In the late 1840s migrants from Scotland poured into New Zealand’s deep south, looking to build a devout Presbyterian settlement untrammelled by the schism that had ripped the Church of Scotland asunder, unbothered by the social upheavals of the Industrial Revolution.
It didn’t work. When they arrived, they discovered the Anglicans – the ‘little enemy’, as they called them - had got there first. The Scots also brought their social problems with them. And then the gold miners arrived, with their rough and rouse-about life, sending shivers up the spines of the more God-fearing Dunedinites.
Still, there were some compensations. After travelling half way around the world, they found their little corner of New Zealand was altogether familiar. I covered that story in a book I wrote a few years ago for Penguin, Old South. But what I didn’t mention there was just how awesome that landscape is.
Not surprising in a way; similar latitude, similar geography and similar climate combined to make things – well, similar. Shortly intensified by the settler effort to import every plant and animal they could find. Including deer, rabbits and – if urban legend is anything to go by – at least one puma.
Today, Southland and Otago are the only parts of New Zealand to have any trace of a regional accent – a slightly rounded ‘r’. Nobody outside New Zealand would likely spot it amidst the universal ‘I’ll have sux fush and a scoop of chups, eh’. But that slight ‘Southland burr’ is definitely there – a legacy of that old Scottish heritage. Cool.
Are there any places you know of that are weirdly similar – despite being geographically distant? Is there any landscape you’ve found that’s totally awesome? I’d love to hear from you.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013