Yesterday evening I went to see Tom Devine at the Edinburgh Book Festival. He was talking about his new book: To the Ends of the Earth, Scotland’s Global Diaspora, 1750-2010. As usual he was a very entertaining speaker. His main thesis was that LOTS of Scots left their homeland during the time he covered, but, in general, it was aspiration, not desperation that drove them. Most were skilled, semi skilled, or even professional. I was struck by how this chimed in with my own findings. From one small street in middle class Victorian Edinburgh, I can list a number of cases, for example:
George Alexander, builder: had 12 children, and only one stayed in Edinburgh
Thomas Cownie , clothier: ,also had 12 children, and only one stayed in Edinburgh
William Fraser Buist: his grandfather was a minister in St Andrews; his father was in the army in India, he was a rancher in Argentina, and retired to Dalrymple crescent.
William Ramage Lawson, editor: born in Kirriemuir, moved to Australia, back to Edinburgh, and then to London.