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TITLE
What are the similarities/differences between the emigrant experience today/early 19th century? - Margaret Bennett
EXTERNAL ID
AB_SGI_02_MARGARET_BENNETT_Q_05
PLACENAME
Inverness
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
INVERNESS: Inverness and Bona
DATE OF RECORDING
2009
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Margaret Bennett
SOURCE
Am Baile
ASSET ID
41015
KEYWORDS
conferences
emigration
lecturers
audio
audios
emigrantexperience

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As part of Homecoming Scotland 2009, a three-day international conference - Scotland's Global Impact - was held at Eden Court theatre, Inverness from 22-24 October. Prominent academics, historians and other experts came together to provoke healthy discussion on the history of migration and the influence of Scots abroad.

Am Baile interviewed several of the speakers during the conference. In this audio extract, Dr Margaret Bennett answers the question:

'Could you list some of the similarities and differences between the emigrant experience today and, say, the early nineteenth century?'

'The emigrant in, in the nineteenth century - was it the nine, early nineteenth? - usually was going in pretty dire circumstances. A few went voluntarily and for adventure but, for most, it was with the contents of one basic trunk, not just per person, but maybe per family, with, yes, the clothes they wore and a few blankets and very, very few possessions. Probably no money, or very, very little. Possibly with a land grant, however, a promise of land, and for some, the promise of a house, even. For example, the ones who went to Lower Canada were promised a house; that's the ones from Lewis, Harris and Uist, and when they got there that house, as one fellow said, wasn't much of a house, but it was a house; four walls that you would sit and the wind blew through, but, with great hope that they would just make the best of it.

I don't actually think that the nineteenth-century emigrants who left were going out, as some people say, 'I'm going out to make money, to get rich.' As an emigrant I didn't feel that either, I was going out to get rich, I was going for the experience, but I was very much aware in the twentieth century that I was flying out. A few hours later I'd be there. I, yes, I'd packed this one trunk and that was going to do me for a while, but I also knew that most of that was my books, and things that I might need, and although I didn't have, by today's terms, a lot of clothes, I probably had more clothes than I needed. I had a winter's coat - I had to buy another winter coat, mind you, but I knew that I could, because I'd just find myself a job and earn enough money to do that.

My first job in Canada I earned twice what I would have earned in Scotland. I'm not sure that would be the case now, but that was when teachers earned, I think, something like six or seven hundred pounds a year, and I think my first job in Canada I earned about three thousand dollars a year. It was still twice what my sister was earning, and yet the cost of living was a bit higher, and I was also going to be paying fees, or saving up for fees.

The prospects, I think, for the emigrant now are, it's quite different; they know they can come home, generally speaking, unless they're going to be complete wasters and, but I think the ones that go have that initiative, and they are the go-getters, in a sense. I think they tend to be, anyhow. They're not being shoved out because of hardships; they're going because they've seen some prospect, or job, or educational opportunity that interests them, or attracts them. And for some, it is, yes, to, you know, make a lot of money; for others (and I would be in this category) to have an educational opportunity that I really didn't see I was going to find in Scotland, and I don't think I would have found it in Scotland, at that time. And I also knew that it wasn't going to earn me much money. That was a, absolutely not a feature. Folklorists do not get rich because often you don't get funded, the ones who keep working don't get, you know? People might think you do, but you don't actually, you just do it because, you know, it's in the blood. There's a great reward in it that's not a monetary award, it's something else.'


BIOGRAPHY

Dr Margaret Bennett was brought up in the Isles of Skye, Lewis and Shetland. She emigrated to Canada in 1967 as a post-graduate student in Folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland. In 1975 she was Folklorist with The Museum of Civilization's Quebec-Hebridean Project, returning to Scotland in 1976. From 1984 she lectured at the University of Edinburgh, recording oral history and traditions of Scots at home and abroad.

Now part-time at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, her books include 'Scottish Customs from the Cradle to the Grave' (1992) and two prize-winning studies on emigrant traditions, 'The Last Stronghold: Scottish Gaelic Traditions in Newfoundland' (1989) and 'Oatmeal and the Catechism: Scottish Gaelic Settlers in Quebec' (1999).

She features on several CD recordings, has sung at international festivals and has contributed to several theatre productions. In 1998 she received the Master Music Maker Award in celebration of a lifetime of musicianship and teaching, and in 2003, the Celtic Women International award for 'lifelong service to Scottish Culture'. For Homecoming Scotland 2009 she has published a book with double-CD of songs spanning three centuries, 'Dìleab Ailean-A Newfoundland Homecoming Cèilidh' (Grace Note Publications).

Image: Duncan MacNab

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What are the similarities/differences between the emigrant experience today/early 19th century? - Margaret Bennett

INVERNESS: Inverness and Bona

2000s

conferences; emigration; lecturers; audio; audios; emigrantexperience;

Am Baile

Scotland's Global Impact

As part of Homecoming Scotland 2009, a three-day international conference - Scotland's Global Impact - was held at Eden Court theatre, Inverness from 22-24 October. Prominent academics, historians and other experts came together to provoke healthy discussion on the history of migration and the influence of Scots abroad. <br /> <br /> Am Baile interviewed several of the speakers during the conference. In this audio extract, Dr Margaret Bennett answers the question:<br /> <br /> 'Could you list some of the similarities and differences between the emigrant experience today and, say, the early nineteenth century?' <br /> <br /> 'The emigrant in, in the nineteenth century - was it the nine, early nineteenth? - usually was going in pretty dire circumstances. A few went voluntarily and for adventure but, for most, it was with the contents of one basic trunk, not just per person, but maybe per family, with, yes, the clothes they wore and a few blankets and very, very few possessions. Probably no money, or very, very little. Possibly with a land grant, however, a promise of land, and for some, the promise of a house, even. For example, the ones who went to Lower Canada were promised a house; that's the ones from Lewis, Harris and Uist, and when they got there that house, as one fellow said, wasn't much of a house, but it was a house; four walls that you would sit and the wind blew through, but, with great hope that they would just make the best of it. <br /> <br /> I don't actually think that the nineteenth-century emigrants who left were going out, as some people say, 'I'm going out to make money, to get rich.' As an emigrant I didn't feel that either, I was going out to get rich, I was going for the experience, but I was very much aware in the twentieth century that I was flying out. A few hours later I'd be there. I, yes, I'd packed this one trunk and that was going to do me for a while, but I also knew that most of that was my books, and things that I might need, and although I didn't have, by today's terms, a lot of clothes, I probably had more clothes than I needed. I had a winter's coat - I had to buy another winter coat, mind you, but I knew that I could, because I'd just find myself a job and earn enough money to do that. <br /> <br /> My first job in Canada I earned twice what I would have earned in Scotland. I'm not sure that would be the case now, but that was when teachers earned, I think, something like six or seven hundred pounds a year, and I think my first job in Canada I earned about three thousand dollars a year. It was still twice what my sister was earning, and yet the cost of living was a bit higher, and I was also going to be paying fees, or saving up for fees. <br /> <br /> The prospects, I think, for the emigrant now are, it's quite different; they know they can come home, generally speaking, unless they're going to be complete wasters and, but I think the ones that go have that initiative, and they are the go-getters, in a sense. I think they tend to be, anyhow. They're not being shoved out because of hardships; they're going because they've seen some prospect, or job, or educational opportunity that interests them, or attracts them. And for some, it is, yes, to, you know, make a lot of money; for others (and I would be in this category) to have an educational opportunity that I really didn't see I was going to find in Scotland, and I don't think I would have found it in Scotland, at that time. And I also knew that it wasn't going to earn me much money. That was a, absolutely not a feature. Folklorists do not get rich because often you don't get funded, the ones who keep working don't get, you know? People might think you do, but you don't actually, you just do it because, you know, it's in the blood. There's a great reward in it that's not a monetary award, it's something else.'<br /> <br /> <br /> BIOGRAPHY<br /> <br /> Dr Margaret Bennett was brought up in the Isles of Skye, Lewis and Shetland. She emigrated to Canada in 1967 as a post-graduate student in Folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland. In 1975 she was Folklorist with The Museum of Civilization's Quebec-Hebridean Project, returning to Scotland in 1976. From 1984 she lectured at the University of Edinburgh, recording oral history and traditions of Scots at home and abroad. <br /> <br /> Now part-time at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, her books include 'Scottish Customs from the Cradle to the Grave' (1992) and two prize-winning studies on emigrant traditions, 'The Last Stronghold: Scottish Gaelic Traditions in Newfoundland' (1989) and 'Oatmeal and the Catechism: Scottish Gaelic Settlers in Quebec' (1999). <br /> <br /> She features on several CD recordings, has sung at international festivals and has contributed to several theatre productions. In 1998 she received the Master Music Maker Award in celebration of a lifetime of musicianship and teaching, and in 2003, the Celtic Women International award for 'lifelong service to Scottish Culture'. For Homecoming Scotland 2009 she has published a book with double-CD of songs spanning three centuries, 'Dìleab Ailean-A Newfoundland Homecoming Cèilidh' (Grace Note Publications).<br /> <br /> Image: Duncan MacNab