Did You Know?
- First Scots in New Zealand
The first time that Scotland had sent an organised group of emigrants to settle abroad was the ill-fated "Darien Scheme" in Panama at the very end of the 18th century. As a result of the huge losses made from that expedition, Scotland lost its own separate government in the ensuing Union of the Parliaments> in 1707. So there must have been some trepidation, less than 50 years later, when a shipload of Scots was organised to sail to the other side of the world to settle in Dunedin in New Zealand. But this expedition was to prove more successful and lasting.
The ship "Phillip Laing" with the main group of 247 settlers sailed down the river Clyde in November 1847. A supply ship, the "John Wickliffe", left Gravesend (east of London on the river Thames) around about the same time. This ship had 92 passengers on board (not just Scots, but also from other parts of the United Kingdom).
The "Phillip Laing" encountered storms along the way so it was the supply ship "John Wickliffe" which arrived first, on 23 March 1848, at Port Chalmers. Also on board was Captain William Cargill, the appointed agent for the New Zealand Company.
The "Phillip Laing" arrived on 15 April 1848 with the main body of emigrants, including the spiritual leader of the future settlement, the Rev. Thomas Burns, a nephew of the Bard. Rev. Burns preached his first sermon on the day of his arrival. His descendant can be found in New Zealand today.
Land was allocated and by the end of the year, modest houses were constructed, a store and a school, which was also used as the church. There was also a four page newspaper the "Otago News".
The new settlement was originally to have been named New Edinburgh but the was changed to Dunedin after a letter appeared in the "New Zealand Journal" in which the publisher William Chambers wrote that the prefix "New" had been used in a number of American place names and that the ancient Celtic title for Edinburgh should be considered as an alternative.
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