Kōrero: Scots

Whārangi 5. The late 1800s

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Assisted immigrants

Although more English and Irish came as assisted immigrants, Scots were favoured by recruiters in the 1870s because they were considered hard working, sober and reliable, and they were mostly Protestant.

In the 1880s, as the economic depression worsened, fewer Scots arrived, though in 1886 the Scots-born living in New Zealand peaked at 54,810, a number not approached again for 50 years. After 1886 the number declined, as Scots were among those who moved to Australia from a depressed New Zealand.

Scots throughout the country

In the 1870s Otago (including Southland, which rejoined its parent province in 1870) remained the most Scottish of the provinces.

Except for the south, Scots were spread more or less uniformly through the country, though Canterbury continued to take more of the 1870s inflow than other provinces north of the Waitaki River. Scots were evenly distributed among towns, country districts and the goldfields. However, there were proportionally many more Scots on the Otago goldfields than on those of the West Coast and Marlborough.

New Zealand’s highest waterfall

The country’s highest waterfall, at 580.3 m (1,904 ft), bears the name of the Scot who discovered it in 1880. William Sutherland was one of several Scots who explored the country in the 19th century. He ended a wandering life (he had earlier fought under Garibaldi in Italy) when he settled at Milford Sound in 1877. A fiord he discovered in 1883 also bears his name.


Among the Scots who arrived as goldminers in the 1860s were a substantial number from the Shetland Islands, far to the north of the Scottish mainland. Many of them settled on the West Coast, at Charleston and Nine-mile Beach. Other Shetlanders mined for gold in Otago.

Shetland Islanders also arrived in significant numbers in the 1870s, when the Clearances in the Shetlands coincided with the offer of assisted passages to New Zealand. Some settled initially at Port William on Stewart Island and at Karamea on the West Coast. From 1871 to 1890 (and again from 1916 to 1945) fishermen and seamen were among the Shetlanders who came to New Zealand.

In 1904–8 a group of Shetlanders made an unsuccessful effort to farm on bleak Campbell Island. The Shetland population later became concentrated in Wellington, where a society was formed in 1922.

One of the earliest Shetlanders to arrive in New Zealand was Robert Stout. He came in 1864 as a 19-year-old, settled in Dunedin, and embarked on a career in teaching, law and politics. Like many Scots, his political beliefs were radical. He served as chief justice of the Supreme Court between 1899 and 1926, and played a significant role in fostering tertiary education in New Zealand. Proud of his Shetland heritage, Stout encouraged others from his homeland to come to New Zealand.

Me pēnei te tohu i te whārangi:

John Wilson, 'Scots - The late 1800s', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/mi/scots/page-5 (accessed 19 July 2024)

He kōrero nā John Wilson, i tāngia i te 8 Feb 2005, updated 25 Mar 2015