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Issue 61 - Six Degrees

Scotland Magazine Issue 61
February 2012

 

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Six Degrees

The Editor finds clan members in a far off place

A wonderful coincidence which happened recently has got me thinking about the Scottish diaspora; the interwoven fabric of peoples' lives who can trace their ancestory back to Scotland.

Scotland is among the great migrant nations of modern times. For centuries Scots have left their native shores first for Europe and England, then Ireland, the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australasia.

Their international mobility has been truly global and impact on the history of several overseas countries very considerable. The influences can be felt through many facets of life including music; art; literature and the industry and sciences.

That the Scots invented most of the modern world may be a little of an exaggeration but it's not far off. You simply have to look at a list of famous Scots, many of whom have been featured in our column in the magazine, to realise the far reaching nature and influence of this diaspora.

Scots have been at the forefront of innovation and discovery across a wide range of spheres. Some of the most significant products of Scottish ingenuity include: James Watt's steam engine, improving on that of Thomas Newcomen, the bicycle, the telephone invented by Alexander Graham Bell, John Logie Baird's invention of television, Alexander Fleming's discovery of penicillin, and the discoveries of electromagnetics, radar, and insulin.

Much has been written about this great diaspora but there still remain major questions. The Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies at the University of Edinburgh, the first such research unit in the field, has been charged with advancing historical enquiry into this vital subject. It will be interesting to see the long term study results.

So back to the coincidence that started all this musing. I was teaching a class on whisky at Whisky Live South Africa, dressed to the nines in my kilt and someone asked me what the tartan was.

Anyway the tartan is Macdonald of Clanranald to which the Allanson family is associated down my father's side; my mother’s family being all Ulster Scots, but that’s another discussion..

As I explained this, the questioner replied: "My hope is constant in thee".

This took me aback as this is the clan motto. It turned out the chap was a fellow clan member, meaning we were probably related at some point down the six degrees of separation.