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Here to Stay

Sunday at 1pm | TV ONE

The Scots - Jackie Clarke

I've been asked about my Polynesian background heaps of times, but I've hardly ever been asked about being Scottish. We don't often think about who we are in that big sense - you know - "who are we as New Zealanders". And, as a Scots/Samoan/Pakeha/Palangi, that question can get pretty interesting.

I'd heard all the folklore around my Scottish grandad and his whiskey-tinged exploits in Apia, but he died a few years before I was born. His family migrated to Australia and then he went off to Samoa to work, where he met my Nanna. They had my dad, and he came to New Zealand to go to Teachers' College. And then, here I am, a Kiwi.

Up until now I'd hear bagpipes and think; "yeah, that has something to do with me - that's a part of who I am." But I never thought about it beyond that.

I didn't even really think about having a Scottish grandad other than it meant I could go live in the UK, no worries. I never took advantage of that - I was too busy singing in bands. I've never even been to Scotland! 

(Photo of Jackie's Scots Grandad to the right. He is seated at the front.)
I feel like a total Kiwi - I'm planted here. But what I'm really thrilled about is finding out what Scots have added to being Kiwi, and who we are, and who we like to think we are as Kiwis. The Scots have given us that down to earth, call a spade a spade, egalitarian, fair go, can do part of our Kiwi culture.

It's now part of our DNA and it was fascinating to trace all that back to the dour religious Scots men and women who came here in the 1800s.

We spent a week down south in the MacKenzie Basin (note the Scottish name - only one of many&) just when they were having all that snow last year, and I thought it was marvellous. The High Country (see, High Country = Highlands) looked just like Narnia - clear blue days, snow everywhere.

Having grown up in Gisborne and lived in Auckland and Wellington, I'd only seen snow a handful of times, so I was really excited. That was until I thought; "oh my god! These people still have to work in this snow, and the sheep have to survive." It sure made me realise the hardiness of the people who have to live and work in those conditions.

So, having spent that time travelling around New Zealand, from the snowy south to the winterless north, I've got a new and improved appreciation for what it means to be Scottish, and particularly what it meant to have been Scottish in those settler times.

What they went through reinforces the incredible sense of security that having a home gives you, and it really illustrates where these people must've been at to leave that all behind. Especially the Scots who left Scotland, went to Nova Scotia, then on to New Zealand. I just can't fathom having that strength of purpose of knowing exactly what kind of life you want to create and then going to such lengths, and through such hardship, to build it.

And then when they got here it was far from easy, which really made me think about immigration today - to be here but not be of here. New Zealand is made up of wave after wave of immigrants but we can be so rude to them.

We essentially say to them; "you can come here, but you have to look like me, act like me, live with me. And if you don't want to you can go back to where you came from."

I met some fascinating people doing the programme - Doug Graham for one. The Cooper family in Waipu were also amazing. They'd chosen as a family to do something Scottish, so they played the bagpipes or did Highland dancing. They were keeping alive the Scottish peculiarities, but it had warped into something new - something really, really Kiwi.

That was the whole essence of my time at the Highland Games in Waipu, where the Scots from Nova Scotia landed. Everyone was totally into the games. The entire town was behind it - tossing cabers, wearing kilts, the lot. But it was all so KIWI. And I thought; "this is what culture means. It's a beautiful mutation and we need to embrace it."

And of course, I did embrace it. Especially when I got the chance to fulfil life-long dream number one and become a marching girl! I was beside myself with glee and I thought I did pretty good - my marching was seamless.

Of course the bits that got put into the programme were of me dancing with pure childish joy once the director had called "cut". Where's that Scottish sense of fair play there?!

So for me, yeah, there's certainly a lot of Scottish in with my Samoan and assorted Pakeha. I work hard, play hard, and sure I like a drink - but the Scots' religious fervour seems to have passed me by.

I've now got a Clarke tartan scarf that I'll be whipping out come winter. And I bought a sporran that'll play host to my whisky flash at the next rugger game.

I just hope that game won't be Scotland vs Samoa.

Check out these links for more information about The Scots:

Te Ara Encyclopaedia
Larnach Castle
Piping Hot Haggis
New Edinburgh Folk Club
New Zealand Curling Association
Annual Waipu Highland Games
Highland Dancing
Wellington Scottish Pipes and Drums