Scottish Born Soldiers in the New Zealand Tunnelling Company 1916-1919

Miners

New Zealand Miners, Paporoa Range, late 19th Century:  About a third of the sample of 62 Scots born miners worked in the Paporoa Range

On 4 April, the Graduate Workshop was joined by Grant Collie who is currently in the final stages of a Masters Degree by research at Massey University, New Zealand. An emigrant Scot – and a former student of the University of Edinburgh – Grant is undertaking research into 62 Scots born members (comprising 15%) of the 400 strong New Zealand Tunnelling Company which served as part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force during the First World War.  Many were former coal miners from Central Scotland and Fife who emigrated to New Zealand towards the end of the nineteenth century, a period which coincided with the first major wave of Scottish migration to New Zealand.  Grant’s social historical  approach charted the background and motives of this significant sub group:  what were the reasons for their emigration from Scotland?  Why did they enlist?  Grant’s presentation provided an overview of work in progress.

Grant argued that poor social conditions provided the immediate backdrop to emigration.  In late 19th century Scotland, mining was a poorly paid and hazardous occupation.  Between 1885 and 1904, wages for the average miner, with a family to support, were only slightly above subsistence level, increasing from 4 shillings a day to 6 shillings a day over a twenty-year period.  Accidents were commonplace and discontent rife. Emigration provided an alternative life. Grant cited the case of Stephen Peggie, a miner from Lochore in Fife who was injured in a mining accident and by way of compensation was offered the sum of £ 300 to assist with payment of his passage to New Zealand. Emigration to New Zealand offered the hope of a new life and appealed to an underlying sense of adventure.  In their new surroudings, many emigrant Scots were able to draw on their previous technical experience to mine for black gold.

tunn_farewell

At the outbreak of war, a call was sent out throughout the British Empire for tunnelling companies; the New Zealanders were the first to respond. Their tunnelling company arrived in France in 1916 with no experience of mining in wartime conditions.  But as Grant observed, whilst the Scots born miners may not have been ideal soldiers, they were expert miners and were trained to obey orders.  In France, they began by working alongside the Highland 51st Division with whom they established good relations.   Work typically involved constructing labyrinthine tunnels , known as Catacombs, which the sappers named after New Zealand towns and cities. At Arras, in particular, the work of the New Zealand tunnellers made a significant contribution to the overall conduct of the battle.

Grant’s recent work has examined the impact of war on the 62.  Evidence suggests that a significant number were traumatised by their experience of warfare.  Suicide was not uncommon, nor were the effects of what  might now be regarded as Post Traumatic Place NamesStress Disorder.  Grant is currently researching the reasons for five of the 62 returning to Scotland, rather than their adopted country, at the end of the war. His visit to Europe coinciding, as it does, with centenary events to commemorate the Battle of Arras, has enabled him to carry out further primary research at the Scottish Mining Museum and the National Library of Scotland.

During the course of the presentation interesting issues arose as to the nature of national identity, and the availability of primary source material.  Whilst surprisingly little contemporary correspondence survives, the collective aural memory of family members provides a valuable contextual source.

This was a fascinating talk and a fitting end to our 2016/2017 programme. We wish Grant well with his continuing research.

 

Advertisements

Graduate Workshop 14 March: Toys and the Movement of Peoples with Dr Catriona Ellis

Our next Graduate Workshop takes place on Tuesday 14 March 2017 at 1 pmunnamed (2) in G 16 (in the William Robertson Wing of the School of History Classics and Archaeology)

Dr Catriona Ellis who recently received her PhD from the University of Edinburgh will be giving a paper entitled:

Toys and the Movement of Peoples: What The Museum of Childhood’s Collections Tell Us About Material Culture and Childhood. 

Toys reflect the interests of adults in collecting as much as of children in playing.  What do toys tell us about the movement of peoples?  Catriona will base her paper on recent work at Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood
.

All are most welcome to attend.

Emigration:  Scotland to Australia 1840-1870.  Was the Effort Really Worthwhile?

liverpoolOn 12th January 2017, the Graduate Workshop welcomed Jennifer McCoy of Federation University, Australia.  Jennifer is a part time first-year PhD student who currently combines research with teaching.  Her doctoral research considers the contribution made by immigrant Scots in the development of Eastern High Country Victoria in the mid to late 19th century. Family history has provided the stimulus for Jennifer’s formal academic research and, in her own words, has led to her asking “so many questions that (have gone) beyond the usual genealogical study of births, marriages, deaths and people connections”.   Her presentation considered the “loose ends” which have inspired her project and the lines of enquiry which they suggest.

At the heart of Jennifer’s research lie the big questions: Where had the Scots come from?  Where did they settle?  Moreover, was their effort worthwhile?  Existing research has tended to focus on the more well known, yet many early Scottish settlers remain strangely “invisible”.  Memorialisation,  gravestones in particular, have provided a useful starting point.  By way of case study, Jennifer considered her own McCoy ancestors. As the 1841 census records reveal, James McCoid (sic) and his wife Charlotte Dowie hailed from Girvan in Ayrshire.  In 1855, they made the perilous five month sea voyage from Liverpool to Hobart before travelling to South East Victoria.  The McCoy family clearly flourished.  In 1932, Mary, the daughter of Charlotte and James, left the considerable sum of £ 45,000 to her local Presbyterian Church.  Her sister Elizabeth ran a successful hotel.  What role then did women play in the settler society?  How did the Presbyterian  Church impact upon their lives?  How was such wealth generated in a comparatively short time?  In the long term, Jennifer anticipates broadening the scope of her research and considering the experiences of other Scottish families in the development of South East Victoria.

A lively discussion followed. The presentation provided a perfect opportunity for Jennifer to meet and exchange ideas with members of our own post graduate community.  We all wish her well with her continuing research.

Alastair Learmont

Spring 2017 Graduate Workshop Programme

We have now posted our spring 2017 Graduate Workshop programme. You can find full details of all five presentations on our programme page:

The  series  begins on Thursday 12 January 2017 at 1 pm in Room G16 in the William Robertson Wing, School of History, Classics and Archaeology, Old Medical School, Teviot Place (Doorway 4).

 Jennifer McCoy  of Federation University, Australia,will speak on:

Emigration: Scotland to Australia 1840 – 1870. Was the Effort Really Worthwhile?’

Everyone is most welcome to attend.

‘Toil and Care under the Scorching Sun’: Scots in Jamaica, 1776-1838.

On Monday 17 October, the Graduate Workshop was delighted to welcome Dr Stephen Mullen, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Glasgow.  His paper considered Scottish emigration to the Caribbean in the late 18th and early 19th century within its social and economic context. He adopted a transatlantic approach.

Stephen argued that levels of emigration from Scotland to the West Indies increased in the first third of the 19th century.  In the absence of Scottish port statistics during this period, precise quantification is problematic but contemporary advertisements from the Glasgow Herald suggest that between 1806 and 1834, 1742 ships made the transatlantic journey from the Clyde to the Caribbean, of which approximately 600 were bound for Jamaica.  An approach based on earlier work by Allan Karras and Douglas Hamilton (in relation to the second half of the 18th century), points to between 3000 and 5500 Scottish sojourners travelling to Jamaica alone during this period. Kingston was the most popular port of arrival. In 1774, the planter historian, Edward Long, had estimated that one third of the 18,000 (white) inhabitants of the island were either Scots or descended from Scots, a view endorsed by Lady Nugent a generation later. In 1801, she wrote, “Almost all the agents, attornies [sic], merchants and shopkeepers, are of that country [Scotland] and really do deserve to thrive in this, they are so industrious.”

A Scottish presence on the island was re-in forced by Scottish institutions, notably the Kingston Masonic Lodge of St Andrews, the Presbyterian Kirk (also St Andrews), and, arguably, the use of Scots law in order to secure the repatriation of wealth to the home country.  Attempts to establish a Scots Kirk were initially resisted in the Jamaican assembly but evidence of rapid and successful fundraising suggests a broadly based and relatively affluent Scots community within Kingston and other parts of the island. St. Andrews Kirk was opened in 1819. The first three ministers of the Kirk, were educated at Old College in Edinburgh; the third minister, James Wordie, established a st-andrews-scots-kirk-1local Sunday school.

As Stephen observed, the Scottish emigrant was typically a”sojourner in the sun”: the single young man who had travelled to the West Indies “less  in quest of fame than of fortunes” (pace Long) but whose principal motivation was to return to his native land in affluent middle age to enjoy and – when the time was right – transmit his new found wealth.  The motive of the sojourner raises the mechanism of repatriation of capital as much inter vivos as post mortem.  The example of Andrew Taylor, an upwardly mobile overseer on the York estate in Trelawney, is a case in point.   In the 1820s, Taylor’s correspondence provides evidence suggesting that he was making provision for family members in his native land in the event of his not returning to Scotland.  Stephen argued that Scottish merchants played a pivotal role in the transmission of wealth.  They were able to convey bills of exchange to Scotland and, on the death of a Scots testator, were well placed to act as executors.

How wealthy were these sojourners in the sun?  How much wealth did they repatriate?  And what was its impact on the Scottish economy?  Stephen’s recent work has comprised an analysis of the wills and inventories in Scottish archives.  They provide first hand evidence of the nature of repatriation of wealth and the extent of  individual fortunes.  Of the “super rich” William Rae had a fortune approaching that of William Beckford. Scots law, Stephen argued, provided a means of channelling Scots wealth.

____________

Our next Diaspora Studies Graduate Workshop will take place on Tuesday 1 November at 1 pm in G 16 in the William Robertson Wing of the School of History Classics and Archaeology (Doorway 4)

Sean Murphy of the University of St Andrews investigates the apparent enthusiasm for Scottish literature and Lowland Scots language within the United States.  His paper highlights the manner in which Scots forms were seen to set an example for the development of an American English.

Sean’s paper is entitled :

“Imprest on vellum”: Lowland language and the early American republic, c. 1800-1830.

All are most welcome to attend.

Alastair Learmont

Our Autumn 2016 Seminar Series

We’ve now posted our autumn 2016 seminar programme, which you can find on the programme page:

The seminars start on Tuesday, 4th of October in Room G16 in the William Robertson Wing, School of History, Classics and Archaeology, Old Medical School, Teviot Place.

Shane Smith (Northumbria University) will speak on:

“Business, farming and ‘jolly good times’: The migration of British and Irish soldiers to the Perth military settlement in Upper Canada 1815-1850.

 

 

Fayaz Alibhai on the Shi‛a of Edinburgh

Slightly late, but here is the summary of Fayaz’s paper from 11th November – thank you to Fayaz for sharing his research with us.

Fayaz’s paper addressed a small Muslim Shi‘a group in Edinburgh, which that does not have its own mosque, and their growing confidence as expressed in their annual Muharram observances and specifically the climax of the observances, the Ashura parade, when Shi‘a Muslims worldwide remember the martyrdom of Muhammad’s grandson, Husayn ibn Ali at Karbala and commemorated in a parade which involves the beating of the chest as an act of lamentation.

The Edinburgh Shi‘a are made up of migrants from Iran and the sub-continent and as such are themselves split amongst Urdu and Farsi speaking adherents. Despite having been in Edinburgh for some time it was only in 2011 that they first felt sufficiently confident enough to conduct an Ashura parade which congregates at Great Junction Street in Leith. Since that time the parade has changed most notably with the introduction of signs. Signs in 2012 were carried in the procession while by 2013 they were in English and faced out from the procession with messages such as ‘Fight Terrorism through Justice’.

The confidence to parade hints at both a willingness to engage with the wider community and a perceived need to do so.

________

The final seminar of this semester’s series shall be on Tuesday 25th November at 1pm – Alison Garden will be speaking on Colum McCann and the literature of diaspora.

Michal Palacz on the Polish Medical Diaspora in Edinburgh

Thank you to today’s speaker, University of Edinburgh fourth year doctoral student Michal Palacz, for an informative and really interesting paper. Michal’s thesis looks at the Polish Medical Diaspora in Edinburgh, 1941-1949, and though this paper made reference to the three major waves of Polish emigration to Britain (1830s, Wartime, and Post-EU Accession Migration), it focused on the c. 1000 Polish-born (or of Polish-origin) medical professionals in Scotland during the 1940s. One of the medical professionals who made up this diaspora was Dr Krystyna Munk who had been awarded a medal for bravery while serving as a ship’s doctor during World War Two (when Polish military personnel joined with British and other Allied forces) – she later became a much-loved GP in Edinburgh. This was just one example of Michal’s ability to mix theory with personal anecdotes, making for a fascinating paper.

The plaque currently on one of the walls in the University of Edinburgh (Old) Medical School which remembers the Polish Medical School.

The plaque currently on one of the walls in the University of Edinburgh (Old) Medical School which remembers the Polish Medical School.

Our next speaker shall be Ching-An Chang from IMES. He shall be speaking on Syrian business refugees in Turkey in the aftermath of the recent civil war. Please join us on 28th October at 1pm in room G14, Doorway 4, Old Medical School, University of Edinburgh.

Catriona Taylor: SCDS Artist Reports Back on Residency

Today’s seminar was a great success. Catriona Taylor gave us a fascinating talk on the results of her time as the Scottish Centre of Diaspora Studies’ artist in residence. This included two short films entitled ‘Am I an Immigrant?’ and ‘Flow’ which both looked at personal, and wider, interpretations of diasporic terminology.The final piece that Catriona showed us was a quilt made up of images, stories and material which represented ‘home’ to migrants currently living in Scotland.

Catriona Taylor with the finished "Home" quilt.

Catriona Taylor with the finished “Home” quilt.

Our next seminar will be held on 14th October in G14 of the William Robertson Wing at 1pm. The speaker will be Michal Palacz speaking on The Polish medical diaspora in Scotland during and after the Second World War. Please feel free to join us.