Making Home in a Sojourner World: Organised Ethnicity and British Associationalism in Singapore, c1880s-1930s

This article was been publised by Edinburgh University Press, journal Britain and the World, volume 9, issue 2. The online version of this article linked below is published as Open Access under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence. Click here for publisher's website


We cam’ awa’ frae Brig o’ Doon,
We cam’ awa’ frae Skye,
We cam’ awa’ frae Glascae toon,
An’ ither pairts forbye.
We lep’ frae crag to crag at hame,
An’ hoos'd in caves on hills.
We left to exchange banks an’ braes
For Exchange Banks an’ Bills.

Published in the Singapore Free Press—a newspaper founded in 1835 by a quartet of British businessmen—on Christmas Eve in 1909, this spirited verse, an ‘Echo of the St Andrew's Day Dinner’, was submitted to the paper by a representative of a fledgling Singapore-based Scottish association.2 Founded only one year previously, and thus at a late stage compared to developments in the Scottish community elsewhere in Asia,3 the island's St Andrew's Society (StAS) offered the sizable number of Scots residing in Singapore a home from home, a space for coming together with their compatriots. The 1909 verse, thick with Scots tongue, poetically recalled the Scots’ journey from the land of their birth, a place of ‘caves on hills’, to Singapore, a place of ‘Exchange Banks’. The words spoke of the shared experience of relocation, but also the importance of unity and kinship in the new place of residence—the latter being critical components in the migration pathways of many migrants in diverse locations around the world. In fact, while sentimental attachments to the old world and the desire to invoke old homeland culture and customs through such gatherings and shared cultural markers such as traditional food or dress were critical motivations for migrant groups to come together collectively ....

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