‘Scottish Memories’ project documents struggles of pioneering generation'
Feb 11, 2014 - Trust, Hanover & Bield housing associations have jointly published a new book documenting the struggles and achievements of older minority ethnic people who came to Scotland as immigrants half a century ago. The ‘Scottish Memories’ book, which was launched at events in Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow contains interviews with men and women who came to Scotland from India, Pakistan, China, Africa and the Caribbean from the late 1940s to the 1960s.
It captures the diverse experiences of people who were part of a pioneering generation that laid the foundations for Scotland’s transformation into a multi-cultural nation. Many arrived with little money, few clothes and unable to speak English and worked long hours as door-to-door pedlars, mill workers, bus conductors, chefs and shopkeepers.
It includes trailblazers such as Scotland’s first black professor; an award-winning research scientist, the first Sikh to work offshore in the North Sea, the first man to win the legal right to wear a turban working on the buses, as well as chefs and restaurateurs who introduced Scots to curries and Chinese food.
Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture & External Affairs who launched the book in Edinburgh said: “I am very struck by the resilience and tenacity displayed by those who have told their stories in this book. Many overcame significant difficulties to make their life here 50 years ago, often under very trying circumstances. Scotland has a large, established migrant community and the Scottish Government welcomes the contribution new Scots are making to our economy and society. Reading through these stories, reminds me how much migrants in Scotland have contributed to our culture and society as well as the skills and work ethic they have brought to our economy and workplace.”
James Dornan MSP for Glasgow Cathcart, said at the Glasgow launch: “In a move that wasn’t easy, these remarkable men and women made their living here, got educated here and have raised their families here. Their contribution to our community, our culture and our public life has made Scotland all the better for it. Immigration Stories is a remarkable piece of work, and praise should go to Trust Housing, Bield Housing and Care, Hanover Housing and the Heritage Lottery Fund for their joint efforts.”
The book is the culmination of a living history project funded by Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) which also involved pupils from Knightswood Secondary in Glasgow and Leith Academy in filmed interviews with older people who feature in the book.
Shona Robison, MSP for Dundee City East and Minster responsible for Commonwealth Games & Sport and Equality, said at the Dundee launch: “Dundee has been enriched over many centuries by immigrants. Their stories can be fascinating; they give us unique and personal insights into other countries, other places and other times. The book captures memories which might otherwise be lost, and it’s been a really valuable exercise.”
Colin McLean, Head of HLF Scotland which funded the Memories Project, said: “Immigration has played an important role in shaping Scotland’s character. This project has brought these stories to life and preserved a unique heritage, letting everyone get involved and share their past.”
Rohini Sharma Joshi, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at Trust Housing Association who led the project, said: “I have been privileged to work with many older people from minority ethnic backgrounds through the Equal Opportunities Programme run by Trust, Hanover & Bield. The project sprang from a realisation that we needed to find a way to share their important stories with a new generation.”
She added: “Many of the people who appear in the book had difficult experiences as newly-arrived immigrants to Scotland and struggled with language, with the cold and finding places to live and work. They worked very hard and have made an important contribution to Scottish life in so many ways. Their experiences seldom appear in official history books so we are delighted to have got the support of Heritage Lottery Fund to capture a vital missing piece of Scottish history.’