Beyond kilts and bagpipes: Scottish associational culture and its wider impact on Australian society, circa 1840 to 1920
Dr Tanja Bueltmann, 17 February 2016
Omitted from audio recording
Quite a number of Scots have shaped the development of Australia – I’m sure that this is something at least some of you are familiar with. Here (on the Powerpoint) we have, for example, Lachlan Macquarie, the last autocratic Governor of New South Wales, who played a leading role in the development of the colony, particularly in terms of the transition of New South Wales from a penal colony to a free settlement.
Then John McDouall Stuart, who led the first successful expedition to traverse the Australian mainland from south to north and return, and the first to do so from a starting point in South Australia.
And, more recently, Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, Australia’s longest-serving Prime Minister.
But to begin with, I really would like to introduce you to another Scot – and by extension to the topic of Scottish associational culture in Australia. So here’s my Scot: Archie Crosby Haig. You can see him here in this photograph, which depicts four generations of the Haig family [Archie 1866 to 1945, Bill 1891 to 196?, Ross born 1913 and Thomas 1837 to 1929].
When Archie Crosbie Haig died in Mount Gambier, South Australia, in April 1945 the local paper was full of praise for his involvement in the community, focusing in particular on Archie’s contributions to the city’s many clubs and societies. He was, in fact, what I would call the perfect associationalist.
As was reported, the late Mr. Haig was a member of the Presbyterian Church, and belonged to the Oddfellows Lodge. He took a keen interest in military affairs, and was a member of the Scottish Company. He was one of the originators of the first Mt Gambier Football Association. He did great work for the Mt Gambier Caledonian Society, of which he was Secretary, and many of the most successful New Year gatherings were held when he occupied that position. He had the credit of originating the first musical competitions conducted by the Caledonian Society, and held the positions of Chieftain and then Chief. Upon his retirement as Chief he was made a life member of the Society.
The late Mr Haig was a member of the first Cycle Club in Mt Gambier and served a long term as Secretary of the Mt Gambier Gun Club. He was also an active member in the Mt Gambier Rifle Club. He occupied the position of Clerk of the Scales for the Mt Gambier Racing Club for over 40 years, and acted in a similar capacity for the Hunt Club for a number of years. A very keen member of the Mt Gambier Bowling Club, he held the honour of life membership at the time of his death.
Archie’s story is all the more compelling, however, when read within the wider context of his family’s history, which is an example par excellence of family migration, kinship ties and continuous association in the Scottish diaspora.
Thomas Haig, Archie’s father, was born at Pavillion Estate near Melrose in Roxburghshire on 31 July 1837. After his education in Melrose, he became an apprentice at Herbertson & Son in Galashiels, moving on to London in 1861 to work for George Trollope & Sons, builders and cabinet-makers. Yet Thomas did not last long in the metropole of Empire: having decided, as is noted in his obituary, to join his brother and sister in Otago, New Zealand, Thomas arrived in Dunedin in early July 1863.
But there might have been other pull factors elsewhere: free land grants or provisions of free passage. Those kinds of things. So anyway, they went out to New Zealand, and Thomas married his wife there, but he didn't find any gold, or at least he wasn't very happy in the South Island because he relocated to the North Island, to New Plymouth. That wasn't, in some ways, a particularly good move because it thrust them right into the Maori wars, which might be one reason why they actually left New Zealand altogether to move on to Australia.
But it was actually in New Plymouth where Archie was still born, so officially, Archie is kind of a New Zealand Scot in some ways, I suppose. But they actually arrived first here in Melbourne in 1870, but they then went on to settle in South Australia eventually, perhaps partly or primarily because there were some other family members there already. So again, kinship ties. The pull factor of family is obviously critical.
And what all the Hagues had in common and across generations was their profound sense of Scottishness, and the key is private as well as public. Sometimes it's not so easy to match those two up together, and the Mt. Gambier Caledonian Society played-- a very important role, because pretty much all male family members were in one way or another involved in the society through different roles. Here's just another lovely looking picture. But really, it stretches over decades so that even when Sir Harry Lauder visited Mount Gambia in 1919, there were Hague family members on this group photograph of the people that welcomed him. Harry Lauder, that is, in Mount Gambia.
So really, I just want to use this little story as the inroad to talk to you today about the importance of Scottish clubs and societies. There are many different types. I'm going to talk to you about some of them and then, really around that, look at a few other themes that have to do with clubs or organised forums of Scottishness to make a case that we sort of, in a sense, shouldn't be distracted by-- well, if I go back one more by those kinds of visible markers, kilts and tartan-- but actually look at the deeper meanings of these groups, many of which actually weren't particularly Scottish but had a much wider community role. And that's what I want to talk about.
But before I come to that, just briefly, in case you're not so familiar with these numbers, Scots made up about 15% of the British Isle migrants to Australia. That's quite a significant figure. And these are numbers from the 1901 census of the British empire. So, not overall numbers, but it gives you a good indication of the ratios and of the distribution of migrants from the British and Irish Isles in the different parts of Australia, and I've added New Zealand just for comparison.
Now 15% is important because at the same time in Scotland, the Scots ratio there at home within the British Isles was only around 12%, so they were overrepresented in Australia. They were significantly more overrepresented in New Zealand, just as an aside, where they made up about 25% of the British Isle migrants, so New Zealand is the most Scottish destination, therefore. So this really is, I say, just for context, but also, obviously it's slightly puzzling in light of these figures-- at least puzzling to me-- why more work hasn't yet been done on the Scots in Australia. I of course know Malcolm Prentis' work, and there is new work. For example, on the cultural markers by Ben Wilk-- Willkie, sorry. But overall, it strikes me as an under-plowed field, and I would hope that more work will continue to be done.
But one reason, maybe, is that sometimes, as I sort of suggested before, these very strong outward symbols of Scottishness in a way hide more than they actually reveal. I mean, if someone's wearing a kilt, you could probably guess that they are quite proud about their Scottishness, and that's important. But that's often where people stop, because they think that's all it is when actually maybe it's a lot more. So these symbols sometimes are not helpful in actually studying groups. That's certainly the case for other locations.
There's also often this sort of accusation of Scottish clannishness. They stick together with their own kind, and that hasn't necessarily always helped, in a sense. And actually, overseas, maybe it was more pronounced. I think that's probably true for most groups. There are a lot of examples of Germans, for instance, who at home never really did anything much with their German-ness, but then when they immigrated, they joined some kind of club as well or were suddenly looking for German food. Things like that. I think if you move to a new place, that's probably quite a natural thing to do.
But just to give you one contemporary example, the Dundee Evening Telegraph and Post had a regular column at some stage in the early 20th century dedicated to the Scots abroad, and they wrote this. "It is one of the peculiarities"-- oh, I actually have that here for you as well. "It is one of the peculiarities of our Scottish patriotism that it is best evident on foreign soil. It is in the colonies and foreign communities that the feeling of clannishness is most strongly demonstrated in the form of Scottish associations." And elsewhere, the Belfast News Letter described the Scots as an association-forming people, so they did have this sort of reputation.
Now based on newspaper reports, manuscript sources, encyclopaedias, and other references in books and so on, I've established that there were a minimum of 155 Scottish clubs in Australia. I think that is a gross underestimate. I think there were significantly-- and with significantly, I mean significantly more. 500. I don't know.
There are different reasons for this. Sometimes they have funny names because Scots didn't just associate under a Caledonian banner or under St. Andrew's or through Burns Clubs. You can trace those. But sometimes they also had regional groups, and they often had names that weren't so straightforward to find. So it might have been a Caithness and Sutherland association, for example, or suddenly it's a Caithness this, that, and the other association. And that's the same for other places as well. They are tricky to find also because they might not use your standard Burns Night celebration. If they're Highland, maybe they're not so interested in that. So there are different reasons for this.
So I think the numbers are higher than 155, but even 155 is high when you think of settlement ratios in the 19th century. Now this is, again, Australia and New Zealand. Obviously, this isn't 155 at all. It's just meant to show you the broad cluster areas where the majority of groups were. And just to make that slightly clearer, this is really the heartland of Scottish groups, which is not a surprise because obviously it's a settlement heartland, generally, and these clubs-- clearly, they are set up where people actually live. You needed people to go to these groups.
Now what is especially interesting for Australia is that in some ways, these groups were late to develop when you look at when people first arrived in Australia. But naturally, it has to do with the fact that initially, it was a penal colony, and penal colonies, so to speak, didn't do these kinds of activities. So really, this only starts in the 1830s, 1840s, when there were more free migrants arriving. In theory, that makes it a late start, but obviously, as I say, when you look at the settlement of Australia overall, actually it's not. It's fully in sync, so to speak, with the arrival of free migrants, as elsewhere.
So they started to do this from that period onwards, but actually, early attempts were not particularly successful in the 1840s. Organisations often folded quite quickly, and in many places, "quickly" really was within six months or so. And it's not quite clear, certainly to me, why exactly this was. I was certainly looking at a lot of records, and it didn't necessarily give particularly good reasons why.
The Scottish Australian, which was a journal published for the Scottish migrant community, offers one explanation, perhaps, that helps us look at this. And it says this-- "The first effort to form a Scottish association in Sydney was in the early part of last century, when the St. Andrew's Club was established. But being of a purely convivial character, it had but a brief existence. From thence on, until somewhere in the '60s, after the gold fever had begun to abate and men turned their attentions to other things than goal seeking, no distinctive effort was made to establish a society. But in the '60s, a movement was then inaugurated to found a Highland society chiefly for the study of the Gaelic language. It proved to be a spasmodic attempt, the Highland residents being too few in number, and after a very brief career, it also lapsed."
One great tool that we have today to help us establish reasons for the formation of groups and also timing are digitised newspapers. They are an amazing source, and Trove Australia obviously has an incredible repository. I'm sometimes curious as to what text recognition software was used out of the digitised newspapers that I know. The software must have been the worst because I've never seen one that has so many mistakes in it. But obviously, in a sense, that almost is what Trove is about, because you're meant to all be helping, me and everyone else, to correct mistakes in it.
But still, it's possible to find a lot of instances of early activities. We have to distinguish between a few Scots meeting together to maybe have a dinner or to host a St. Andrew's Night, even, or Burns Night and people actually forming a society. So it certainly is possible that there were a lot of activities way before this period, but they didn't necessarily result in the formation of a club.
But the first newspaper reference does give us a few pointers about developments, and that is to a St. Andrew's Society in Melbourne in July, 1842. And it was reported that a party of 40 Scottish gentleman, members of the St. Andrew's Society, met to commemorate the anniversary of the victory of Bannockburn. That's another good hook to look for if you're looking for Scottish activities-- Bannockburn. Now, this organisation was later identified as the St. Andrew's Society of Australia Felix when the society came together for actual St. Andrew's Day dinners, in that case in the Hall of the Mechanics' Institution, which, I quote, was "brilliantly lighted up and tastefully decorated for the occasion."
But even at this early point, there were fractures in Melbourne, because at the same time, there was another gathering at the Royal Hotel. So there were Scots who felt that they couldn't go to this Mechanics' Institution to celebrate St. Andrew's. They had to do their own thing at the Royal Hotel. So clearly there was an issue there over what you would want to do with a group, what you would want to celebrate, and how you would go about it. And in particular, there was a disagreement-- whether you would allow non-Scots to participate or not, and that's what they kind of split over in terms of these different celebrations.
Now obviously, generally it's not such a big surprise that Melbourne was an early place where activity started because it was a hub for new arrivals, and it was an important centre. But actually, a lot more interesting in many ways is the development in Adelaide, where a St. Andrew's Society was also established nearly at the same time-- just a little bit later-- in 1847. Now, this was actually also short-lived in many ways, but it had a very immediate and much wider impact that reveals the degree to which ethnic clubs could actually be of much, much wider community relevance. A report on the foundation of this society outlines that the objects of the group are to aid and encourage Scottish immigration, to connect authentic information, and to correspond with influential bodies in the mother country in order to induce the poorer classes to emigrate to South Australia.
Now, Meyer gave me a tour of the Immigration Museum earlier today, and we were looking at an immigration guide, and I was saying yes, the early ones often just talked a whole load of rubbish. And they really did. And this was something this group was trying to counter. They were very concerned about the kind of information that South Australia was sending out. It was incorrect, outdated, and they wanted to do something about this.
So this wasn't really just about St. Andrew or Burns or whatever. It was about actually helping Scottish immigrants make their way to, in this case, South Australia very specifically. They wanted to provide details on the voyage out, the population, work, what kind of crops you would grow if maybe you're interested in going into farming, and many other aspects of life in the colony. And the statement of what they were trying to do was framed by the one question, in what British colony are the prospects of bettering your condition most certain to be realised? And they believed it was South Australia, so they wanted to help bring people there.
Local newspapers were very supportive of these initiatives, and one editorial noted that "heartily, most heartily, do we hope that the St. Andrew's Society may have its effect." It went about its business quite quickly and sent out information to various newspapers in Scotland. And it did get much of it reprinted, for example, in the Fife Herald-- but many other papers, really.
Things got a little bit heated when later on in the 1840s, the society was told-- wrongly, as it turned out in the end-- but was told that the British government actually want to stop immigration to South Australia altogether. So they went to the governor to discuss this with him. And I'm not going to read all of this out, but they were very concerned about this potential stop of emigration. They considered it to be really highly injurious, as it says at the end of the second point there, if there was an interruption to free emigration, and so they wanted to do something about this.
And they went to Lieutenant Governor Frederick at Edge Robe, who was the man in charge locally. And he was so impressed by these societies' activities, what they had already done, and what they were proposing to do that he actually tasked them with updating the official colonial circular that was including all these information about immigration to South Australia, and he sent letters back to London saying that he hoped there would not be an interruption to any scheme.
So you have to think about this. Here is a group-- a modern migrant group, an ethnic group, Scots-- who just meet with the lieutenant governor, convince him that what they think is right, and he basically gives them an almost official brief. And you have a very significant wide impact of this group.
So what were they concerned with? Everything I've already said before, but particularly, they were also concerned with the fact that there was only one government agent operating in Scotland to attract people to South Australia. So it was common to have agents around the British and Irish Isles to recruit people or to provide information, but there was only one actually working in Scotland, while there were three for England and 12 for Ireland. So it tells you a lot of other things about the ideas behind migration and wider reasons and timings and so on. But this was something they were particularly concerned about.
So this is a short part of the story only, but it really-- just wanted to be include it to emphasise the point that here, while they were concerned with Scots, while they were operating in relation to Scotland, they really were fulfilling a much wider community role. And this kind of role was even more significant in Launceston in Tasmania, where there was pretty much a same kind of society-- again, a St. Andrew's Society-- but actually in a separate organisational branch. So basically, two groups-- a St. Andrew's Society that was sort of doing the social kind of things, meeting for dinners and just meeting for a chat, and there was then a St. Andrew's Immigration Society which was sort of doing the kind of things that the Adelaide group was also doing. And this was in the early 1850s.
Now, this was a time when Tasmania was losing a lot of its population. Why? Because of the gold rushes in Victoria and other places. So there was a genuine concern that there weren't enough people. That was one motivation for this Scottish group to try and get more Scots to Tasmania-- to compensate the loss and to aid and promote immigration from Scotland.
And just like the Adelaide group in many ways, they were very practical and strategic about it. They devised schemes and published information in Scottish papers, and they had their own-- well, I don't want to call him "agent." It wasn't a government agent but their own information person who, actually, they sent to Scotland to do a tour. And later on in the 1860s, they sent a second person. So there were two people touring Scotland, giving talks in village halls and churches and all over the place, really, to inform people about immigration to Australia but more specifically to Tasmania.
And again, they were providing all the kinds of information that was meant to be useful for immigrants. They were quite specific, this group, in who they wanted. They want to have useful immigrants-- so, people who would actually be able to contribute.
So they tended to have lists in newspapers of particular roles that they were looking for. Farmers, domestic helpers, whatever. Whatever was needed at the time. And this was partly because if there was a need for a particular role or job, people could actually become a subscriber of the society to get those kinds of people. So they were paying a sum that was then used to bring those people out, basically. That was the idea, anyway.
Now again, there is a sudden end to this group as well. The St. Andrew's Society itself continued for many years, but the Immigration Society stopped, and it obviously has something to do with less of a demand. There was less of a need for new migrants to come in, and that's why eventually, they ceased.
But still, it emphasises how much influence Scots could have when they went beyond their ethnic-ness, in a way. And actually, while they were concerned with Scots-- still had a much wider impact. And there are details on some of the people they recruited and what they ended up doing and how they contributed to the community, and they're quite significant.
But one reason, generally, why perhaps St. Andrew's Societies never really kicked off in Australia is this focus on benevolence, on helping people. That was the focus of St. Andrew's Societies elsewhere as well, particularly in North America, where they were first set up in the 18th century. And this is exactly where the different lies-- difference lies. Sorry. They were catering for very different migrants than those that came to Australia.
It's exactly the same in New Zealand, pretty much. In fact, in New Zealand, there is not a single St. Andrew's Society. And you might think, well, it's just a different name. It really isn't. They were doing quite different things from, say, Caledonian Societies. That might have changed over time, but originally, that was the case.
So in the US-- say, for example, in Toronto or New York-- you would have had huge St. Andrew's Societies, and their sole purpose was really to provide charity for immigrants in distress. And that's partly what because there was a gap in the Social Security system in these early days in the US. There was no help, so ethnic groups had to look after each other themselves.
And so basically, all ethnic groups would do this, not just the Scots. But the Scots were the biggest, largest providers for this kind of help. They, in fact, in New York at some stage had their own offices on Broadway where you could go. Very much like some kind of support office today, only today it would be by the state, probably, although some now are no longer by the state. So we see maybe a bit of history repeating itself, in a sense.
But anyway, there's a big difference between that and most of the arrivals in the Antipodes. In Australia, it's a little different from New Zealand because they had a greater variety, slightly earlier timing than, say, New Zealand. But still, this is the key reason. So really, it's only when in Australia-- Scots start to host Caledonian games, their organisations become more firmly established when they actually don't fall over every five minutes but when they actually continue to thrive and to grow.
Now, here is one of my favourite early drawings. This is from Bendigo, where there's a first gathering there in 1860. And this will be quite a typical setup, quite a circular gathering in different circles, because there were different activities at different points in the field. Then it looks like in the background there's a sort of man-made grandstand structure that might have been only temporary in early days. It was often only temporary.
But then these games grew, and some of the estimates suggest that in some gatherings in Australia there might have been around about 18,000, 20,000-- I have one seated 25,000 people. Of course, not all of them were Scots, and actually, again, that is the key thing. These events, in many ways, while they were born out of a Scottish tradition, while they had Scottish roots, and while there might have been activities like caber tossing or jigs and things like that-- and so they were very Scottish, but really, they were also sporting events, and that is what attracted these large numbers of people.
They also started to attract very well-known athletes, and that was a whole pull factor in it's own right. People came to see these athletes. There were prize monies. Prize monies increased. There was growing competition over athletes between different societies.
But in Australia and, actually, New Zealand as well, they really became fundamental in developing sporting culture in these two countries. And that again tells you a lot about the much wider relevance of a Scottish tradition. So they were using their Scottishness for a much wider purpose, really.
I've just got a few other pictures to show you. Here is Coffs Harbour Highland Games. So again, very similar setup with a fence. This is a much smaller games. But a fence, circular, and then some kind of competition platform in the centre.
This is another family-- or, in this case, it is a family as opposed to one person. But again, one of my favourite stories-- because very often, you can't identify individual people involved in Caledonian sports unless they were competitors, but here, actually, is a whole family. And they had a photograph taken just before they went up-- sorry, went off-- to the Caledonian Society sports meeting.
And it is obviously quite a large family, so there even is a very small girl there. So it's rather lovely. And they obviously felt it was important to wear their tartans and wear their kilts to quite visibly show their Scottishness.
The Bendigo Caledonian Society members here obviously did the same thing. Again, you could just about make out in the background where people are gathering to watch sports. You can also see a few tents. So again, all of this underscores the community appeal of this. In many cases, there would have, at a minimum, been food provisions or drink provisions, and that's maybe what was in these tents. But often, there were also other things for children, fair-like activities that would have attracted children as well.
This is the show grounds at Alexandra. Again, people are obviously watching some kind of activity. And here, I think, is another grandstand which is in fact actually fairly grand. I particularly love the woman at the front, though, holding on to their hats. So maybe it's quite windy. So all these pictures are rather brilliant, I think. And then the final one here, where there is obviously some piping competition going on.
So at the smaller games, often it was a bit makeshift. They may not have had a grandstand at all, or if there was one, then maybe it was only temporary. But there were of course also larger gatherings where, actually, maybe they used the local domain or the local sports ground where there were permanent structures.
Smaller societies sometimes struggled because they may not have been able to attract the biggest athletes and therefore might have lost in terms of revenue from the crowd. So this kind of issue was a growing problem. We have a problem also with what maybe we can call a commodification of Scottish identity, because as these games grew in their popularity, they were becoming less and less Scottish, in Australia less so.
But just to give you one example from New Zealand-- you might find this interesting. Cycling became huge in New Zealand as part of these Caledonian games. Now, that really isn't very Scottish, cycling, obviously. And that was the nail in the coffin of at least three Caledonian societies, because they didn't have good enough tracks for the cycles to actually ride on. So they couldn't do cycling, and so people lost interest.
So there was an issue. There was an issue of infighting between traditionalists and younger people-- it tended to be a generational thing-- younger people who were more interested in maintaining attendance numbers as opposed to maintaining Scottishness. And this brings us into the early 20th century. But at the same time, in many ways, this was exactly what allowed these groups to survive, because they had a wider community appeal. So I suppose it's a little bit of a weighing business, in some ways. What is more relevant?
But overall, of course, there was increasing competition, because suddenly other sports moved to the forefront. These games lost their appeal also because of that. Rugby, cricket-- whatever else you can think of became bigger and bigger. It was professionalised, organised better, and suddenly these games were not the venue they used to be for promoting sports. So in many ways, we have a story of a big rise and then a decline in terms of Scottish visible activities.
And in some ways, it remained a fractured scene of Scottish club life-- until the kilt question, that is. This brings us to the early 20th century, when the Scottish regiment, or the kilted regiment, was abolished. And this was something that didn't make the Scottish community particularly happy, and therefore, it united them in a great way for the first time across state boundaries on a significant level.
Now I don't want to read out all of this, really, but the Scottish Australian was making a comment here on the abolition of the kilted regiments, and it said, "It is stated that the retention of the Highland dress is a matter of mere sentiment. It may be admitted at once that the retention of the kilt is just sentiment, true national sentiment, the God-given endowment of patriotism." And then, "The value of such patriotism into the community cannot be too highly regarded." So they were basically making the case that by allowing the Scottish to be especially Scottish with that visible symbol, they actually would be able to serve the community better, whereas if you took that identity away from them, you would strip them of much of that power to fight in a war or to be engaged in other activities where maybe a strong patriotism was needed.
The Highland Society of New South Wales was leading a lot of activities and issued proclamations and wrote to lots of have people in Parliament and petitions and all sorts of things, and these petitions were shared by other groups throughout Australia. If you search for this in newspapers, you pretty much find the same petition reprinted and reprinted time and again in papers from the north to the south, east, west, everywhere. This, also, was picked up in Scotland, where headlines were not particularly positive. You find things like "the passing of the kilts," "killing the kilt," and "the last of the Kilties."
In many ways, what was happening here was in political arguments, the Scottishness was pitted, in a sense, against emerging Australian nationalism, because obviously the argument was, well, we need to do away with these national regiments because we're Australia now. They didn't buy into this argument that if you have a strong sense of patriotism to Scotland, you would actually be more Australian, in a sense. That's at least the argument the Scots made.
Another thing at this time was also that actually in some ways, Scots became more inward-looking, and this was in their clubs and societies. And this was a result of being less relevant in wider society because, as I said before, there was more competition over sporting activities. Now in 1910, there would have been no lieutenant governor going to a Scottish group and saying, please, can you update my colonial circular? They had lost a lot of the influence because the Australian state had grown and as activities-- there was much more going on in wider society.
So these were issues, and one very good example of this slightly more inward-looking orientation of Scots is that also close to this time in the 1920s, there were more and more people who were actually going back to Scotland for a visit. This may seem a bit peculiar to us. I was saying before, again, in the migration museum, they give you this timeline of the different types of travel, and obviously the ship in the 19th century took the longest. But even today, it does take a fair amount of time to actually go to the northern hemisphere.
But in this period, more and more people were actually able to do this kind of travelling. But in the late 1920s, there was actually a trip of over 600 Australians to Scotland, and this was cast by many Australian newspapers as a national pilgrimage. The visit was organised by the Victorian Scottish Union together with similar bodies in other states.
And specific arrangements for the trip were first discussed in 1927, and they had initially hoped to attract about 200 people, but they ended up with over 600 in the end because there was so much interest that they actually had to come up with state quotas. So on the basis of the percentages of Scots in different states, they came up with quotas that x number could travel from state such-and-such. Eventually, the Australian trade publicity office became involved with this, and this actually became still a homecoming kind of trip but also very much an advertisement tour for Australia because they were looking for new migrants to Australia.
So the idea was that these returning Scottish homecomers would endear people to the idea of moving out to Australia. As the Sydney Morning Herald said, "The prime motive naturally was to tread the heather again and to steep in the sentiment of Auld Lang Syne," but there was also this idea that actually, these Scots would be, I quote, "a travelling encyclopaedia" so that people could get information firsthand from these people. I don't want to bore you with the ways in which this was all organised, but just to say, it was a very detailed plan. There were lots of activities.
And the initial biggest challenge was to actually get people together so they could even leave. They were all leaving from Melbourne, and there were over 8,000 people gathered here in Melbourne to bid farewell to these travellers. And so this departure in many ways was quite a sight in itself. People had come from all over Australia, and as was reported in the local press, "The swirl of bagpipes was blown by three lusty lads." So this must have been a fantastic scene.
The arrival in Plymouth, I quote, "in a drizzle" was perhaps a bit of a letdown by comparison, but each member of the delegation was given a sprig of heather with a piece of tartan attached. And so Harry Lauder had sent a message of welcome. Some of the travellers disembarked in their kilts.
After arrival in London, reported The Times, a proper welcome reception was hosted by the lord mayor and the cooperation of the city of London, while in the afternoon the delegation was entertained by the Duke and the Duchess of York at St. James's Palace. So clearly, this is much less part of the homecoming business as really this trade connection, this migration connection.
But they did eventually make their way up to Scotland. And in Edinburgh, a welcome committee consisted of senior city officials, and they were also given various types of receptions at Edinburgh Castle with a memorial service, for example. Thus observed Mr. McGuinness that it was the first duty of the Australian Scots on their native land to lay a wreath honouring the memory of Scotsmen who died in the Great War.
There were lots of sites they visited. Docks of Leith, for example. A bagpipe manufacturer. But also, there were schools that Australians delivered on Empire Day-- at school. So they were telling these pupils about Australia but also the empire. So again, you can see the wider kind of-- I don't want to use the term "propaganda." I think that would be a stretch too far. But there were elements of this, clearly, on this trip.
Now this was a huge group, and so they didn't stick together at all times. People did venture into different places in Scotland. But just to give you a few more examples, at Stirling Castle, there was a rousing welcome by cheering street crowds as the party of Scottish Australians arrived. Now let's just assume you were to go back today. Do you think that would happen? Probably maybe not.
And so the relevance this was given in many ways is really quite fascinating. They had Australia weeks or Australia shopping activities. Many of the merchants down the High Street in Stirling and elsewhere had decorated their windows with Australian flags and Australian goods that no one could buy because they were too expensive to buy. So this is really quite fascinating in many ways. And a lot of Australian newspapers sent their own correspondence to follow these people around, so there would be regular updates in the Australian press.
So in many ways, this kind of potted history starting with clubs and societies and their first problems to this return trip tells you a lot about how the Scots in Australia changed over time. So initially, they were indeed that, Scots in Australia, and I think gradually they became Australian Scots and then Australians, I would imagine. And this is sort of the trajectory, therefore, also of the history of associations, which, while a bit fractured at the beginning, grew significantly, were greatly important in many spheres of life. I've touched upon only one, but there are other examples.
And then it became more inward-looking. More Scottish, again. And in Australia, this happened to some extent as well, but most significantly-- actually, in New Zealand-- is that many groups suddenly started to use Highland terms for many of their positions. So what always used to be for 60 years a president of a Caledonian Society suddenly became a chief of a Caledonian Society. So all of this, I think, is a reflection of this slightly more inward-looking perspective that many adopted, and why? Again, because, I guess, partly their relevance was challenged when there was much more going on.
And I guess nowadays there are new types of challenges. Suddenly, social media and other outlets provide all sorts of entertainment for young people. Do they still go to these kinds of groups? Well, I mean, they certainly do in many ways, because I know it's an enduring legacy. And I know many people in Australia continue to pursue a lot of these activities I've talked about to this day.
But yeah, I'll leave it at that, and I hope I have managed to convey to you the view that while kilts and bagpipes are very important as outward symbols of Scots in Australia, they really don't tell the whole story of what Scottishness actually achieved or what you could do by using Scottishness actively in a way that actually benefited a wider community as opposed to just the Scottish community. Thank you.
Thanks, Tanja. That was really, really interesting. Now we've got about 10 minutes for questions. If anyone has a question from the floor, Cas is roaming with microphones. There's one just here.
Thank you very-- yes? Thank you very much for a very interesting talk. I was just wondering-- I know that you were focusing on the associations and whatever, but for me there are another couple of strong institutions-- the Presbyterian church and the schools that are associated with that. Would you have any comments about the inter-relationship, as you say-- that energies go to strengthening other institutions which may or may not impact on what you're saying? Do you have any comments?
I mean, just generally, first of all, the Scottish influence in shaping-- well, the Presbyterian church. Pretty obvious. But schools in particular is obviously very important. But then overall, there were many connections between these groups. Again, it's highly likely that a lot of people who were involved in Scottish clubs were also involved in the church.
The church is also a critical outlet for women. Maybe one of you was about to ask this because, of course, the great unheard voice in all of this is the voice of women. Partly, it's because initially, they weren't members of such groups that I was talking about, because this was a male thing generally, not just for the Scots. But one outlet they could have was the church, though. There were lots of activities in the church that women would be involved in, but there are just very few records of this.
But still, there is great overlap just in terms of people actively involved as opposed to, say, the congregation, but those who were leading activities-- there were often great overlaps. Same with school committees. They'd all be the Archie Hague people. It's highly likely that they were involved in a lot of these groups.
I didn't really look at the church not because I don't find it interesting but because I think it's a very different type of association that merits its own study. But yeah, the overlap is certainly there. It's a very good question. It's a really important outlet for Scottishness and for establishing links with the community that used traditions or beliefs from the Scottish background actively to actually shape the new world as opposed to just-- replicate or just hold on to traditions. I don't think that's what it was. Not in my groups. Not in the church.
Any other questions? There's one over here.
Up the back, is it?
Up the back there.
Thanks for that insight into grassroots history. Just from my little knowledge of communities, I think that the person who said that the 1860s was when things settled down is right. The economy and the land legislation, I think, have a lot to do with the mobility and stability of relationships-- the 1840s depression and then the gold rush. So in Victoria, anyway, I would say late 1850s and '60s-- if you go around a lot of Victoria, you'll see most of the buildings date from the '60s. The stone buildings.
I was just wondering about the question-- I know very little about Scottish clubs, but Australia was a great melting pot for different races and religions and so forth. Was there ever any tension in those groups, between the Highlanders and Lowlanders and MacDonalds and everybody else with their particular things?
I certainly think there was sometimes disagreements and, on occasion, particularly with Lowland-Highland-- although the division wouldn't necessarily be like that. It'll be something like Caledonian Society versus Gallic Club or whatever. So it would be kind of coming out in that way. On occasion, there would be disagreements over certain festivals-- or, I say, you have the citywide parade to celebrate the empire or something or the funeral of the mayor or whatever.
On occasion, there were issues when, say, one group was asked to participate and another wasn't. But there you see actually, in a sense, the disagreement wasn't really about something to do with their background. It was about-- well, are we important in this city or are we not important in this city? I know of very few examples of actually in-community feuding.
Now I gave you the example from Melbourne where, in the early days, there was this question over whether you should allow non-Scots to be part of Scottish groups or not. That was a bigger question. I could give you quite a few examples like that from other places as well, but it wasn't necessarily along the lines of Highland-Lowland or those kinds of-- it was usually over something else that might have then had a little bit to do with Highland-Lowland but that wasn't necessarily the initial issue.
Very different case in the Irish community, where, of course, they were bringing from home a divided society which, essentially, in many ways they replicated abroad, and they did that pretty much everywhere they settled. So, 12th of July, Orange Lodge, and then Hibernians on the other side. There was a lot of examples, even in small communities, where-- I know this little story from-- I can't remember where it was, but somewhere in small-town Australia where a Hibernian locked up an Orange Order Grand Master in some shed, and then there was a massive brawl as a result of that. So there would be a lot of stories like that in those communities.
So I don't want to suggest that there was never any strife in the Scottish community, but I think it was significantly less so than in other groups at home as much as when they had migrated. Now of course, at home in Glasgow there are sometimes big issues between Catholic and Protestant community groups. I've not seen this translated abroad in that way. I'm sure it existed on occasion, but I think generally speaking, the Scots were quite adaptable.
And that's what they were known for. That's one reason why Scottish migrants were considered to be good migrants. They didn't, generally speaking, cause trouble. They didn't, generally speaking, bring with them this kind of baggage of division.
You know, I was just going to say that's one of the really interesting things about looking at migration as how cultural groups bring out their, I guess, cultural structures or hierarchies with them and do or don't see them evolve differently to the country they've left behind. That was a really interesting talk. Thank you. And I was really interested in, I guess, the material culture side of Scottish culture in Australia.
And I guess, as a non-Australian resident, it's probably a harder question to answer, but it's a question which started to come up for me, thinking about these very long-established communities and the sorts of material culture that might still be being held in those communities where the organisations had some succession, of whether or not there's organisations like Museum Victoria we know have modest collections. But are there any significant areas that you've come across?
I told you before I was on the fellowship at ANU two years ago, and as part of that, that was actually looking at material culture. So I was trying to find out about exactly that. And there seemed to be quite a few things in Adelaide in their migration museums. They have a few collections.
But I imagine there'll be much more in communities, so hopefully there'll be some initiative in the future to try and get more of that before it disappears because I suppose eventually it might disappear. What I've seen was things, like just handkerchiefs or little boxes, that people were transporting certain things in. One of the most brilliant things I've seen was a book or a collection of Burns poems, but someone had attached a sprig of heather to it, and apparently that was attached pretty much when they left Scotland. So I thought that was quite a marvellous thing.
Then, I suppose, sometimes gravestones can have their own material culture. I find it quite interesting when there are certain carvings on there of thistles or heather. And then the descriptions, which is less material culture in a sense-- but it's certainly just the representation of where people are coming from, although one has to be a bit careful with that. You know, who decided that it should go on there? Was it really a wish of the deceased, or was it someone who was left who decided that?
But yeah, so I think it's one of the areas where I think more research is needed. It's one of the areas where I was looking at, with National Museums Scotland, what we can do to promote that. And it will be part of a funding application that we're going to put together-- in fact, I'm just in the process of putting together. So wish us luck, and then we can hopefully collect more and bring things together in different ways.
This is a couple of observations. On Australia Day, there's a parade which-- I don't know if you've seen it, but it winds its way down, eventually arriving over the bridge, Swanson Street, and so on. And it's a very multinational, multicultural expression of what Victorian society is today. Now there's no Anglo, there's no Welsh, there's no Irish component, but there is always a Scottish component, usually in the form of a pipe band. You know, proudly in the kilts and so on.
And that's interesting that the pipe bands-- and we did an exhibition at the Immigration Museum, as I'm sure you know-- that has remained as an expression of Scottishness. Another observation is-- it would be interesting to look at-- many of the houses of the 19th century here, as I'm sure you've seen, have names above the door. And you'll see our names, but you'll see Scottish names as well. There are pub names like Edinburgh Castle which are all obviously a very self-conscious expression of "I am Scottish."
Finally, one observation, which is that you talked about social media, age. These things are changing very much. But it's also this family history age, and I suspect those two are moving in opposite directions and that the family history movement is pulling people together whose knowledge of their roots may be fairly vague but who come together in order to study where they've come from, basically.
Well, social media or, in fact, generally just advances in the internet can be significantly beneficial to that. Now you can connect people from Australia with people in Canada who may never ever otherwise have had a chance to meet or in any way connect.
The pipe band question is a very interesting one. Obviously, there were always pipe bands at one stage or the other, but they are, as far as I'm concerned, a distinct organisational branch of Scottish association of culture. And generally speaking, that became very significant in the early 20th century and then grew and grew and grew and grew, giving some people an outlet while others never were into that.
But you're right. It seems to have continued to be very visible partly because it's now popular to have it as part of other activities and festivities and so on. Again, not to say Australia or New Zealand have completely similar patterns, but this one is very similar in New Zealand as well.
Just funny. I was really interested in Tanja mentioning that even earlier last century, when associations and the games were starting to decline-- and that this was partly reflecting even in a kind of inter-generational tension between the older generations wanting to maintain Scottishness and younger generations who were more interested in getting the attendances and participation. I thought that was interesting that even then, if you wanted to just quickly reflect in a contemporary sense, this kind of-- where younger Scottish generations are now. And with the passage of time, this is going to be a continuing issue between the desire to maintain culture and to move on.
In some ways, I'm thinking I keep on seeing history repeating itself time and again, because I'm working a lot now with contemporary groups as well in the US, in Canada, in Asia a lot and, to some extent, in New Zealand, less so in Australia. And I see that those groups who hold on to very traditional views of what an association does, how it goes about it are all in decline, without exception. Those who come up with what I would consider to be more modern, innovative ways of working with people, how to connect with people-- not only do they have a very different membership, much more mixed in terms of ages, much more broadly reflective of ages. They also are all growing.
So there clearly is something to be said for giving some of the youngsters a bit of a leeway, maybe, and letting them test out their ideas about how to go about things. Not to suggest that they are always right. I mean, I could certainly give you examples where it didn't work and people fell over. But anyway, the basic issue still seems to be there, that there are different ideas about what Scottishness is, understandably, and how you might actually celebrate it or go about displaying it.
The key difference, I suppose, is that generally speaking, these kind of charitable aspects, even in the countries like the US, where there were huge-- they are not there anymore. They might still provide some charity to local schools or elderly people, for example, but obviously, that branch essentially is gone altogether. And with that, their main reason of operating, at least going by the original constitutions, is gone. So some have managed to fill that with other activities. Others have not. So yeah, it's ongoing in many ways.
Well, thank you, Tanja. I think we'd all agree that was a really fascinating insight into the impact of associations and the peculiarities of those for Scottish culture here in Australia. If you could all please join me in thanking Tanja.
Thank you. Thanks very much. It was my pleasure. I hope I'm allowed the last word, and I promise I won't bore you for much longer. But I just-- sorry for the split URL. I don't know why that happened. But this is my new big thing, and you could potentially, anyway, all become involved in this. And it actually relates directly to material culture, so I could have said it before, but I wasn't coming to the slide just yet.
My idea is that this is going to be a digital museum of the Scottish diaspora. So the idea is that if you have any family heirlooms-- but this is very broadly defined. It could even be a photograph that's important to you and shows an ancestor or a cookbook that someone-- this is always my example. I could use, if I was Scottish, a cookbook that my mother gave me with German recipes. Well, let's imagine they're Scottish recipes. And she thought I should have this when I left Germany 10 years ago so that I wouldn't-- I don't know-- starve to death because I couldn't eat any of this other food elsewhere.
So any item, any kind of thing, that relates, if you are Scottish or have Scottish ancestors, to your migration story, basically. If you wanted to contribute, if you know anyone who might be interested in this, there is the URL there. But if you just Google "Scottish diaspora blog," which is my main site, there's a link on there as well. So you should be able to find it one way or another or drop me an email. If you Google my name, again, you should be able to find me very easily if this is something that you might be interested in contributing to.
The idea is that people do it from all over the world, so hopefully by the end of it, there would be a collection of items from people's stories about their migration or experiences telling the Scottish story through these items as opposed to just writing up what their story is. And what's on there at the moment is just from museums, so that's not really the idea. It's just the idea to give people a flavour of what could be up there.
But there is one contribution from a community member already, and I have a few more, but because I've been travelling now, I wasn't able to put them up yet. But that is a sampler stitched by a Scottish woman, and it's been in a particular family for 100 years or over 100 years now. And she submitted that for example.
But really, it's broadly defined. Doesn't have to be super historic. It can be much more recent because of course some people's experiences are more recent. So very open. If you have any questions, just get in touch.