The “Symmetry”The “Symmetry” was built in Scarborough in 1823 and owned by James, Robert and William Tindall. She was a three-masted ship, barque-rigged, of 382 tons burthen and captained at this time by Samuel Smith. She survived until 1868 when she was wrecked and sold to a foreigner at Oran. The full details of the ship are in the Register Book belonging to the Custom House in the Port of Scarborough, deposited in the North Yorkshire County Records Office, Northallerton(available on microfilm). I am most grateful to Jeremy Howat for tracing and sending me a copy of the entries in the Register Book. Also, there is a copy of a drawing of the ship by Richard Adams on Graeme Wall’s website.
The ship’s cargo on her voyage to Buenos Aires in 1825, published in the “Leith Commercial List” is described broadly as: saddlery, harness, iron, deals, 5 pieces of fir timber, 47 boxes of machinery, loose agricultural implements, 729 barrels of wheat, 6 bags of clover seeds, 5 casks of raisins, window glass, painters’ colours, 2 puns of rum, 2 puns of Geneva, I pun of brandy, 17 casks of porter and ale, rice, coffee, refined sugar, numerous boxes without contents given and 260 packages of luggage. Many of these items were clearly for use in the colony, but others were possibly destined for persons in Buenos Aires.
Peter MacDonald and Colonia Nueva EscociaPeter MacDonald grew up in a climate of emigration. The parish of St. Martins in Perthshire, where he was born in 1844, was experiencing the changes in the rural economies which were affecting the lives of people across the Lowlands and Highlands and causing widespread emigration. In St. Martins itself, occupants of small holdings were being removed in order to create a large farm, causing numbers to leave the parish. The minister’s remarks in the 1851 census return mention parishioners emigrating to America, and in the 1841 census there is a mention of Buenos Aires as one destination. Peter was one who subsequently went to Argentina, although his date of arrival is not known. Some time after Peter was born his family left St. Martins and next appeared in Longforgan parish in a baptismal record of another son, John, in 1849. However, they had left by the time of the 1851 census and no further record has been found until Peter surfaces in the province of Entre Rios in Argentina.
Awareness of the opportunities for commerce and farming in the emerging nation of Argentina had existed since the early years of the century. Initially, the city and vast province of Buenos Aires attracted Scottish merchants, who soon diversified their investments into landownership and the raising of sheep and cattle. Their great estates (estancias) needed labour and it is not surprising that they turned to Scotland for workers with rural skills. Similarly, the national government and provincial administrations wished to encourage immigration in order to develop the resources of under-developed territories, offering free land and other inducements to prospective settlers from many parts of Britain and Europe. Consequently, by the 1840’s, through advertisements and word of mouth, Argentina was known throughout Scotland as a place where working men and their families might prosper, acquiring their own land, flocks, herds and crops. A tempting prospect for displaced tenants and agricultural labourers
Some of the Scottish immigrants came as single individuals or families and gained work as shepherds on estates, found opportunities to develop their own flocks and eventually purchase their own farms. Others emigrated in groups or, being already in Argentina, responded to newspaper advertisements to join a group to establish a colony. For the former, settling in a country with a different language and culture was challenging, and they tended to settle, at least initially, in areas where there were already Scottish landowners and shepherds. For example, Chascomus in Buenos Aires province developed as a major area of settlement, with a Scots church and small schools established by great landowners.
The best known Scottish attempt to found a colony took place in 1825, when Scottish landowners in Argentina recruited over two hundred people, many from the Borders, to settle at Monte Grande in the province of Buenos Aires.. Sailing from Leith on the “Symmetry” they established a flourishing colony, only to have it disrupted after a few years by wars and economic problems in Argentina. Nevertheless, this approach had its attractions and it was frequently adopted by immigrants of other nationalities. It was particular suitable for settlers moving into other under-developed provinces, where not only could the settlers benefit from a shared national identity but also practise their own beliefs and values. A notable example of this was the Welsh settlement in distant Patagonia in the 1860’s.
From the 1850’s onwards the province of Entre Rios attracted Swiss, German, French and Italian colonists. Lying to the north of Buenos Aires, between the two great rivers, the Parana and the Uruguay, Entre Rios and the neighbouring districts of Uruguay had already attracted major Scottish landowners, among them James Black, James and Hugh MacDougall James Mohr Bell, Thomas Drysdale and James T. Ramsay. Now it was to have a Scottish colony, named by the settlers Colonia Nueva Escocia, situated at Yarua, south of the town of Concordia
Records of the Scots Church for Buenos Aires and Entre Rios suggest that the colony was founded in the early 1860’s, and that many if not all of the colonists were already in Argentina. They had come originally from many parts of Scotland and a number were Gaelic speakers. The oral history of the MacDonald family recounts that there were MacDonalds, M’Neills, Frasers, Buchanans, Sinclairs and Farquharsons in their number. Peter MacDonald had come from Perthshire, James Farquharson and his wife from Kilarrow parish in Islay, and Walter M’Neill from the parish of Kilmodan, Argyllshire. Some were already married with families, others such as the MacDonalds and M’Neills were later to inter-marry, and Peter himself waited to become established before he returned to Scotland and brought back to Buenos Aires a Janet Sym from Perthshire, whom he married in 1874 in St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in that city. James Farquharson, on the other hand, sailed from Greenock in 1866 on the barque “Margaret Falconer”, the party consisting of James, his wife Cristina MacDonald, their three children, John McCorquodale, his wife and children, John’s brother James, and Flora McQuarrie, a maidservant who later married Alexander Buchanan. The diary of James McCorquodale describes their three-month journey to Buenos Aires and then on to Concordia.
Like most Scottish immigrants they kept alive their attachments to their homeland and to what they saw as its traditions and values. Their oral historian says: “These families were protestants and hard workers… One of the first things I’ve learnt was ‘sin labore nihil’ (and) God, Church, Work, Family and Save”. Those attachments to Scotland were to be reflected later in the names of estancias they owned: San Martin (after St. Martins in Perthshire), Clyde, Kintail, Mossgiel, Britannia and so forth. Also, they kept alive the old Scottish naming customs, an aid to tracing their backgrounds.
Between 1866 and 1877 they and other Scots in Entre Rios and nearby Uruguay had a Scots minister. Lachlan M’Neill, formerly minister of the Gaelic Church in Paisley and brother of the colonist Walter, had a “parish” reaching three hundred miles on both sides of the river Uruguay. To meet the needs of the Scots he held preaching stations on the great estancias of Scots landowners in Uruguay, and at Concordia in Entre Rios. A letter to James Dodds, mentions that he held services in Gaelic for some of his parishioners and attended their events – “On one of these journeys we had a Highland wedding, the musical instrument the bagpipe. The party rode to Concordia, crossed the Uruguay to Salto, where the ceremony was held”. Dodds held him in high regard: “Mr. M’Neill is a man of iron frame in the field, with the fire of old Rome in the pulpit”. However, perhaps by the circumstances of remoteness and absence of a Scots minister they also used the services of the Anglican Church. The registers of the Anglican church in Salto, Uruguay, across the river from Concordia, records the baptism in 1880 of John s.o. Peter MacDonald and Janet, sheep farmer; and a year later a daughter Margaret. And there are other Anglican baptisms in Salto and Concordia of Frasers, Buchanans, Sinclairs and M’Neills, all from their estancias in the Mandisovi area of Entre Rios.
The people of Colonia Nueva Escocia seem to have prospered and that was probably an important factor in causing them to seek their own properties elsewhere, although civil conflict and the protracted war between Argentina and Brazil against Paraguay from 1864 to 1870 affected Entre Rios and may have contributed to the decision to move. The 1869 census for Entre Rios indicates that the families mentioned above had moved to another area of the province, north of Concordia, so the colony was short-lived. Prosperity enabled them to establish their own estancias in the area of Mandisovi, Chajari, Gualeguaycito and Federacion. Near them was a Swiss-German protestant colony and the two communities joined in building an evangelical chapel, opened in 1897 and still used as an inter-denominational church for presbyterians, anglicans, methodists and others, with monthly services in Spanish. They also have a burial ground for Scots and English, where Elizabeth Murchland, wife of Walter M’Neill and one of the first settlers, is among those buried there. And still, some of the present-day neighbours of the MacDonalds are descended from among those original colonists.
By the end of the 19th Century there were many Scots in Entre Rios, some of whom were descendants of the colonists of Nueva Escocia. The name of the colony still survives in a small community near the river Uruguay, but it no longer has any connection with Scotland or with those early colonists who gave it that name. But clearly, they and their traditions and values are still alive elsewhere in Entre Rios.
Sources on Both Colonies1841 and 1851 Census Returns for St. Martins, and 1851 Census for Longforgan, Perthshire, New Register House, Edinburgh.
1869 Census for Entre Rios, Argentina, National Archive, Buenos Aires.
Correspondence with Carlos Amarillo, the historian of the MacDonald Family.
Dodds, J.,Records of the Scottish Settlers on the River Plate and Their Churches, 1897, Buenos Aires.
Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae, Church of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Grant, William Denis, A History of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Argentina: Chap. 42, The Interdenominational Church and Chapel at Mandisovi, Province of Entre Rios, 1997. (Pub. In Argentina)
McCorquodale, James, Photocopies of a Diary, 1866, of James McCorquodale on a Voyage of Settlement to Argentina. National Library of Scotland, Acc. 7027.
Morrison, A., Scots in Argentina and Patagonia Austral, 2004, Pub. Privately.
Mulhall, M.G. and E.T., Handbook of the River Plate Republics, 1875, London and Buenos Aires.
Records of St. Andrews Scots Church in Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires.
Records of the Anglican Churches in Concordia and Salto, Buenos Aires.
Registers, General Register House, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Stewart, I. A. D. (Ed.), From Caledonia to the Pampas, 2000, Tuckwell Press. (This book contains Dodds’s list and William Grierson’s journal.
The Baptismal Index of the Scots Church for Entre Rios, Microfilm, Church of Jesus Christ & Latter Day Saints, Utah.
The International Genealogical Index, Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, Utah.
Daniel Mackinlay was one of the children of John Mackinlay and his wife Margaret. The MacKinleys were associated with a farm or small settlement called Blairquhanan in the parish of Kilmoronock in Dunbartonshire. The farmhouse was built in 1728, and on the door lintel there is the inscription W 1728 M, presumably the initials of the builder or of the builder and his wife. By the 1770’s John had moved to London where he became a noted bookbinder and bookseller with premises in Bow Street. John died in London 1821, aged 76, and his wife shortly afterwards, aged 74. Their known children were John, a bookseller, who died in the early 1800‘s; Anna, who married a James Barton in Buenos Aires; Isabella; and Daniel. Birth order and dates of birth are not clear. Daniel was born in London in 1772.
Nothing is yet revealed about Daniel’s early years in London until he married Mary Ann Russell in St. Luke’s Old Street in 1798. Then, in 1802, Daniel, described as a widower, married Hannah Lindo in St. Luke’s Old Street, Finsbury, Middlesex. Hannah was related to a wealthy family of Sephardic Jews who had business interests in the West Indies. Perhaps the marriage was disapproved of by one or both of the families, but later in 1802 Daniel and his new wife were in Buenos Aires. From then on Daniel forged a career as a merchant and landowner.
The early 1800’s in Argentina were uncertain times, with opposition increasing against Spanish colonial rule and a disastrous invasion by British forces. Daniel was one of the many British merchants and their clerks who waited in Montevideo in 1807 for a British takeover of Buenos Aires, becoming a lieutenant in the short-lived Royal British South American Militia. However, following the humiliating defeat of the British army, trade eventually recovered and Daniel prospered so much in the following years that he was able to purchase a fine property in the San Telmo district of Buenos Aires, called the Quinta de los Ingleses, now occupied by the National Museum of History. Like other merchants he invested further in land, becoming joint owner with Thomas Fair of the Estancia El Espartillar, a vast property which following Daniel’s death in 1826 became part of Thomas Fair’s estates.
Daniel was one of the group of wealthy Scottish merchants based in Buenos Aires in the first quarter of the 19th century. Their homeland meant much to them and it is said that Daniel was the proponent of a Scots colony. His idea was carried forward and developed into a practical scheme by John and William Parish Robertson ( William was Daniel’s son-in-law) who bought land south of Buenos Aires and in 1825 brought over two hundred settlers from Scotland to found the famous colony of Monte Grande.
JOHN AND WILLIAM PARISH ROBERTSON
Although John and William Parish Robertson wrote extensively about their experiences in South America, for example, in “Letters on South America”, 1843, reprinted AMS Press,1971, and there are secondary sources on their lives, not much is known about their early years. M.G.Mulhall in his “The English in South America”, Arno Press reprint, 1977, says that John was born in Kelso in 1792, his father assistant-secretary of the Bank of Scotland and his mother, Juliet Parish. Thomas Hudson in “The Honourable Warrior”, Pentland Books, 1971 states that William was the son of Alexander Ravens croft Robertson. Then, William records a visit to Lasswade, stopping at the cottage where his mother and sisters lived, and also calling at Dalkeith school where he spent five years. So, the family seems to have been closely associated with East Lothian and the Borders.
In 1806 John, aged thirteen, apparently served briefly in the Royal Navy during the siege of Monte Video, then worked for four years as a commercial clerk in Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. In 1811 he went to Paraguay, then ruled by the tyrant Francia, and was joined there by his brother William c.1814. After a trading dispute with Francia they were expelled from Paraguay, fleeing to Corrientes in Argentina where they traded in hides. With these experiences behind him John visited Britain in 1817, establishing valuable contacts with merchants in Glasgow, Paisley, London and Manchester. Returning to South America John and his brother traded in Buenos Aires and Peru for seven years. They were very successful, so much so that John returned in his own ship to Greenock ,with a fortune of £100,000. Now he and his brother were to initiate plans for establishing the Scots colony at Monte Grande, recruiting settlers and commissioning the “Symmetry” to take them to their new homeland.
It is said that Daniel Mackinlay proposed the creation of a Scottish colony. Certainly, there was a close group of Scottish merchants in Buenos Aires and the Robertson and Mackinlay families were related through the marriage of Daniel’s daughter, Hannah, to William, so ideas about establishing a colony must have been aired, with perhaps Daniel taking the lead. However, it was the Parish Robertsons who made the investment and carried out the negotiations with the government and with the landowner needed to get the plan approved and the land purchased, near their estancia at Santa Catalina. Daniel could have played little part, for he was to die in 1826. The story of Monte Grande is well-documented elsewhere, but its failure due to civil war and economic depression ruined John’s investment and he returned to Britain in 1830. There he studied at Cambridge University and then retired to the Isle of White to write highly popular accounts of his life and times in Paraguay and Buenos Aires. John died in Calais in 1843, only fifty one years old.
|Author: Arnold Morrison     Email: email@example.com