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Digital Subscriptions > History Scotland > Nov - Dec 2019 > Global Scotland in the age of Brexit

Global Scotland in the age of Brexit

In this article based on her History Scotland lecture, delivered in April 2019, Professor Tanja Bueltmann explores Scotland’s long history of global interaction, and considers what this international outlook might mean in the context of Brexit


Professor Tanja Bueltmann deliver her lecture Global Scotland in the Age of Brexit at the University of Dundee

Brunswick dock pictured in the mid 19th century. This was the East India export dock and the import dock was dug out parallel to it. The Jack family departed from the docks in November 1883, embarking upon a three-month sea voyage to New Zealand

In this article, I want to take you on a little bit of a journey, a journey with a few Scottish migrants who chose to build their homes overseas. A journey of ongoing connections with Scotland, the old homeland. A journey of global Scotland. This journey, and the historical perspectives it entails, can tell us not only about the Scottish diaspora, but also goes some way towards explaining Scotland’s different attitudes towards both migration and the European Union in the context of Brexit.

John Jack’s story

Our journey begins in Dundee in 1828. That year, in October, John Jack was born. In 1854, he married Helen Matthew Whitson. The two soon started a family and later moved to Edinburgh. So their story was already one of migration – albeit it a very short one – from Dundee to Edinburgh. But in the early 1880s the family decided to migrate much further afield, to New Zealand.

In late October 1883, the Jack family, John, Helen, and their two sons John Hill Hunter and James Whitson, left their home in Edinburgh for the port of Leith. Their luggage had already been packed and was delivered, ahead of the family, to the SS Iona anchored in Leith harbour, the vessel which was to take them to London. From there, the Jacks were to embark on a three-month journey to New Zealand.

The departure in Edinburgh was a sad event. Aware of the finality of the Jacks’ decision to emigrate, Peter Gardner, a family friend, observed how unlikely it was that they would see each other again ‘in the flesh’.Befitting the occasion, someone had brought ‘a nice cake’.

After an unexpected delay of three weeks in London, the Jacks were pleased when they could finally leave their hotel, ‘a close dirty place’, to take up their quarters on board the Invercargill. The ship was bound for Wellington. With a mixture of anxiety and anticipation, John Jack and his sons perambulated the London docks for one last time before the family finally left the British isles on 19 November 1883. Writing of the departure, John noted that after ‘much cheering and waving of handkerchiefs, away we went from the East India Dock’.

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About History Scotland

Enjoy the best research you can't read anywhere else! Highlights include: · The Declaration of Arbroath: a project that is combining documentary and genetic genealogy evidence to tell the stories of those who signed the declaration · 17th-century bandits: We trace the rise and fall of a notorious bandit gang that operated in the eastern highlands during the 1660s · The Eyemouth tragedy:how pressure to go to sea whatever the weather led to one of Scotland’s worst maritime disasters BONUS CONTENT: Glasgow University Slavery Exhibition gallery, Flora MacDonald - migrant and survivor - EXCLUSIVE Belle Jones interview