial identity (see previous post), it also had a direct effect on Scottish ethnic associational culture there: it served to boost the idea of federation. First proposed in the early twentieth century, federation was framed as a unifying movement in what was a fractured society. Perhaps as one might expect, however, association members were more concerned with bringing their own lives back on track after the war, and hence no action was taken immediately.

The outbreak of the First World War provided another impetus, however, and the Federated Caledonian Society of South Africa was eventually established in 1918. Initially, it operated only in the Transvaal, but it soon extended …

Scottish Trade Unionists in the Diaspora

BainToday is May Day – an opportune moment to think about some of the contributions Scottish trade unionists have made in the diaspora. To South Africa, for example, some Scots brought with them their ideas of trade unionism and the organisation of labour, becoming heavily involved in the South African labour movement, as well as the syndicalist movement. The most notable of the syndicalists was James Thompson Bain. Born in Dundee in 1860, Bain had joined the British Army at an early age and was sent to Pretoria in the late 1870s, fighting alongside Boer soldiers against the Zulus. Bain went on to serve in India in the early 1880s, before returning to Scotland for a while. It was there that his interest in the labour movement was first honed. …