In 2009 almost one in five
Canadians claimed Scottish descent: With modern maps peppered with
Scottish place names and Canadian telephone directories bulging
with Scottish surnames, one could be forgiven for thinking that the
figures were the other way about! In addition to every province and
territory having its own tartan, there are hundreds (560 in total)
for towns, cities, individuals and organisations including one for
the world-famous Mounties.
If any of you would like to help us
establish a 'Canadian section' in this new web site, we'd be
delighted! The aim is to have details of all Scottish events held
in Canada and all Scottish associations - from Highland games
committees to St Andrew's Societies to Burns Clubs . . . The whole
gamut of Scottish life in Canada. As a reminder of the Scots in
Canada, Scotland's official online gateway (www.scotland.org) sets
There have been times when Canada was regarded as almost an
extension of Scotland. And it's not hard to see why when you
realise just how many Scottish place names and family names are to
be found throughout Canada; and how many towns, rivers and
mountains have been named in honour of Scottish explorers, traders
and adventurers, from Mackenzie Bay and Calgary to Nova Scotia (New
Scotland) itself, where the first Highlanders arrived at Pictou on
the ship "Hector" in 1773.
Elsewhere, Upper Canada's first major Scottish settlement was
Glengarry, established in 1784 by Highlanders from Inverness-shire.
Growing numbers of emigrants sought opportunities in the new lands
of Upper Canada. Their sense of pride in the nation they had left,
coupled with a strong sense of cultural identity, led to the early
settlers establishing firmly rooted Scottish traditions across the
future province of Ontario.
The early Scots left an indelible mark on Canada. Among the most
celebrated were Glasgow-born John A Macdonald, Canada's first Prime
Minister; Alexander Mackenzie, the first man to find a route from
the east to the west coast; entrepreneurs like Donald Alexander
Smith from Forres, the driving force behind The Canadian Pacific
Railway, linking Montreal with Vancouver, the Atlantic with the
Pacific; Lanark-born James Douglas, the 'Father of BC', who helped
develop a remote trading post on Vancouver Island into the province
of British Columbia; and Robert Dunsmuir, an Ayrshire coal miner
eventually charged with building the Vancouver Island rail link,
making him British Columbia's first millionaire.
Less well known, but no less extraordinary were the Scots
cattlemen and drovers who turned cowboys; cattle barons like Murdo
MacKenzie and John Clay who had a hand in firms such as the Prairie
Land & Cattle Company, based in Edinburgh, and the Matador Land
and Cattle Company, based in Dundee.
There were others too, though more famous for recording history
than making it. Scots like Dollar-born James Anderson, 'The Bard of
Barkerville', and Robert Service, sometimes regarded as Canada's
national poet, who together captured the spirit, characters and
legends of the Gold Rush.
As well as their impact on the business world, the early day
Scots helped shape both the physical and political landscapes of
For example, the city of Guelph was founded in 1827 by the
Scottish novelist John Galt. Tradition tells that Galt, or one of
his companions, laid his outstretched hand on a tree stump and
predicted that the streets of the new town would radiate from a
central point such as his fingers radiated from his palm. The
layout of downtown Guelph does indeed resemble such a design.
And, in the world of politics, the first two Canadian Prime
Ministers, John A MacDonald and Alexander McKenzie, were both
native born Scots and MacDonald was generally recognised as the new
nation's principal founder. Indeed, despite their minority status,
since the confederation of 1867, eight men and one woman of
Scottish ancestry have been elected Prime Minister of Canada.
This ancestral legacy of the early Scottish emigrants on the
development of Canada meant that before 1971, Canadians of Scottish
descent were listed as a separate category from the British. In the
1960's, they were the third largest ethnic group in the country,
after the English and French.