Scottish history in South Africa
Did you know?
Some South African place names that have Scottish origins include Aberdeen in the Eastern Cape, Balgowan and Dundee in KwaZulu-Natal, Balmoral and
Blairgowrie in Gauteng, Balfour (formerly ‘McHattiesburg’) in Mpumalanga, Orkney in the North West Province, Campbell and Sutherland in the Northern Cape, and Elgin, Gordon's Bay, McGregor and Napier in the Western Cape.
There’s a little corner of Scotland at the southern tip of the Drakensberg tail, between the Eastern Cape villages of Lady Grey and Barkly East.
On an autumn morning, with the chill of winter not quite gone from these mountains, you stand in the stream waters in your waders and cast out for wild trout or yellowfish. Around you are farms and lakes and towns and resorts named Tiffendell, Loch Ness, Carlisle’s Corner, Rosstrevor and Balloch. The grasses and heathers and craggy mien of the mountains and the single malt whisky in the trout lodge at the day’s end all favour a Scottish setting.
And it just gets better. Around you are ancient caves full of ancient San art. The livestock trails leading into and out of nearby Lesotho pass here. A Verreaux’s eagle calls from the rocky outcrops. It might feel like Scotland, but it’s really Africa. What a combination.
Scottish people in South Africa have been an integral part of the national DNA for centuries. They came with their road-building expertise, their evangelism, their disciplines, their farming experience, their incredible architectural skills and all the craft and inventiveness that infuse the Scottish identity.
Caledonian societies, Highland dancing, Freemason groups, pipe bands, military tattoos, Burns Night, chasing the haggis around the room and eating it and glorious whisky-tasting evenings are all part of the Scottish experience in South Africa. The Scots culture is so colourful and interesting that many non-Scots often join them in celebrations.
Many Scottish visitors to South Africa pay a short but emotional visit to the Magersfontein battle site near Kimberley, where more than 300 soldiers of the 2nd Battalion of the Black Watch were killed, wounded or listed as missing during the South African War (also known as the Anglo-Boer War). The site is said to be haunted to this day by a young Scottish piper, playing his lonely, soul-tugging pipes atop a koppie (small South African hill).
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Federated Caledonian Societies of South Africa
How to get here
Check the listed websites for Scottish gatherings and festivals in South Africa.
Tours to do
Kimberley Tourism will help you with trips to the Magersfontein battle site.
If you are of Scottish origin, then the various Caledonian Societies in South Africa will invariably take care of you.
What to eat
Haggis made in South Africa, especially on Burn's Night (25 January).