COLUMN | And the 2023 Voice Award goes to…the Scots! [An Innocent Australian]

The famed ocean clipper Cutty Sark, now preserved as a museum ship in Greenwich, UK (Photo: Royal Museums Greenwich)

For sure, if there was an award for the nation who contributed the most to Australia, it would definitely go to the Scots!

For us to play a key part in the future decision-making of this nation, yes, again it would go to the Scots, based on their proven track record.

The Scots’ infiltration of the globe started in the early 1800s with Thomas Cochrane, a cavalier Scottish Naval Officer who performed brilliantly against the French and Spanish navies, becoming the source of C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower and the movie, Master and Commander. The aristocratic heads of the Royal Navy did not view the outspoken Scot well, so he pursued his military talents in Peru and Chile, freeing them from Spanish rule and then freeing Brazil from Portuguese rule.

We Scots sent Christian missionaries to many parts of the world a couple of centuries ago. Admittedly, some south seas nations such as PNG found us more “delicious” rather than educational.

David Livingstone for instance, in the 1800s for 30 years, added immense value to Africa as a missionary, a medical doctor, and an explorer. You should study his maps on the wall at the Livingstone Hotel beside the Victoria Waterfall on the Zambezi River. These maps show his meandering exploration of Africa, with many sites marked “untrustworthy natives here”

The Scots Presbyterian Church in the 1800s sent hundreds of families to establish the South Island of New Zealand, centred in “Dunedin”, which is Gaelic for Edinburgh.

Wander through the Otago museum in Dunedin and you will see photos of the small grass huts of the few local Moaris left remaining from being ravaged by disease and musket wars, who were braving the cold when the Scots arrived in 1848. Unkind commentators would say that it was only the Scots that were stupid enough to go and develop a cold, windy place where no-one else wanted to live, but within a few years, there were proper buildings, houses, schools, stores, and churches with windows and roofs. All kids including the locals went to school and were educated in a values-based, Christian teaching, including that of respect.

“The ships used in the settlement of Australia, New Zealand, and the South West Pacific were mostly built in Scotland.”

At the same time in Australia, churches of all denominations were expanding in all states. Closely examine the historical records of these missions that identified protection of aboriginal communities as one key function – not just from angry white settlers with rifles, but also from themselves, as tribal quarrels were rife, yes and still are.

A reminder: “The Church is the only Society that exists for the benefit of non-members”

The ships used in the settlement of Australia, New Zealand, and the South West Pacific were mostly built in Scotland. The famous clipper Cutty Sark held the record for fast ocean transits, carrying wool from the emerging nation of Australia back to the UK.

Meanwhile, back in Scotland, where the population still is and was at the time, 10 per cent of their English neighbours, the Scots were boxing above their weight inventing the steam engine, the inflatable tyre, and tar-sealed roads.

Also in the latter 1800s, Thomas Blake Glover, a Scotsman in Japan, was instrumental in establishing the giant Mitsubishi Engineering company, as well as Japan Railways and Kirin Beer. This Scottish Samurai had the greatest effect on modern industrialised Japan. The Last Samurai movie was about the events at that time and place. His home, now called the Glover Gardens, is close to his burial place at Sakamoto Cemetery in Nagasaki.

At the same time, author Robert Louis Stevenson was out in Samoa writing classics such as Treasure Island and Kidnapped and his body still lies on Mount Vaea overlooking Vailima.

In the following century, the Scots’ inventions of penicillin (Alexander Fleming), the telephone (Alexander Graham Bell), and the television (Logie Baird) assisted greatly in medicine and communications for regional and remote Australia.

“Only work creates wealth and a healthy community, nothing else.”

So why am I telling you how wonderful the Scots are?

As a constant travelling Scottish history enthusiast, I have stood beside the statues and portraits of Livingstone in Africa, Glover in Japan, and Cochrane in South America, and I come from the same small town in Scotland as Logie Baird and Alexander Fleming, and I proudly reflect that all those nations benefitted greatly from the Scots.

My own endeavours in assisting Aboriginal communities throughout the Department of Aboriginal Affairs (DAA) and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) were an eye-opener, both good and bad (You can read my columns of that period here on Baird Maritime.). I was a key part in the 30-year Mawa success story in the small transhipping port of Bing Bong, NT.

Now the slack leaders of Cape York communities – whom I know, used to like and respect – are singing along with our misguided Prime Minister, claiming “We can make things right” with the Voice and that those white invaders, yes including the Scots, “Don’t care.”

I’ll care about the greenhouse gases when the misinformed green ecoterrorists, who have pervaded every level of our government and are deeply concerned about rare species of everything except our youth, do something constructive. Our kids, including our aboriginal kids, need jobs, not mental health centres or handouts. They need to learn how to work.

Only work creates wealth and a healthy community, nothing else.

I’ll care when our leaders wake up to the fact that building solar farms and wind turbine highways the size of Victoria around our nation will not reduce our power bills, or allow us to manufacture anything.

After naming Perth, the Stuart Highway, the MacDonnell ranges, Campbelltown, Fraser Island, and hundreds of other famous Scottish named landmarks, including many eateries, we Scots don’t need any further thanks, neither do we need castigating.

Should our well-recognised towns and islands be renamed by faceless bureaucrats in an effort to change history? Captain Jamie Fraser and Eliza Fraser were shipwrecked on an island where he died but she continued to live for a few weeks. Was the island named after him, a well-esteemed master mariner? Or was it named after Eliza and her scribblings? Ian Frazer, the Scottish inventor of a cancer vaccine, deserves to have an island named after him, so a one-letter change wouldn’t be as confusing. Let’s call it Frazer Island.

The decline of Christian church attendance in Australia including those in aboriginal communities is inversely proportional to the increase in crime, domestic violence, and drug abuse. Go Figure!

I am an Australian who was born in Scotland. My sons are Australian, as are my grandchildren. That goes for my mates, John the Pom, Gino from Italy, Horst from Germany, Jan from Holland, Robbie from Ireland, Nick from Greece, and Brother Brian my aboriginal mate from Redfern. We are all focused on our Australia, this great land where our parents chose to settle – and no, we don’t need any group to have the last word in our future.

Stuart Ballantyne

Active naval architect and vessel operator, Stuart is your first port of call for musings on vessel design and operation, and is a staunch proponent of improved passenger vessel safety.