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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.




New Zealand at first seems, like New South Wales, to have been principally an English colony, but that does not mean that Scots were not present. Vancouver had in his ship's company a Scots naturalist, Dr Menzies, who collected lichens at Dusky Sound. Gilbert Mair, from Peterhead, arrived at the Bay of Islands in 1824 and was probably the first Scotsman to settle in this country. A year or so later four Scots remained at Hokianga, the sole settlers from the First New Zealand Company. The first organised attempt to settle Scots in New Zealand was that of the New Zealand, Manukau, and Waitemata Company, a body with little claim to fame. The first settler on the Waitemata was, however, a Scot, Dr (later, Sir) John Logan Campbell.

In the first eight years of its colonising activities, the New Zealand Company, which had been reconstituted in 1839, sent out 76 ships. Of these, only three sailed from the Clyde. Among the Scottish pioneers was the Rev. John Macfarlane, the first Scots minister in Wellington, who, in February 1840, conducted his first service on the banks of the Hutt, at the short-lived settlement of Britannia. The difficulty in obtaining a clear title to their land in the north caused many of the Scots to move to the South Island, where they joined the Deans brothers, who had pioneered a settlement on the Canterbury Plains at Riccarton. Two Scots families also anticipated the settlement in Otago and were established there in 1845. But Scottish emigration moved slowly. The Scot is noted for his caution and it is probable that for this reason he preferred to see how others fared before committing himself to any New Zealand venture. He is also more suspicious of cooperative concerns than the English and, while as an individual he might undertake certain activities, he is more careful when others are responsible. Between 1839 and 1842, 400,000 emigrants left the British Isles. Of these 8,000 came to New Zealand, but only 500 were Scots. There was little real interest in emigration in Scotland in the early forties and considerable doubts and difficulties had to be overcome before the Otago Association in November 1847 was able to send out the first two ships with nearly 250 colonists to New Zealand. And one of these vessels, the John Wickliffe, sailed from London with a considerable group of English emigrants.

Otago remained predominantly Scottish until 1861, when the discovery of gold caused an influx which made them a minority. The miners had their influence on the Scots, but the Scots probably influenced them more. They did this largely through the education system which they established. It was a reasonably democratic system, open to all capable of benefiting from its high standards, and it provided not only elementary but also secondary and university education. When the provincial educational systems were replaced by a colonial scheme, Otago provided the basis for the new system.

In New Zealand the Scots proved good colonists loyal to their religion and devoted to education, though on occasions their outlook, particularly in politics, was rather narrow. Drawn principally from the poorer classes, they were prepared to succeed by their own efforts. Scotland did not have the sharp class distinctions of England and the settlers generally regarded individual worth rather than birth or upbringing as the standard of community respect. When with wealth coming from gold and from its own efforts Otago became New Zealand's leading and most prosperous province, its community standards were regarded as a model for New Zealand. Certainly they were so regarded by those of the working classes who by their efforts were breaking in new land or otherwise improving their station. By 1861 there were nearly 31,000 of Scottish birth in the colony; 17 years later the number was nearly 48,000. During the seventies Vogel's assisted immigration scheme brought over 13,000, exceeded only by the English and Irish. Scots were popular throughout New Zealand and most provinces tried to attract them. Canterbury, Nelson, and of course, Southland, which had the largest proportion of Scots, had their quota. Hawke's Bay contracted for 100 Highland families to be settled on the Ruataniwha Plains, but the scheme was only partly completed.

The most romantic Scots migration was that led by Norman McLeod, which ended at Waipu in North Auckland. These Highlanders emigrated first of all to Nova Scotia. After 30 years, however, a few emigrated in the 1850s to South Australia and then on to New Zealand, where others joined them.

Many of the Scots coming to New Zealand followed the traditional trade of engineering, but during the second half of the century the Scots had a virtual monopoly of shepherding, in particular, the management of high-country sheep. In high-country mustering camps at this time a good proportion spoke the Gaelic and it was the Highlanders' knowledge both of sheep and of hillcraft which so ably assisted in the development of the industry. In this field they had the great advantage of the Scotch collies and their ability to train working dogs.

For all their legendary carefulness the Scots and their descendants have been generous public benefactors and the names of Sir John Logan Campbell and Sir John McKenzie, to give but two, are worthy of mention. Names distinguished in the political field include James Macandrew, Donald Reid, and Sir Donald McLean. Robert Stout became Premier and Chief Justice, and Peter Fraser became Prime Minister.

Apart from a faint burr in accent, which distinguishes the speech of much of South Otago and Southland from the rest of New Zealand, there are few outward signs of Scotland in New Zealand. On Burns's and St. Andrew's days, many New Zealanders, some with very little Scots blood in them, celebrate, while a surprising number answer to the names “Mac” or “Jock”. The Army has a Scottish regiment, while pipe bands in traditional Highland dress are both popular and well supported throughout the country. Caledonian societies still exist and at intervals hold Highland games and sports.

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