In 2009 I took photos at a Clan Gathering Homecoming in Edinburgh – where many of the Scots diaspora celebrated their roots. There are about 11 million of Scots descent living abroad. As many Scots live in Canada as in Scotland. Waves of Scots were forced to flee their homeland during the highland clearances in two waves – first after the Jacobite wars in 1750s (lets be clear these were European religious feuds /wars and included solders from Ireland, France, Germany – they were not the English fighting the Scots!)
Of course we don’t learn anything of the clearances, Jacobites, Scottish inventions, Scottish writers or artists or even of Robert Burns, if we study Scottish history at Scottish secondary schools. Instead history teachers in Scotland have had to teach of the glories of the British empire, Shakespeare or Tudors. It’s a shocking state that there is such historical ignorance here. Hopefully things have improved today?!
At least that’s what I had to study. Now I am older (and hopefully wiser) I am teaching myself Scottish history. It makes me both very sad and angry that when I walked the ancient streets of Edina I knew nothing. I did visit the castle and art galleries and I taught myself something of the Stuarts and of Mary Queen of Scots, at those places. There were the poets who wrote to keep Scots culture alive after the union of 1707. Lets also be clear – this was never a union of equal partners – it was about a few ambitious Scots careers and for greed.
According to Janice Charette, Canadian High Commissioner UK, the ties are robust to Scotland: On the calendars across Canada there are Caledonian events, from Highland Games to Burns nights. “Canada prides itself on being a diverse, multi-cultural population - one of strengths.
Also in Vancouver they have combined Burns night and the Chinese New Year into a major event. It is called the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Festival so Scottish and Chinese Canadians and other Canadians of all origins come together for it. They eat haggis and dim sum, drink single malt whisky while watching a traditional Chinese dragon dance to the accompaniment of bagpipes.” “It was only since I came to live in Scotland that I began to understand my own country’s story. The heritage of the diaspora – the poetry, the songs, the literature - allows you to see through Scottish eyes and appreciate just how much this small country gave to Canada.”
But the real Scots history is not here in royal portraits – but with the ordinary Scots.
Fortunately the Scottish songs and music and stories live on in Canada!
The young President Justin Trudeau, who has a Scottish grandfather, visited Edinburgh in July to mark the Canadian celebrations.
**The Canada STORY
This Saturday marks150th anniversary of the founding of Canada - The British North America Act of 1867 marks the provinces of Upper and lower Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick “shall form and be One Dominion, under the name of Canada.” Gaelic Scotland were part of the founding of present day Canada. The first Scots arrived in Nova Scotia1620s. Men from Orkney arrived a century later, recruited by the fur traders from Hudson’s Bay Co.
The first Canadian Prime Minister John Macdonald was from Glasgow, his father was from Sutherland and his mother a Shaw from Badenoch. Of Canada’s 23 prime ministers14 have had Scottish roots including Justin Trudeau, whose grandfather hailed from Banffshire. It was Macdonald, along with Scots George Stephen and Donald Smith, who were responsible for the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway coast.