The Scot Abroad
BY C. A. OAKLEY SCOTS have always been going abroad. Without discussing what happened very long ago or even asking controversial questions about Roman emperors and Irish saints who are claimed as Scottish-born, the modern story may be taken as beginning in the sixteenth century, with merchants making their way from Caledonia to Scandinavia and the Baltic countries to sell dried fish, coloured plaidings, and rough knitted stockings. It begins, too, with the Scots who went seek- ing adventure, like that philosopher-soldier-scallywag, the Admirable Crichton, or the groups who just wanted summer- time jobs like those whose escapades are told in the Swedish classic, Count Arne's Treasure.
The Scot's desire to expand foreign trade led to the tragic Darien Scheme, whose failure beggared Scotland for a genera- tion; but when the New World was opened up for commerce 250 years ago, following the union of the parliaments, the Scot made good use of the opportunities that came his way. In Particular he became interested in the Virginian tobacco Plantations and in the Jamaica sugar and rum trades. He dabbled in the transportation of slaves to the colonies, too, but is inclined to hush that up. Many Glasgow boys went across the Atlantic to serve their apprenticeships and not all of them came home again. Indeed, it is interesting to detect the Scottish names among George Washington's associates, including that ot Alexander Hamilton, who is said to have had the constitu- tion of the Glasgow trades' House in mind when drafting the Constitution of the United States. The family links between the revolutionary colonists and the Scottish trading families were partly responsible for the bitterness with which the war was at times fought. No town participated with greater zest than Glasgow, and indeed it was a ,Glasgow merchant whom the British Government sent to arrange the armistice that eventually brought the war to its end. The necessity for filling the holds of ships returning across the Atlantic, after bringing tobacco and sugar to Glasgow harbour, first led to factories being set up in Glasgow. The colonists needed a thousand and one things—clothing, furni- ture, books, tools and so on—and the enterprising merchants s0on sensed the opportunities for manufacturing these things 410ng5ide the harbour, so that they could be easily loaded for ransportation to their cousins on the other side of the Atlantic. upheavals and disasters caused by the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century wars never checked the almost ferocious 1,11tensity of the Scots' commercial urge. If the Napoleonic wars (-,1,esed Europe to them, they turned to China and the Far East. it the American Civil War cut British textile manufacturers from supplies of raw cotton, they would probe into the Possibilities of opening up a new source in Egypt. If explorers went to the new territories in the North of Canada or New Zealand, intrepid Scots would be among them, and coming up behind would be their Scottish brothers humping pack bags.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century it was said that, , if certain large Glasgow trading concerns all chose to demand payment at one time for what they were owed, the internal economy of some young countries in the British Empire would have been seriously strained. So it is not surprising that com- mercial houses are now to be found in most large cities through- out the world which have a special interest in selling Scottish goods, and that the men in charge of them should so often themselves have had Scottish forbears, and should regard themselves as Scots even to this day. There is a wide variety, however, in the things that different countries want from Scot- land. The United States and Canada think highly of her woollen goods, and Australia buys her Oarpets. Her automobile tyres go in large quantities to the Middle and Far East. The best markets last year for her refractory bricks included the Philippines, Persia and Iraq. But the Scottish visitor to countries nearer at hand, such as the Scandinavian countries, Holland and Eire, is soon told about Scotland's failure to keep them supplied with what they had been most accustomed to getting from her—coal.
Scotland's rather dismal record in coal production in recent years is partly attributable to a considerable number pf mines having become exhausted or, at least, uneconomic to work. Plans have been drawn up for developing new pits in Eastern Scotland and in Ayrshire. These should lead to output in- creasing during the next ten years by one-third; and this represents expansion at a higher rate than elsewhere in Great Britain. Perhaps thpre is some consolation in all this to thine Glasgow merchants who used to make their livings exporting Scottish coal, if they are still engaged in the business when the good times come again.
The record of the iron and steel industry is much happier. It covers the whole range of sizes and thicknesses of plates and sections, and, while the local demand for them is consider- able from the shipbuilding and other branches of the heavy engineering industry, they are used very largely for buildings, bridges, docks and such things erected abroad. Indeed, in one branch in which Scotland specialises, making steel pipes and tubes, three-quarters of the Scottish output is for export.
Except for one or two romantic figures like Mary Stuart, the Scot whose name is best known throughout tile world is James Watt. And that is as it should be because the most important contributions made by Scots to the progress of mankind during recent centuries have probably been in engineering. Apart from the much-travelled men of the mercantile marine, the best-known Scottish engineers abroad are probably those engaged in structural work. They build massive steel bridges across rivers, erect oil refineries in torrid lands, scatter airfields over the globe, open up new harbours overnight and equip them with their cranes, too, for that is another of Scotland's specialities. Although they are away from home for periods of months and even years, they have constant reminders of the land they came from, and in particular of Glasgow, in the engineering products they see around them.
It has been said, for instance, that a list of countries where Scottish-made locomotives are in operation reads like a gazetteer; much the same could be said about their Glasgow- built motor trucks and other vehicles. Their boilers, pumps, refrigerators, hydraulic equipment and the like probably came from Clydeside. The typewriters and much of the equipment in their offices were manufactured there too. In their kitchens may be sewing machines from Clydebank and Glasgow wringing machines. Perhaps some Scottish laundry machinery is in use there also. They may be wakened in the morning by Lanark- shire alarm clocks and check the time by their Dundee wrist- watches. Before they leave for their day's work they may shave with razors made in the West of Scotland of the orthodox or injection-blade type, or with electric razors. And so, in one way and another, the Scottish engineer abroad is never long out of touch with the great industry in which he received his basic training, possibly long ago and even before the manufac- ture of some of these things was thought of.
The visitor when asked .what he supposes are Scotland's principal exports usually begins by mentioning only three. In addition to whisky they are tweed and knitwear—and there is a significant connection between them because, while quality plays a contributory part in expanding their sales abroad, so does presentation and design. Indeed, the tweed manufacturers in the Borders and in the North of Scotland go so far as to describe themselves as novelty-makers, relentless individualists, and restless experimenters. As evidence they point to the astonishing variety of their cloths and materials. They attribute the rise of their industry during the nineteenth century to their having popularised Highland tartans, district checks, and the neat blending of striking colours in woollen fabrics intended for use on sporting occasions. Their products were interesting and even exciting, but were never brash. The industry is doing notably well and set up new export records again last year, especially in the United States where more than half of the total sales of 11 million were made. The other kind of Scottish tweed is woven in the Hebrides and is of distinctive character. This Harris tweed is also setting up records, with the bulk of the purchases being made by the United States. Canada is a good second and Russia is said to be the only major country that did not import any Harris tweed at all last year.
The modern knitting industry is generally regarded as having originated in the 1770s in the Border town of Hawick, and the people of that town are claimed to earn more dollars per individual than those of any other British town. Nowadays Hawick, like some other Scottish towns that specialise in the hosiery industry, is associated in the public mind with fully. fashioned cashmere knitwear for ladies; and the styles observed throughout the world are set in these places. The Paris houses that tell women what knitted woollens they are going to wear during a coming season first have to visit Scotland to find out. The principal markets for this industry are also the United States and Canada, but its customers are to be found in all countries where women are fashion-conscious.
The Scottish textile industry is larger than is commonly realised. Indeed, it employs no fewer than 125,000 peoples and in some branches makes a quite considerable contribution to the British economy. For instance, one-third of all the carpets produced in Great Britain are woven in Scotland and a large proportion go overseas. It is a particularly competitive industry as several other countries are also important carpet manufacturers, and this makes the successes achieved by the Scottish industry the more noteworthy. Scotland is the principal manufacturing country for linoleum in the British Commonwealth, and Kirkcaldy has been'described as the most famous linoleum-producing town in the world. The industry is only a hundred years old, and its location near Dundee is explained by the availability of flax canvas in the neighbour' hood. The original floorcloth was, in fact, little more than stoat Canvas painted on both sides and with a design in oil colours printed on the top surface. Its composition is a great deal more complicated nowadays.
In early Victorian times the greatest section by far of the Scottish textile industry handled cotton. It has dwindled ia recent years, but at its head is one of the most world-famous of all Scottish manufacturing companies. This undertaking makes cotton thread, from the strongest corded threads used for sewing tarpaulins, to delicate and colourful embroidery threads. It is, in fact, the largest thread-producing organisation in the world, and has not only established factories in other countries, but sent many ScOts to take part in their manage- ment. Other well-known firms in the Scottish cotton industrY manufacture shirtings—the finest made anywhere are pro- duced in Glasgow. The lace industry, particularly associated with the Irvine Valley in Ayrshire, sometimes exports three' quarters of its output. There is hardly any part of the world that is not using, or has not recently been using, heavy water- proof cotton cloth woven in Scotland, and this could be said also about Scottish rope and fishing nets. One of the most sur- prising items of information about Scottish industry is, perhaPs' that Scottish nets are in use throughout the world and for catching almost every kind of fish taken from the seven seas.
Cakes and Ale
The Scottish product I am most often quizzed about it' casual conversations is whisky. Everyone is pleased that Scotch whisky is maintaining its position as this country's largest single US dollar-earning export, but they are unhappy about it too. The more the Americans drink of our best brands °f xsthetically blended Scotch whisky, the less there is at the end of the weary day for hard-working Londoners needY too of that consoling and satisfying stimulation which Scotch, whisky alone can bring them. However, Scotland will be glo to let them have more soon, even for those who add ginger-ale to their Scotch. Stocks of maturing whisky are now accumulating to such an extent that storage accommodation is strained to the lirnir' Before long the first of the large post-war distillations will be considered sufficiently aged for release to the public, and after that the worst of the drought will be over. This table shows how much whisky in proof gallons is being stored : Year New Production Stock 1953 26 million 146 million
1954 33 million 158 million 1955 39 million 172 million
For their share of the stock released last year. the United States paid £23 million and Canada E3 million. Almost every country in the world with any money at all imports Scot0
By Land and Sea
The Scot who manufactures foodstuffs derives his inspira- tion from the farmers who 250 years ago began the agricultural revolution which later spread throughout the British Isles. By clearing the peat, draining the soil, putting lime and fertilisers on it, using better seed, studying the rotation of crops and im- proving the breeding of cattle, he changed the outlook of British farming.
Today many products of Scottish agriculture are exported— seed potatoes, for instance—but it is the sale of Scottish-bred • whisky and it has certainly established its markets in a most impressive way. For instance, among the countries where last year the demand was reported to be growing were Mexico, Panama and Uruguay.
In contrast to his awareness of the extent to which Scotch whisky is flowing from this country, the Londoner does not realise that Scotch beer is much liked abroad too. Yet the 'Scotch houses' which he frequents during the day and the advertisements of a lively little bearded character wearing tartan trousers are reminders that Scotland makes other beverages besides whisky. Edinburgh is, in fact, one of the largest brewing centres in Great Britain. Some years ago I described it as the second largest in the country but this pre- cipitated a controversy not to be revived. The fact remains that Scottish exports of beer and lager are substantial, and form a high proportion of the total British exports in this category. Indeed, many a Londoner who has aired his views on there being no good British beers or lagers of certain kinds has had to readjust his views on discovering, while in, perhaps, the Middle or Far East, how highly regarded some British brews are. And frequently those brews bear the names of Scottish companies, not necessarily from Edinburgh, but perhaps from Glasgow or Alloa. It may surprise those still doubtful about all this that the countries to which Scottish beer was exported last year included the United States, Sweden and Russia.
Many explanations can be given of why Scottish whisky and beer sell so well abroad, but the most important is their quality. That is in keeping with a tradition which' affects most things made in Scotland to eat or to drink. Yet the tradition is of com- paratively recent origin—a matter of 250 years or so. Before then Scotland was a land where living was frugal.
How the Scottish housewife came to be transmogrified into a superb baker and cook after money had come into her hands for the first time to buy good ingredients for her kitchen could be discussed from one Saturday evening to the next. But the fact is that during the early decades of the nineteenth century she became famous for her scones and cakes, for her soups, for her jams, and for her sugar confectionery. Visitors who had turned up in Scotland with quaint notions about cooked meat dishes with funny names like haggis, potted hough and mealie puddings, found them so tasty that instead of scoffing at them they just scoffed them.
Almost every kind of foodstuff manufactured in Scottish factories is of fine quality and is sold abroad. Some things are, of course, more widely known than others—biscuits, for in- stance, marmalade, sweets, canned and proprietary articles, and coffee essence. But there are many others such as the short- bread which Scottish firms refused to manufacture until butter became readily available again : no substitutes would do for them, and customers overseas respect the Scottish manufac- turers for it: or the preserved raspberries, the fruit that grows better around Perth than anywhere else in the world; or the canned herring which is so attractively produced and packed in the Aberdeen district. livestock overseas that attracts most notice. Indeed, it may he of interest to show where the 789 pedigree cattle exported frorn Scotland last year went : Shorthorn Aberdeen-Angus Galloway Ayrsids8 North America 168 66 3 24 South America .., 125 113 4 16 Africa .. .. 25 21 8 57 Australia .. .. 73 25 18 7 Other Countries .. 4 32 0 0 As agricultural specialists many Scots have gone abroad to apply their technical knowledge. Indeed, if a percentage were procurable of the number of Scots in the Commonwealth ano in foreign countries who arc engaged in farming it would probably be surprisingly high. Scottish fishermen do not go so far afield, but for centuries they have been familiar figures in the countries fringing the North Sea and the Baltic. The first things the Scots eve exported in any magnitude were salted herring and dried white, fish; and that was over 300 years ago. The waters arouo° Scotland, as well as the rivers, teem with fish. During the Vie,; torian era and the early part of this century much of the ftsu, eaten not only in the British Isles but in North-Western sou Central Europe was landed, gutted, filleted and processed in Aberdeen and other Scottish fishing ports. Nowadays foreign countries have their own fishing fleets and in consequence s01n6 of the Scottish ports are less busy than in their golden daY,s before the First World War. But they still have quite a faLf export trade—one of the things the recent Russian visitoP wanted for import into the USSR was Scottish cured herring'', and the dried white fish is going farther overseas, particulan,Y to Africa and Asia. The markets in the United States and in Europe are also said to be growing again. No one in Northettir Scotland deceives himself that the fishing industry will ev,ei be as great again as in Victorian days. But it is still substanhe and is likely to remain so in our time. And if some day a SOl tion acceptable to the British housewife is found to the prohle; of how to get rid of all those little bones in, the herring skeleton—who can say what the consequences might be?
The yearnings of the Scot to be an applied scientist found expression in industry not only in engineering, but chemistry and in physics. The history of the Scottish chemioac industry with Charles Tennant, Charles Mackintosh—of waterproof, coats—James Young, James Morton and otherf little less fascinating than that of the engineering industry. P'.5 instance, one of the greatest explosive plants in the world 11, located in Ayrshire and, incidentally, has the largest resesee" establishment in Scotland. Two of the five major dyestuffs 0; coveries in the world during the past thirty years were made et an immense chemical factory near Grangemouth, and in ntb.fil chemical works near by the most spectacular industel", developments in Scotland for many years are being carried 011' Scotland was early in devoting attention to the rubber indusl and the biggest firm in the East of Scotland is actually engagfi, in this field. And so on . . . to paints and oils, to phamiacell`o cals, to plastics, to detergents, to glues; there is virtuallY, limit to the things Scottish chemists.have thought of nlaktkiiive. Perhaps it is less true than in the past that every conceiva'he thing is being made in some factory somewhere within te boundaries of Scotland. But a list confined even to the la% interests—for instance, to those producing shoes, furnito' books, greeting cards, paper and sanitary ware—still seenli5 to take on the appearance of a catalogue. Yet that in itscifilis evidence of the skill with which the Scot is maintaining .4 place in a world of ever-growing complexity. Almost eve"' thing he manufactures has in some way a link with the export trade which has meant more to him than it has to the English- man. This can be partly explained by the relatively small population of his country—five millions. He had to look beyond it for markets for the goods he produced. So did those enterpris- ing men whose activities opened up insurance and banking. They too extended their interests far beyond Scotland, and they now have a considerable influence in earning those pay- ments for services which help maintain Great Britain's economic stability.
Assimilating the Newcomer
In spite of the prosperous times Scotland has enjoyed in recent years and of the many opportunities it can now provide for able young men and women to get on, there is no denying that many young Scots are restless and disposed to seek for what they suppose are greater opportunities elsewhere . . . just as other geperations have done for the last two centuries and more. This does, however, suggest one disturbing comment on the expanding influence of Scots abroad. Just over a hundred years ago, in the hungry 1840s, it was noticed that as ships sailed down the Clyde taking able young Scottish crafts- men to the United States and Canada, they passed other ships bringing in unskilled labourers from Ireland.
Even now the posts the young Scots leave behind are quickly occupied by men and women from other countries. They are attractive enough to appeal to them. This too has been going on for a long time, and the consequence is that a considerable proportion of the people living in Scotland today are not Scottish by ancestry. To some extent they are absorbed by the country, and then become—or, at least, their children become —Scots. But only, as some observers might say, to some extent.