In the 1840s thru the 1860s emigration out of Scotland was significant. Some of those leaving were Highlanders – in many cases forcefully evicted from their homes as the Highland economy collapsed. While some merely moved south into the Scottish lowlands, many, many others turned to the New World and its promise of a new beginning. Lowland Scots eager for a better life joined the emigration – and where were they all going?
Canada , Australia, New Zealand and the USA were popular destinations. In the 1840s and 50s Canada – in places like Ontario and Nova Scotia (New Scotland) were quite popular, with 59% of UK settlers in Nova Scotia being Scots at one time. From 1853 onwards, the US was home to over 50 % of emigrating Scots though around that same time Scots made up a quarter of the population in New Zealand.
Another locale popular with emigrating Scots, thanks in part to the efforts of the Hudson’s Bay Company, was Victoria, British Columbia on Vancouver Island. This large Island sits at Canada’s western extreme – just NW of the tip of Washington State in the USA. The city of Victoria is found right at the southern tip of this considerable island – a mere 30 minute plane ride from Seattle today..
Back in the day, it was a 5-month journey by boat from Scotland to the Colony of Vancouver island. Despite that hardship, a sizable Scottish community grew and flourished there on a site known as Craigflower Farm. The story of Craigflower Farm really begins with the arrival of Kenneth McKenzie, recruited to the Colony of Vancouver Island (with his wife and six children) to oversee operations of what was then a 900 acre farm site. So successful were those Scots that there remains to this day a vibrant community of Scot Disapora in what is now Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
Of that 900 acre farm site just less than 3 acres remain today, recently placed in the care of the Victoria Highland Games Association, itself a descendant of one of the earliest Scottish social societies on the island. Beyond mere preservation of the remaining McKenzie residence, (now named Craigflower Manor) and schoolhouse, the VHGA have recently developed a plan to honor those first emigrant settlers with the construction and establishment of a Scottish Cultural center on the remaining acreage.
Theresa Mackay is a member of the Board of Directors of the Victoria Highland Games Association. She is a second generation Scottish-Canadian, currently completing her Master of Letters in Scottish history through the University of the Highlands and Islands in Scotland. A self-confessed affinity Scot – having not been born in Scotland she is owner of the Larchgrove Marketing Group – a consulting company that works with people and projects with Scotland in their soul. She is also our first returning guest on the podcast – you’ll recall an earlier episode when she shared her insights into ancestral tourism to Scotland.
Theresa shares with us the history of the Scots who emigrated to Vancouver, the current role of the VHGA in the preservation of Craigflower Manor, previews their own upcoming Highland Games that are more than 150 years old, and shares some detail of the long term vision the association has for a new cultural center to serve Victoria's Scottish Diaspora, other celtic members of the city, and indeed the Victoria and British Columbia populace at-large while also promoting tourism to the area.
•Victoria Highland Games Association (website)
•Craigflower Manor and Schoolhouse (Wikipedia)
•Emigration and Scottish Society (Education Scotland article)
•Victoria, British Columbia (Tourism website)
•Hudson's Bay Company (article, The Canadian Encyclopedia)