Scots Abroad: Stories of Scottish Emigration – Building communities

Building communities

Pioneering settlers had the task of building a community and society. The arrival of emigrants often led to the eviction of the established native population, but there were also cases of cultural contact and interaction.

Basic necessities

Engraving of porkhouse

In the early days, poor communications and the absence of adequate roads, schools and medical facilities were a real problem, especially in remote areas. Scottish emigrants had to overcome other difficulties – for example, the scarcity of currency, and local economic fluctuations.

Health and education

Weather conditions such as the combination of heat and humidity or extreme cold made them more vulnerable to disease. There were serious cholera epidemics, for example, in Canada and the USA in the 1830s.

However, many emigrants reported an improvement in their overall health.

The Scots were generally literate migrants who took pride in the education system back home. Many emigrant teachers contributed to the development of education in the New World.

Spiritual needs

Front cover of pamphlet 'Welcome to Scots Church, Sydney (Presbyterian), Cnr. York, Margaret and Jamison Streets'

Religious needs were an acute concern for a number of early settlers. Emigrants arrived with particular denominational allegiances, and ministers were needed to guard against factional domination.

Missionary activity was also undertaken as a means to 'civilise' the native population, and to ensure religious observance among emigrants. The Presbyterian Church in Canada, for instance, was still recruiting Scottish missionaries in the 1920s.

Ministers needed

In Argentina, St Andrew's Church of Buenos Aires sent a 'camp minister' to remote areas of Patagonia to attend the spiritual needs of the scattered Scottish settlers.

Gaelic-speaking ministers were needed by Catholic and Presbyterian communities in Nova Scotia and Australia.

Emigrants' remarks about their spiritual preoccupations also reveal the role of religion in cementing communities and defining identities.

Recreation and leisure

When emigrants did get time off, they could explore the recreational facilities of the new country.

3 men breakfasting outdoors in front of tent

New leisure activities developed, and opportunities arose for social interaction, hobbies and sport.

The cities offered a wide choice of opportunities, including musical events and theatre. In rural and remote areas emigrants often relied on other means of social interaction, such as reunions with family and friends.

Scottish and local customs

Scots took with them their own music and pastimes, but they also had the chance to learn the local customs and participate in new leisure activities associated with seasonal events – at Christmas and New Year, for example.

The development of railways and other means of communication allowed emigrants to explore their new surroundings and even venture further away into neighbouring countries.

Gradually, the recreation and leisure opportunities offered by the countries of settlement played a part in marketing them to the traveller and tourist.

Two panorama street views Advertisements with steam engine illustration Three columns of printed advertisements Map showing river and town Two etchings of Elgin scenes Printed page with house and kookaburra illustrations Landscape illustration showing countryside and several buildings Book cover and bookmark Photo of group of men and women seated outdoors Photo of group of men and women dancing outdoors Printed page with sanatorium image Printed page with hotel image Advertisement with imaget Photo of man and woman on mountain viewing valley below Illustration including river with people boating and fishing Three printed diagrams of dance steps Two printed diagrams of a male doing dance steps Photo of men camping Photo of people playing ice hockey outdoors Book cover with waterfall illustration Book cover with landscape illustration Line drawing of a church Photo of man in clerical robes Pamphlet cover with church photo title page of book Photo of men lowering stone to ground Title page with illustration of evangelists on facing page Cover of Gaelic book

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