Saturday, 31 October 2020

Scots – Jamaicans are the forgotten diaspora. Scotland and Jamaica


In 1656 Cromwell shipped 1,200 Scots prisoners of war to Jamaica.

The Scots diaspora which is 28 to 40 million worldwide – share a common ethnic identity or community. Jamaican Scots are part of the Scots Diaspora. 

Many Scots left these shores in the 18th century – Covenanters, Jacobites and during the Highland Clearances. However until the past 20 years 2000 – 2020, there had been no academic studies into Scotland’s part in empire and slavery – Professor Tom Devine, Dr Eric Graham, Dr Stuart Nesbi.  Around 3K slaves went on 31 Scots ships over a 60 year period.

England had established Barbados colony in 1625. (and a British colony until 1966)  From 1790 – 1800, Liverpool cleared 1K slaves. Slave voyages with 1.5 million slaves – The Triangular trade to north America and West Indies, of Chattel slavery on the middle passage: west coast Africa to the new world. 

Chattel slaves had no human rights and could be murdered. Port Glasgow and Greenock records. Slave forts were built on the west coast of Africa. Scotland was a major trader from plantations of tobacco and sugar and cotton. 

Scotland and Caribbean

1740 – 1790 Glasgow was the centre of the Tobacco trade. The Tobacco Lords were Scotland’s richest men and built magnificent townhouses, and in the merchant city. Scotland was a poor country 1690s but by 1850 it was a leading industrial nation. 

Sugar traded for 200 years – with sugar houses in Glasgow from 1667. Scots were plantation owners. India remained mostly of English east India Co until 1801. After the loss of the American colonies in 1775, there was renewed focus in the West Indies.

1711 – 1763 Scots plantations Jamaica.

From 1750 – 1800, over 20 thousand Scots left to seek fortunes in the Caribbean  as doctors, lawyers, merchants, plantation owners, bookkeepers, slave traders and overseers - mostly to Jamaica. Scots originally surveyed Jamaica and set boundaries of slave plantations. Many Jamaican place names are Scots and are descended from Scots.  In 1774 Edward Long estimated that a third of the white population was Scots. 

Scottish Enlightenment figures helped to achieve the Abolition of Slavery abolished 1838. 

In Jamaica today there are many Scots surnames – Campbell, Douglas, Reid, McKenzie, MacDonald, McFarlane, grant, Gordon. Glasgow, Argyle, Dundee, Fort William, Montrose, St. Andrews. Of the names in Greater Kingston a quarter are Scottish.

Naomi Campbell

Jamaica became independent from Britain in 1962. 

In 2009 the Homecoming Scotland  which was a celebration of Scots culture and heritage, organised by Event Scotland and visit Scotland (funded EU) 3m program, 2m marketing. Shockingly in the Booklet mentions of the Jamaican Diaspora were taken out by the then Labour Scottish government.  I remember the major event called the Gathering and I attended one of its major events of a march up the high street by the clans and a tattoo at the castle. We photographers had to run ahead up the Royal mile. Photos below from this occasion. 

Homecoming Scotland 2009

Scotland has a very mixed history – with the tobacco and sugar trade many in Glasgow and Edina became rich, but in the18th century many ordinary Scots suffered under the wars with America and France. The sugar trade was a mainstay of Glasgow’s development for 200 years. 

Many SNP supporters would much prefer to be known as Democrats (the SDP Scottish Democrat Party) and not as nationalists. We must acknowledge our nationalism as international, forward-looking and progressive. It has only been in the past 20 years that there has been recognition in academic study on Scotland’s part in the slave plantations.

One way is by acknowledging the Caribbean, as professor Tom Devine often mentions, as being a large part of the Scots history and Diaspora – a part of our history which has been ignored until recently. Time to change all that.