Christchurch is rightly or wrongly traditionally thought of as an English city, but at every turn we can see a glimpse of England’s arch enemy…the Scots. While they may now technically be at peace, they do still meet annually on the battlefield (ok, pitch) in a fight to the death (ok, 80 minutes of rugby) to claim the Calcutta Cup. It’s very serious business. This national identity notion that we all subscribe to is a funny thing. The majority of us are extremely proud to be the nationality that we are. I, for example, am very proud to be Scottish and even though we don’t have the strongest rugby team, I will always fiercely support them. And quite frankly, who wouldn’t be proud to be from a country whose national animal is unicorn. Yes, that’s right, a mythical beast. In our defence unicorns were thought to be real in Western countries until the early 1800s.
In my (almost) two years so far in New Zealand one of the main things I’ve picked up on is the way people are so passionately proud of being Kiwi, but also of the different cultures that have combined to make New Zealand what it is today. We don’t have to search too in depth into Christchurch’s history before we see a glimpse of that Scottish influence. Riccarton? Named after the parish that the Deans brothers came from in Ayrshire, Scotland. The River Avon? Named after their grandfather’s stream on his farm back in Scotland. That’s two very distinctive features of Christchurch, that the majority of us will think about or talk about on a daily basis, with origins half the world away. The Deans brothers were among the first to settle in Christchurch after being less than impressed with their assigned land in Wellington and Nelson. Having moved to New Zealand by myself in the modern day and age where I can FaceTime my family or hop on a flight home fairly regularly, I have the upmost respect for the earliest of settlers who travelled via boat and more often than not would not see their family again. It is however almost a bit of a mistake that the Deans ended up here in what was to become Christchurch, but a happy one at that. It is at Riccarton Bush that would be the site of their first farm and where the suburb of Riccarton would get its name. In the image below we can see some of the earliest buildings of Christchurch, built by the brothers. A far cry from the Riccarton we know today.
Another set of Scottish brothers who made a huge contribution to Christchurch are Peter and David Duncan, who founded their business P & D Duncan Ltd in Christchurch. You might recognise the name as the business only ceased operations in 1986, or because one of their 20th century buildings branded with “P & D DUNCAN LTD” can still be seen on St Asaph Street ( pictured just below). The pair contributed to the development of New Zealand agriculture through their foundries which, as previously mentioned, operated up until the late 20th century (Kete Christchurch, 2018).
The earliest immigrants were quite obviously bringing their skills to Christchurch and establishing businesses using said skills in order to better themselves. It is, therefore, a little surprising that when the Christchurch Drainage Board began their mammoth task of building a sewer system to support the growing population in 1878, they opted to import the sewer pipes all the way from Scotland rather than sourcing them locally. The earthenware pipes, branded with “J BINNIE / GARTCOSH”, were shipped directly from Glasgow (Press 14/12/1878: 2, Star 26/8/1879: 3). Understandably this annoyed the ratepayers somewhat – if there were local businesses who could supply the goods, why did they need to fork out to get the pipes shipped from quite literally half the world away? (Star 29/5/1880:3). Predictably, not all the pipes made it to New Zealand in one piece.
When thinking about the English we often think about tea as their national drink, but what about the Scots? Whisky, quite naturally. I was introduced to it at a young age in an attempt to get me to stop crying while I was teething…and I’ve been hooked ever since! Just kidding, following my dabble as a toddler, I waited until 18 to enjoy this Scottish tradition. We find whisky bottles, along with other types of alcohol bottles, fairly regularly in Christchurch (not that I’m suggesting anything about Cantabrian drinking habits!). This whisky bottle found in Victoria Square had an embossing on the base reading “JOHN STEWART & Co / KIRKLISTON”, which immediately indicates that the bottle originally contained Scottish Whisky made in the Kirkliston distillery in West Lothian, Scotland. The Kirkliston distillery was first established in 1795 and went through several owners before Stewart and Co. took over in 1855, installing a Coffey still and converting it to a primarily grain-based distillery. In 1877, John Stewart and Co. were one of the six Scottish whisky distillers to form the Distiller’s Company Ltd., who continued in business well into the 20th century. We can even easily assign the dates 1855 until 1877 for production of this particular bottle (Townsend 2015:125-127).
The Scottish countryside was even celebrated through romantic imagery on ceramics. A pattern aptly named ‘Scotch Scenery’ depicts a Scottish highland shepherd and shepherdess resting at the foot of a tree. The highland landscape, with stone cliffs, waterfalls, and trees, is visible behind the couple (Transferware Collector’s Club 2005-2018). Ceramics patterns are often used to depict (often quite idealised) images of people, places and activities for mass consumption. Whoever owned this vessel may have been a proud Scot themselves, dreaming of home, or just someone with very good taste.
And to end my ramblings on Scotland in Christchurch I can’t think of a better artefact. As I’ve said in a previous post, one of my favourite things to find on site is clay pipes. Often they’re stamped with “EDINBURGH” or “GLASGOW” with the makers name as well (I once even found one embossed with “DAVIDSON / GLASGOW” – us Davidsons get everywhere). But these two examples are a little bit special. They feature our national symbol, the thistle! While the English have the rose and Kiwis have the fern, we have a spikey (yet beautiful) thistle. The patriotic motifs became increasingly popular during the 19th century as manufacturers began to cater for “ethnic and national sentiments” (Bradley 2000: 112). Similar to the way I wear my Scotland rugby shirt (emblazoned with the thistle) with pride today, some of the earliest settlers may have smoked their thistle clad pipe with a similar sort of feeling. Now there’s a nice thought.
A huge thank you to my colleagues at UOA for sharing their Scottish stories and finds of Christchurch with me.
Bradley, C., 2000. Smoking Pipes for the Archaeologist. In Karklins, K. (Ed.) Studies in Material Culture Research, p. 104-133. Society for Historical Archaeology, Pennsylvania.
Kete Christchurch, 2018. P & D Duncan Ltd. [online] Available at: http://ketechristchurch.peoplesnetworknz.info/site/topics/show/1950-p-and-d-duncan-ltd#.Wyhva6l9gnU [Accessed 19 June 2018].
Orwin, J., 2015, Riccarton and the Deans Family: History and Heritage. David Bateman: Auckland.
Press. [online] Available at: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/ [Accessed June 2018].
Christchurch City Libraries, 2018. Riccarton Bush (Pūtaringamotu), Riccarton House, and Deans Cottage. [online] https://my.christchurchcitylibraries.com/riccarton-bush/ [Accessed 19 June 2018].
Star. [online] Available at: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/ [Accessed June 2018].
Townsend, B., 2015. Scotch Missed: The Original Guide to the Lost Distilleries of Scotland. Neil Wilson Publishing Ltd., Britain.
Transferware Collector’s Club, 2005-2018. Scotch Scenery [online] Available at: http://www.transcollectorsclub.org/ [Accessed June 2018].