Story: Scots

Page 6. 1900–1945: ebbs and flows

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Immigration flux

After a lull in immigrants from 1895 to 1905, numbers picked up. More than 16,000 Scots arrived between 1906 and 1916.

The decline of immigrants with farming backgrounds, which began in the 1870s, continued in the early years of the 20th century. A further change was that the Scottish flavour of the south diminished.

Between the wars

Between the First and Second World Wars, the number of Scots coming to New Zealand increased dramatically.

Reasons for this increase are to be found in Scotland itself. Scottish industry mostly produced goods for export rather than for the domestic market, and when downturns affected particular industries or particular regions in Scotland, large numbers of Scots were prompted to seek better opportunities overseas. Assistance schemes encouraged them to look to New Zealand.

Scots from different backgrounds

Arrivals in the years between the wars were mostly skilled industrial and white-collar workers. In May 1923, for example, the 100 Scots who came out on the SS Athenic included Glaswegian shipyard workers, miners from Fife, and artisans and shopkeepers.

Some farmers came from the Highlands. Other interwar immigrants included children who came under the Flock House scheme to be trained for lives on the land. Youngsters from Scottish orphanages also arrived.

New Zealand’s own moonshine

Hokonui whisky is part of New Zealand folklore. It was unlawfully distilled in the hills behind Gore, mostly by members of a family of Catholic Highlanders, the Macraes. The whisky was distributed in secret, largely through the pipe band fraternity, from the 1870s until the 1930s, when raids by excise men shut most of the stills down.

A 1936 peak

By 1936 the number of Scots living in New Zealand had risen to 54,188, the highest it had been since 1886. By 1945 the number had fallen, and it did not rise above 50,000 again. Fewer Scots chose to settle in Otago and Southland as the 20th century advanced.

How to cite this page:

John Wilson, 'Scots - 1900–1945: ebbs and flows', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/scots/page-6 (accessed 20 October 2017)

Story by John Wilson, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 25 Mar 2015