Scottish Ethnic Associationalism, Military Identity and Diaspora Connections in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In 1856 Sydney-based Freeman's Journal, a paper catering for the Catholic Irish immigrant community in the city, reported on the patriotism of the Scots. The paper was asking why ‘a Scotchman [is] a more genuine, more unmistakable patriot than an Englishman – a Frenchman – an Irishman’, and the answer was clear for the writer:Because there is no cant about his [the Scot's] patriotism. He does not love Scotia so much as he loves Scotchmen; he does not allow his mind to rest satisfied with a mere pleasing sentimentalism; he thinks and acts for his countrymen. This is the sovereign test of true patriotism.Consequently, the paper went on, ‘true love of country … is best recognized by deeds’, and in the Scottish immigrant community such deeds were carried especially well by means of ethnic clubs and societies. Through these, the report concluded, the Scots were ‘acting together for each other's benefit’ – and ‘no matter how long he may have been absent from his native land’. In fact, so profound was the Scots’ commitment to ethnic associations – at least according to a story published in the Belfast News-Letter – that two Scots shipwrecked on a remote island in the Atlantic, by the time the captain of a ship who came upon them by coincidence, had founded on that island a variety of associations, including a St Andrew's Society and a Burns Club. The two were also hosting Highland Games and had established both a curling and a golf club. As the newspaper aptly concluded, the Scots ‘may be defined as an Association-forming people’.This humorous take on the Scots’ propensity to come together in ethnic clubs and societies should not detract from a critical fact: Scottish associationalism remains one of the defining characteristics of the Scottish diaspora near and far to this day. In New Zealand, the British Empire's farthest outpost, there were at least 130 Scottish ethnic associations by the early twentieth century; these were chiefly comprised of Caledonian societies, but also Burns clubs and Gaelic societies. A few decades later, the 1928–9 Scots Year Book lists 1,288 Scottish societies around the world, though not all of them were actually ethnic societies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Global Force
Subtitle of host publicationWar, Identities and Scotland's Diaspora
EditorsDavid Forsyth
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9781474402743
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • military history


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