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TITLE
What would you put in your emigrant's kist? - Jim Hunter
EXTERNAL ID
AB_SGI_03_JIM_HUNTER_Q_06
PLACENAME
Inverness
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
INVERNESS: Inverness and Bona
DATE OF RECORDING
2009
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Jim Hunter
SOURCE
Am Baile
ASSET ID
41024
KEYWORDS
conferences
emigration
lecturers
audio
audios
emigrantkist

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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, Professor Jim Hunter answers the question:

'If you were emigrating today and your luggage restriction was a typical emigrant's kist what would you put in it?' (A typical kist would be approx. 96cm x 51cm x 56cm.)

'I suppose again, of course, there's a big difference in that an awful lot of the people that I'm talking about leaving the Highlands, they would actually been rather lucky if they could actually fill the kist, from whatever possessions they possessed because often they possessed almost none. There's an account of the Poor Law Commission going to Skye, even before the potato famine, and they do an inventory of people's houses, and I can think of one in, that they did in some - a crofter called Murdo MacLeod I think his name was, near Dunvegan - and they write that he had sort of half of an old blanket and a spoon and half a dish, and, and something akin to a bed, but not of any great consequence. And they list all his possessions and that was about it. And you don't, you know today you would only find that really appalling poverty in the worst sort of situated parts of Africa, say, and, but these folk didn't have an awful lot to put in a kist. You know, better situated people, of course, going from Scotland would have, would have rather more.

I suppose, I don't know, is the short answer. Well, I guess it's a bit like Desert Island Discs? I guess...

Interviewer: It is, a bit.

...if you were, if you were thinking of, if you were thinking of this practically, depending on where you were going, you would want to take some things that would be of use to you. And again, in the past, it's noticeable that, you know, because people going to Canada, say, they knew they might have to cut down trees; they often took saws and axes. And I think, I don't know that you would need saws and axes today, if you were going to Canada, but, but it would be worth thinking about just what would be practically useful, so I would perhaps try to think, try to think of that. I'd also like to take a few books, needless to say.

Interviewer: And if you weren't coming back you'd maybe want to take things like photographs, or?

Yes. That's a, well that's a very good point. You would certainly want to do that; you would want to take mementoes of your family. Again, that's perhaps a difference between emigration nowadays and in the past; from the Highlands in the past, well up to about the middle of the nineteenth century, emigrants went out in whole family groups, even almost whole communities on some occasions so it would, it would be, you know, parents, children, even grandparents. Some of the emigrants who left the Highlands, you know, it's quite astonishing really; some of them were eighty or ninety years old! And, you, you know, whereas in more recent times emigration tends to involve not whole families but just individual people, often, usually, not always, obviously, but as a sweeping generalisation the emigrants today are mostly fairly young, but in the past they were, they came in all shapes and sizes.

Interviewer: Mmm-hmm.'


BIOGRAPHY

Professor James Hunter CBE FRSE is director of the Dornoch-based UHI Centre for History, UHI being the prospective University of the Highlands and Islands. The author of eleven books on Highlands and Islands themes, he has also been active in the public life of the region. In the mid-1980s he became the first director of the Scottish Crofters Union, now the Scottish Crofting Foundation. More recently he was chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the north of Scotland's development agency. In the course of a varied career, Jim has also been a journalist and broadcaster. He is presently a board member of Scottish Natural Heritage and chairs SNH's Scientific Advisory Committee.

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What would you put in your emigrant's kist? - Jim Hunter

INVERNESS: Inverness and Bona

2000s

conferences; emigration; lecturers; audio; audios; emigrantkist;

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, Professor Jim Hunter answers the question:<br /> <br /> 'If you were emigrating today and your luggage restriction was a typical emigrant's kist what would you put in it?' (A typical kist would be approx. 96cm x 51cm x 56cm.)<br /> <br /> 'I suppose again, of course, there's a big difference in that an awful lot of the people that I'm talking about leaving the Highlands, they would actually been rather lucky if they could actually fill the kist, from whatever possessions they possessed because often they possessed almost none. There's an account of the Poor Law Commission going to Skye, even before the potato famine, and they do an inventory of people's houses, and I can think of one in, that they did in some - a crofter called Murdo MacLeod I think his name was, near Dunvegan - and they write that he had sort of half of an old blanket and a spoon and half a dish, and, and something akin to a bed, but not of any great consequence. And they list all his possessions and that was about it. And you don't, you know today you would only find that really appalling poverty in the worst sort of situated parts of Africa, say, and, but these folk didn't have an awful lot to put in a kist. You know, better situated people, of course, going from Scotland would have, would have rather more.<br /> <br /> I suppose, I don't know, is the short answer. Well, I guess it's a bit like Desert Island Discs? I guess...<br /> <br /> Interviewer: It is, a bit.<br /> <br /> ...if you were, if you were thinking of, if you were thinking of this practically, depending on where you were going, you would want to take some things that would be of use to you. And again, in the past, it's noticeable that, you know, because people going to Canada, say, they knew they might have to cut down trees; they often took saws and axes. And I think, I don't know that you would need saws and axes today, if you were going to Canada, but, but it would be worth thinking about just what would be practically useful, so I would perhaps try to think, try to think of that. I'd also like to take a few books, needless to say.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: And if you weren't coming back you'd maybe want to take things like photographs, or?<br /> <br /> Yes. That's a, well that's a very good point. You would certainly want to do that; you would want to take mementoes of your family. Again, that's perhaps a difference between emigration nowadays and in the past; from the Highlands in the past, well up to about the middle of the nineteenth century, emigrants went out in whole family groups, even almost whole communities on some occasions so it would, it would be, you know, parents, children, even grandparents. Some of the emigrants who left the Highlands, you know, it's quite astonishing really; some of them were eighty or ninety years old! And, you, you know, whereas in more recent times emigration tends to involve not whole families but just individual people, often, usually, not always, obviously, but as a sweeping generalisation the emigrants today are mostly fairly young, but in the past they were, they came in all shapes and sizes.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: Mmm-hmm.'<br /> <br /> <br /> BIOGRAPHY<br /> <br /> Professor James Hunter CBE FRSE is director of the Dornoch-based UHI Centre for History, UHI being the prospective University of the Highlands and Islands. The author of eleven books on Highlands and Islands themes, he has also been active in the public life of the region. In the mid-1980s he became the first director of the Scottish Crofters Union, now the Scottish Crofting Foundation. More recently he was chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the north of Scotland's development agency. In the course of a varied career, Jim has also been a journalist and broadcaster. He is presently a board member of Scottish Natural Heritage and chairs SNH's Scientific Advisory Committee.