War and the ancestral homeland

Screen-Shot-2015-05-27-at-16.52.24The ways in which military service could connect and re-connect soldiers with the Scottish homeland – an issue explored in more detail here – was not restricted to ex-servicemen: war effectively promoted contact between the old world and the new. Throughout the diaspora, Scottish clubs and societies sought to promote the establishment of Scottish regiments, and patriotic funds in support of the war effort were set up. The Wairarapa Caledonian Society in the North Island of New Zealand, for instance, discussed a request to collect money at its annual Caledonian sports to establish a fund for the families of the fallen soldiers of the Highland Regiment in South Africa – an initiative pursued in many a location around the world at that time, and also during the First World War.

In even more direct terms, and identifiable as a specific type of the temporary return, military service in Europe during WW 1 provided an opportunity for many Scottish-born New Zealanders and Australians, or next-generation descendants, to visit their ancestral home. It was as a result of this that, after the conclusion of the War, a letter  was sent jointly from New Zealand, having been signed by a number of presidents of Scottish associations, including Alexander Begg (Otago Caledonian Society), D. McPherson (Gaelic Society), Robert McKinlay (Burns Club), J. Grant (Dunedin Highland Pipe Band), and D. McPherson (Piping and Dancing Association of New Zealand). Addressed to the editors of The Scotsman, the Glasgow Herald, and the Moderator of the United Free Church of Scotland, the letter reveals the value of the soldiers’ visit to Scotland. As the letter’s authors pointed out:

the members of the undersigned Scottish societies, on behalf of the people of New Zealand, desire you to convey to the people of Scotland their sincere and heartfelt thanks for the hospitality and kindness which was so freely extended to our New Zealand soldiers when on furlough in Scotland. Every returned man has told us of the splendid fighting qualities and comradeship of the Scottish regiments, but, above all, they speak in the most affectionate terms of the genuine welcome and the untiring efforts made on their behalf while on their visit to your country. . . . Our gratitude is due to you for making dear ‘Auld Scotland’ a second home to so many of our men while absent from their native land.

While these trips had been facilitated by the tragic circumstances of war, they nevertheless document the increased popularity, in the early twentieth century, of roots-tourism.

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