Category Archives: Scottish immigration

Scotland tales

As far back as I can remember, when growing up in a small mid-century home on the Southeast side of Cleveland, Ohio, there was this map at the end of our bedroom hallway.

It was actually pretty huge, about 2-1/2 feet wide by 3 feet tall, taking up most of the end of a hall lined with doors leading into the family bedrooms. So I saw it often, every single day of my formative years. I tell you what, without a clue what it was, that image captured my imagination. Does it, or does it not, resemble a witch with her skirts swirling around her?

When I grew older, my father impressed on me that it was there because it held family significance, it being the clan map of Scotland. “We’re Mackintoshes,” he used to say. “Touch not the cat bot a glove.” Apparently, Dad was quoting the motto on the Mackintosh crest, but again, for my young American English brain, life was full of mysteries. (It means, before you pick up a wild or feral cat, be sure to protect yourself with safety gloves.) The war cry of the clan was “Loch Moigh,” referring to their homeland in the Inverness region.

Today, after not a little effort and many hours of travel, I find myself ensconced very nearby Loch Moigh, just north of Loch Ness (Loch means Lake) at Moniack Mhor Writing Centre. While I’m feeling a bit jet-lagged, I’m oh so excited to have returned. As in, returned to Inverness-shire since a short visit here with Dave in 2015, and as in, returned to Inverness-Shire after my ancestors left this homeland for good circa 1803.

On the map, the Mackintosh clan laid claim to the upper shoulders of the witch, just beneath her head. Where all the muscular tension resides, come to think of it. The territory of the former site of the fateful 1746 Battle of Culloden.

I’m close, but I’ve actually missed the mark slightly. Judging by my rough calculation on the map above, Moniack Mhor is located in Fraser clan territory. Oh aye, now I’ve put my foot in it. But from what I understand, by the late 18th century, the clans weren’t warring so much with each other as they were struggling to survive under the “galling yoke” of England.

Or so first person accounts say, of those who emigrated in a last-ditch effort to escape the “galling yoke.” I’m looking forward to finding what I can about the Daniel Mackintoshes (McIntoshes) before they emigrated. They didn’t depart alone. Their exodus included the Roses, the McBains, the MacGillvrays, and others. A whole fistful of disaffected Highland Presbyterian Gaels, right at the scruff of things, it would appear.

So, after five days at this Tutored Fiction Retreat with Paul Murray, Amanda Smyth, and Jane Harris, my aim is to dig deeper and find out more.

Scottish cookery

scottish cookeryLucky me, at the Friends of the Library book sale, I found Claire Macdonald’s Scottish Cookery. It’s a small booklet of 30 pages, with gorgeous photos of Scottish standards, including “Cullen Skink” (Finnan haddock soup), “Clootie Dumpling” (fruit pudding steamed in cloth), and Herrings in Oatmeal, “one of the most traditional meals in Scotland.”

Here’s a recipe in Scottish Cookery for dressing up turnips and potatoes.


Serves 4
1 lb floury potatoes, peeled and diced
1 lb yellow turnip, peeled and cut up
5 Tbsp single cream or 5 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp snipped chives
salt and black pepper
freshly grated nutmeg

Boil the potato and turnip in separate pans for 20 minutes, until tender. Drain them, return them to the pan, and shake them over the heat to dry. Mash thoroughly until smooth. Mix in cream or butter, and chives, and season to taste with salt, pepper, and a grating of nutmeg. Continue to mash over the heat. Serve immediately. Apparently, south of the boarder Clapshot is called “swede.”


So what are you finding out?

As I talk with friends and writers about research progress for my current novel about Scottish immigrants to America in the 18th century, their eyes light up. “So what are you finding out?” they want to know.

I flounder for an answer to this question, because very little is straightforward. I’ll stumble upon a thread of historical interest here, another there. In isolation, the info doesn’t mean all that much. Woven together, though, a tapestry begins to emerge.

scots banishedFor instance, a book I came across at Fairview Park Library in Cleveland. When I arrived, I went first to the reference desk.

“I’m looking for information about Scottish immigrants,” I said.

“You’re talking to one,” said the librarian. Her accent wasn’t overt, but she still had a trace of that charming Scottish burr. “What do you want to know?”

Delighted, I introduced myself and we chatted over topics such as the Orange Walk, Hogmanay and cultural differences between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Until her phone rang, that is, at which point I moved on to browse the genealogy stacks, where one title in particular grabbed my interest: Scots Banished to the American Plantations, 1650-1775.

Banished. Even in genealogy circles, that word doesn’t crop up every day. I wondered how many McIntoshes, Smiths and Stewarts had been banished. Any of them from my region of Inverness-shire? As it turned out, quite a few. Regarding McIntoshes, a Jane, John, and Peter–a knitter, fiddler, and laborer–had all been transported/banished by the Brits from Inverness to the “Leeward Isles” in 1747. (But a French privateer intercepted the ship and took them to Martinique instead.)

1747. Just one year after the 1746 failed Jacobite rebellion that occurred at the Battle of Culloden, on McIntosh clan land, in Inverness. What struck me too was the number of banishments listed in the 1600s and early 1700s, and well beyond 1746 into the 19th century. Pages and pages of names. Each of these persons–whether soldier, merchant tailor or housebreaker–was sent, nay banished, to the Americas against his or her will.

Then this morning as I browsed through a book about John Knox and the Scottish Reformation (a movement that began in the 1500s), a similar thread emerged. After the aborted revolt in Scotland of Prince Charles Stuart in 1746, the book notes, “the English instituted a policy of stern repression in Scotland, and many of the adult men left that country.” (p.212-213, Douglas Wilson, For Kirk and Covenant)

Hmm — “many of the adult men left.” A tad misleading, yes? It seems to me many, if not most, of both men and women were banished against their will. Expediently shipped to a place of no return, torn from their families and a land they dearly loved.

Hence, I’m finding out the Scots endured a radically different experience than the Puritans, Quakers, Protestants, Jews and so on, those early settlers who made their exodus to the American colonies due to religious persecution, yes, but in solidarity, and mainly in search of liberty. The Scots, on the other hand, were transported, suffering isolation from their clans and disaffection from their captors and British colonial authorities. When these Scots arrived in the land of liberty, they came to serve a jail sentence. Perhaps a miscalculation on the part of the British crown? Scots rapidly grew in number to become a hefty chunk of the population.

a body of about 600,000 Scots made up about one-fourth of the population [of the American colonies] at the time of the Revolution. [p. 19, Morton Smith’s Studies in Southern Presbyterian Theology]

And, as brave warriors, they fought valiantly in the American Revolution. In his book For Kirk and Covenant, Wilson posits that these same Scots brought with them a stubborn conviction in representative government, the rule of law, and separation of church and state. Could one go so far as to claim the U.S. government was founded by Scots Presbyterians? Well, they ought at least to be in the running, along with the Transcendentalists, the Freemasons, the Illuminati …