Celebrating St Andrew’s Day in the Far East

HKicon-squareSt Andrew, Scotland’s patron saint, was celebrated by Scots around the world. In Asia, early references come from India where dinners were, by the 1850s, a common affair and widely reported in the press. They only achieved a more stable base, however, in the late-nineteenth century. As Stewart, in his exploration of the jute industry in Calcutta, has noted, the dinners were ‘the most important public ceremonial occasion each year for the British community’.

From India Scottish dinners soon extend their geographic reach—a development in unison with the expansion of the British sphere of influence in the Far East. We find references to celebrations of St Andrew’s Day dinners in Canton from the mid-1830s, hence the period by which a larger number of free merchants had commenced trade there.  In …

St Andrew’s Day and the Scots in British East Africa

ScreenShot1Nairobi was founded by the British in 1899 to serve as a rail depot on the railway that connected Mombasa to Uganda. From this early settlement Nairobi grew quickly and, in 1907, became the capital of British East Africa. Despite this expansion it was not a principal destination of permanent settlement for Scots – though a significant number of Scots did make their way there nonetheless. In fact, it was Sir William Mckinnon’s Imperial British East Africa Company that facilitated, and effectively made possible, British control of Kenya and Uganda. Born on 13 March 1823 in Campbeltown, Argyllshire, one of Mckinnon’s main interests was shipping and that is where he first made his name, establishing one of the greatest shipping companies in the world by creating a large network around …

The global saint: St Andrew’s Day in the Scottish Diaspora

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 was the central 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 around the world.

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

Sir Walter Scott’s ‘Waverley’ and the St Andrew’s Society of Shanghai

imageOn this day in 1814, the novel Waverley was published by Sir Walter Scott. Here’s for a short story from the Scottish Diaspora in Asia that connects to the novel.

When Shanghai’s St Andrew’s Society and its guests gathered at the Shanghai Club to celebrate St Andrew’s Day in 1879, it was not the customary ball that was held, but a ‘Waverley Ball’, organised ‘in honour of the Patron Saint and the Poet Novelist of Scotland.’ As had already been reported in a local paper in the summer of 1879, guests were meant to be dressed as characters from Scott’s Waverley novels: ‘We hear with pleasure that the members of St. Andrew’s Society have decided to give a fancy dress ball, about the 30th November next. It can most appropriately …