The City of Manchester and all its constituent parts have always been cosmopolitan in nature, and proud of its mixed inheritance. Amongst the businessmen, politicians, industrialists, artists, writers and artisans who came to Manchester in the late Georgian period, were the Scots.
Typically young men who struck out on their own, walking miles every day, working as they travelled, or sons who were financed by their farmer-fathers, who travelled on the mail coaches and used the overnight stops to make new acquaintances and to learn more about their intended destinations, these were the educated and ambitious young men who arrived at this place – not then a city – which was small but busy and vibrant, dirty and smelly where factory chimneys blackened the skies, and cramped where warehouses, people and traffic all jostled for space. A hive of industry. A place of opportunity.
The traffic was multi-directional. Younger sons of Manchester were sent to the continent to widen their education and to make business contacts, younger sons of German financiers came to Manchester to see if they could make good investments for their fathers. Established industrialists went to Scotland to build factories and install machinery; established farmers and merchants in Scotland sent their sons to Manchester to gain experience, to see what they could do, to find new opportunities, perhaps to find a niche in the cotton textile industry.
We are just a bit different, we look for Scottish origins in the homeland, of course, but it is often the case that they are difficult to find because, somewhere along the line, those ancestors chose to tread new paths. Some of our Scottish families have been in the north of England for so many generations that it seems impossible to link them with their Scottish namesakes. It often seems that every person can trace their own lines back a few generations, can find ancestral cousins aplenty, but that the one common ancestral couple who were born in Scotland, the founders of these dynasties, remain elusive, hidden in the mists of time.
This is our focus, the movement of people between Scotland and Manchester and the wider area of Lancashire and its adjacent counties. Our ‘bricks and mortar home’ is Manchester Central Library, where we meet and research, but we research against a background of centuries of population diaspora.
There is another area of research that is very relevant to us, the movement of people between Ireland and Scotland over the centuries. Whether it was religious upheavals, clearances, plantations or just the good old-fashioned desire to improve one’s station in life, families crossed from Ireland to Scotland and from Scotland to Ireland, sometimes having family settled in both countries. A family that has roots in Ireland going back over two hundred years might have their earlier roots in the Scottish lowlands. To find out more about these connections we have recently invited some excellent speakers to elaborate on this aspect of Scottish history, and this has proved very popular with our members.