"Breathes there a man with soul so dead,
Sir Walter Scott
Scots haven't always left Scotland by choice. Reasons for leaving their native land were myriad - to avoid religious persecution, because their military prowess was in demand by European monarchs, because their old way of life was changing, or to escape poverty and hardship. Scotland is a small nation yet it is thought that 50 million or more Americans have Scottish blood. The Scots gained a reputation for courage, hard work, perseverance and thrift. Few Scots forgot their homeland and their roots even though they were in Canada, Australia or the U.S.
The history of the Highland Clearances shows that many Highlanders were forced to leave their ancestral lands to make way for sheep. Sir John Sinclair of Ulster brought the sheep to his land for the benefit of his people, but was unable to prevent others from using it to oust theirs. The land was owned mainly by absentee landlords, some who probably had not even seen the land that they owned or leased. Many lived in England or the Lowlands and used the rents from the lands to support their style of life. The land could not support both people and sheep and since sheep were more profitable to the landlords, the people were evicted from the land. There are many glens which remain empty to this day.
The people were historically used to obeying the word and law of the Clan Chief. During this shameful period of history, the clan chiefs failed their people. The Clearances may well have been the end of the clan system as it was then known.
Scotland was never an insular country. It was part of the European scene, particularly in the military, mercantile and academic worlds. Scots formed the personal bodyguard of French Kings; they helped modernize the Russian navy; held high rank in the court of European monarchs; and were in great demand as mercenaries. They felt that bearing arms was an honorable profession and they were accustomed to hardships, campaigning and discipline. When the kilt was proscribed, joining a regiment was one of the ways they could again wear their clan kilt.
There are many stories of Scots around the world holding high rank in other countries. For instance, many Scots reached high rank in Poland. I would not have associated Scots emigrants with Poland, but during the 18th century as many as 30,000 Scots were estimated to be in Poland. In 1673 those raised to the Polish nobility included men with names like Chalmers, Forsyth, Fraser, Gordon, Lindsay and Mackay. Documents in Cracow tell of many Scottish soldiers of fortune who fought with the Poles against the Muscovites, Turks and Swedes. Some of the Scottish names in Poland took on different spellings. For instance, Chalmers became Czamer; Dawson became Dasson; Lindsay became Lendze and so forth.
The exploits of the Scots in Poland were equaled in other European countries. They traveled, traded and settled all over Europe. But it was in the aftermath of the Jacobite Rising (which was the last bid to win the throne of Britain for the Stuarts) which sent so many Scots abroad, either cleared from their ancestral lands or as volunteer migrants, or settling down after serving abroad in the Highland regiments during Britain's imperial and colonial wars during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Many Scottish emigrants have left their mark on the world. For instance, Sir Alexander Mackenzie (1764-1839) who was born in Stornoway, Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides and emigrated at an early age to Canada worked as a fur trapper and trader and with his brother and others made a long canoe trip from the Great Slave Lake to the Arctic Ocean. He made many journeys and the Mackenzie River bears his name.
Another Scot, John Muir, who was born much later emigrated to the U.S. and is regarded as the father of American conservation.
Scots were prominent in New Zealand in shipping, farming, education, engineering, mining, publishing and in pioneering the sheep and cattle business. John Anderson from Edinburgh, founded the Canterbury Ironworks and Thomas Reid Fleming, a school inspector, was a founder of Victoria University College. New Zealand Scots did not forget their homeland. There are such names in New Zealand as Dunedin, Invercargill, Port Chalmers, Little Paisley, Bruce, Oban, Stirling, Ben Nevis, Wallace and many more with a Scottish ring.
There are many prominent Scots in Australia also. Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell was appointed Surveyor General of New South Wales. His reports on the Bathurst gold fields in 1851 led to the great gold rush.
John MacDouall Stuart from Fife explored Australia from south to north and Mount Stuart is named after him.
Lachlan Macquarie from Mull commanded the 73rd Highlanders and was put in charge of the penal settlement of Botany Bay, New South Wales. It was a terrible place. The convicts and their descendants were exploited and treated like slave labor. Governor Macquarie made sure that the convicts were treated like human beings. He set up schools and built roads. He was never given recognition or a title. However, his gravestone on Mull calls him the "Father of Australia."
Of course, America had its share of famous Scots, including Andrew Carnegie. Scottish emigrants played a large role in the development of the American West. Americans with Scottish blood include Thomas Edison, Samuel Morse, President Jefferson, Edgar Allan Poe, Allan Pinkerton (who founded the Pinkerton Detective Agency), Washington Irving, Whistler and John Paul Jones, just to name a few. A Scotsman, John Witherspoon, signed the American Declaration of Independence, and was also one of the founders of Princeton. Robert E. Lee, the famous Civil War general (to whom I am related on my mother's side) was of Scottish descent and so was Ulysses Grant. President Monroe's (Munro's) ancestors came from Sutherland.
A similar list could be made for Canada. Sir Charles Dilke in his book "Greater Britain" (1885) wrote: "In British settlements, from Canada to Ceylon, from Dunedin to Bombay, for every Englishman that you meet who has worked himself up to wealth from small beginnings without external aid, you find ten Scotchmen."
In many ways it is a sad tale - a people leaving their land to emigrate to other lands to develop them. But there must be admiration for so many heroic men and women who have given the world so much. They have two homelands to love, the one they were born in and the one they emigrated to.
As descendants of Scots, we can be proud that we have the blood of such an independent people.
Here are more great Scotsmen:
John Baird, invented televisoin
Ain Folk" taken from That's Scotland