The Orcadian Odyssey: The Migration of Orkney Islanders to New Zealand 1848-1914 with particular reference to the South Island

by Jill Harland

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Keywords: Orkney; migration; diaspora; New Zealand settlement; island study; New Zealand migration; Orkney history; Scottish history; Shetland migration; Caithness migration; New Zealand South Island; New Zealand pioneers; comparative New Zealand Australia migration; Orcadians North America
Record ID: 1313117
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/4857


New Zealand is a relatively young country when a comparison is made on early settlement patterns and trends for Australia and Canada. As a consequence, historiography focusing on the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries reflects the dominance of significant numbers of pioneer settlers from England, Scotland and Ireland. The focus for some time has been on quantitative studies that provide a clearer perspective on migrants who were an integral part of the diaspora by virtue of their sheer numbers and mass exodus from the homeland. It is therefore, not surprising that small cluster groups from Orkney and to a lesser extent Shetland in northern Scotland, have ‘slipped through the net’ of Scottish migration studies. This dissertation aims to readdress this oversight and bridge the lacuna that exists for all aspects of Orcadian migration and settlement in the South Island of New Zealand while also providing relevant evidence for Shetland and the Scottish mainland. A decision was also made by the author to include contrastive chapters on both Australia and North America to further develop the Orcadian experience of migration in the nineteenth century. In part this is a restorative history that celebrates the valuable contributions made by kinship cluster groups from Orkney to New Zealand’s early infrastructure. For this purpose a qualitative, longitudinal study was adopted that reflects the contemporary focus for transnational research in preference to the now outdated analysis of diasporic consciousness. Using the contemporary multi-faceted definition of diaspora, does not effectively describe the Orcadian experience. The migration of Orkney men and women over multiple colonial destinations can more accurately and sensitively be interpreted as an odyssey, due also to the multiple geographical locations undertaken prior to final destination. The relatively new discipline of Island Studies has also enabled archipelagos such as Orkney and Shetland to be compared to each other rather than to nearby countries and land masses. The latter has revealed the existence of individual island loyalties that transcend both time and place and provide for more accurate interpretation of migratory patterns adopted in the new settlement. Kinship membership and affiliation, intensified by intermarriage between and within Orcadian families, allowed for the migration of small cluster groups to colonial destinations that were totally dependent on continued chain migration.