Tracing NZ’s tartan history

April 20, 2015
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Unpacking the Kists: The Scots in New Zealand,

by Brad Patterson, Tom Brooking and Jim McAloon (Otago University Press, RRP $70):

This is an informative study of the nature and effect of Scottish migration to New Zealand.

It covers myriad topics including where in Scotland the settlers came from and their distribution patterns in New Zealand, how Scottish settlers have influenced the physical landscape and the society that was to become New Zealand, in particular the cultural and sporting traditions that they brought and developed. There is also a comparative study on what Scottish migration to other parts of the world was like.

This book is the product of a collaboration of scholars from different universities and it is first and foremost an academic work. Seemingly, this has been the first concerted study of the subject. It does seem dry in parts but the anecdotes used to illustrate examples of behaviour or social norms could fill a book by themselves. You just need to look in the phonebook or at some of the rural road names which show the Scottish heritage in this part of the country to know that this book will find an interested audience.

It has an engaging written style and adds to the knowledge of New Zealand’s development. Alas, for many readers the small print may be a problem.

By the by, kists were the wooden trunks that were de rigeur for any self respecting Scottish migrant – filled with all the things people would need in the New World.

Fintan Mulligan

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