Scots Abroad: Stories of Scottish Emigration – Settling in

Arriving and settling in

Colour illustration of ocean liner

One aspect of emigration that has changed greatly over the years is the journey to the chosen destination.

The sea voyage could be a demanding and often dangerous experience that cost lives. It could also be a journey of discovery.

New weather conditions, exotic animals and the first contact with a strange land often caused a mixture of surprise and anxiety.

Life on board emigrants' ships

Emigrants experienced contradictory feelings on leaving their homeland. Their journals and diaries reflect this, as they describe daily life on board the emigrants' ships.

Often they are written in the style of long letters addressed to family and friends in Scotland.

Steamships and railways

Especially in North America, the introduction of steamships in the mid-19th century and the development of railways provided easier access and opened up new regions.

With the arrival of air travel, the journey abroad and its difficulties became less of a factor in deciding where to go.

Working the land

Photo of man and girls in field with horses

For many Scots, especially in the early days, the experience of emigration meant clearing, settling and working the land, whatever their experience of farming back home.

There was much advice available, official and unofficial.

North America – 'land of plenty'

Canada and the USA were marketed as 'a land of plenty', easily accessible from Scotland and full of economic opportunity for farmers.

The availability of land in Australia and New Zealand was also a magnet for agricultural migrants until the 20th century.

Different weather conditions, lack of previous knowledge about the area or adverse economic circumstances could make the task of settling in rather challenging. Learning new skills in different, sometimes difficult, environments was a necessity.

Adaptable Scottish settlers

Scottish settlers were very adaptable, and often relied on friends and family for practical help. This allowed the creation of communities with a strong Scottish identity. Scots were even prepared to try their fortune elsewhere if their initial destination was not suitable.

Life in the cities

Many Scots over the years headed for the cities. Despite early advice to settlers to avoid the ports of arrival, many had no choice but to seek employment and make use of their skills in towns and cities.

Photography store advertisement

Economic instability and high unemployment in Scotland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries coincided with periods of economic growth in North America and Australasia.

Better employment

The cities offered better employment prospects and good salaries, particularly in the manufacturing and engineering industries. Higher wages attracted many Scottish emigrants whose trades were in demand. Some Scots also excelled as bankers and businessmen.

It took a long time, however, before single female emigrants could turn their hands to anything other than domestic labour.

Urban society also provided opportunities to participate more actively in political life and allowed Scottish emigrants to be in contact with other migrant communities.

Lists of passenger details Convoy of ox-drawn carts and covered wagons Steamship illustration Colour poster showing large ship Printed advertisement Printed advertisement with steamer illustration Photo of people dancing on deck of ship Illustration of people and luggage crammed below decks Photo of railway coach interior with passengers Printed poster with steamship illustration Three illustrations of activities on board ship Map with list of names Illustration of a group of adults and children Illustration of ox-drawn cart with passengers and man walking beside it Printed advertisement with illustrations of ship and coins Advertisement with drawings and floor plan of building Two advertisements, one with illustration of a stove Advertisment with illustration of a windmill Advertisement with illustrations of early tractors Advertisement with illustration of a pump Advertisement with illustrations, including the company crest Photo of man with horses and two children Two drawings of huts with chimney Two drawings of porches Illustration of farmland and two canoes passing by on a river Illustration showing three scenes of farm life Facing pages with text and plouging illustrations Title page and back page with printed text Colour illustration of woman and two children feeding chickens Winnipeg seen from a height Printed page with three advertisements Advertisement with illustration of a camera Two advertisements with illustration of a bicycle Two advertisements with illustrations Photoof a woman at a furnace Photo of men at work in a factory Illustration showing a street view Drawing of a city and river seen from a height Drawing of a city and river seen from a height Title page and full-page drawing of a man Colour illustration of city hall and the square in front of it Map

Each image opens a larger version.