From New Zealand to Scotland
New Zealand is a rather funny wee place. One of its defining features is the mishmash of cultures from all around the world that have gathered together on a few tiny islands far away in the depths of the South Pacific. You can find a sushi bar on almost every street corner, you’ll see men wearing lavalavas on Sundays (an almost Samoan version of the kilt), bagpipes are played at weddings, reggae is hugely popular and bits and pieces of the native tongue Maori are interspersed with English in everyday speech.
Kia Ora – My name is Nadine Lee and I am a new recruit at Scot Clans. I arrived in Edinburgh from Auckland a month ago after finally building up the courage to take the plunge and relocate to the complete opposite side of the world. After umm-ing and arr-ing about whether to undertake the usual antipodean trek to London, I changed my mind at the last minute and decided to travel further north to Scotland – a country steeped in a wonderful abundance of history and traditions.
Arriving in Edinburgh, my first stop was the famous folk pub, Sandy Bells, for a wee dram of whisky. I got chatting to an elderly gentlemen with an almost incomprehensible Scottish accent who asked me (I think!) if rainbows appear upside down in New Zealand.
A friend of mine had kindly offered me accommodation at his place in the countryside about an hour outside of Edinburgh. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when I showed up to his house – an 18th century stable that half had been converted into a cottage some years back. The cottage is on an estate with a few other farm houses, and even has it’s very own game keeper who would very kindly drop off a few pheasants once a week that he had shot on the estate. The farmland surrounding had a mixture of sheep, woods, heather, deer, muddy bogs, and ruins of bridges, cottages and castles. Welcome to Scotland indeed!
It wasn’t until I arrived here that I realised just how Scottish New Zealand really is. From majestic mountain ranges, rugged coastlines and sheep dotting the countryside, to Campbell and MacLeod being very common surnames; it’s incredible that countries at complete opposite corners of the globe can look and feel so familiar. I visited the National Museum of Scotland a few weeks back and spent a bit of time in the migration section. In 1840 it took around 12 weeks by sailing ship to travel from Scotland to New Zealand – a mammoth journey that is rather unimaginable to a 21st century jet-setter. How nice it must have been for those Scottish settlers upon arrival in a country another world away that visually echoed their homeland in so many ways. However when they realised that a New Zealand summer lasts for more than five days I think they may have got a bit of a shock.
Evidence of Scottish migration is almost everywhere you look in my homeland – gaelic place names like Dunedin, Invercargill, Mackenzie Country, Kinloch, Glencoe, Firth of Thames, and Bannockburn pop up all around the country. Throughout January the Highland Games are held in historically Scottish settlements, and pipe bands and pipers are common at weddings, funerals and parades. There’s a brand of condensed milk called Highlander, and porridge is commonplace at breakfast tables across the nation. And best not to forget the mighty South Island rugby team, the Otago Highlanders, whose mascot is a gallant William Wallace-esque chieftain.
For those of you who are thinking of taking a journey to Scotland – whether it be to rediscover your ancestral roots, or to try the very (very!) delectable whiskies on offer at almost every pub across the land, I cannot recommend it highly enough. The people are wonderfully friendly, Edinburgh is mindblowingly beautiful, and everywhere you turn you’ll find another piece of history waiting for you. I assure you that you’ll feel right at home! And I cannot wait to see and learn more of this this beautiful land.