IN this, the third of a four-part series on migration and its effects on Scotland, I will be turning to immigration, which, in the immortal words of the late great William McIlvanney on Democracy Day in 1992, has made us this “mongrel nation”.

Unless you are a pure-bred Pict who can trace an unbroken line back to the Bronze Age without any intermarriage with other peoples, and I doubt such a person exists, then you are part of that mongrel nation. Sure, there are many Scottish families and clans who can look back on a long and ancient lineage, but look hard enough and you will find that they all had antecedents furth of these borders, or married into other tribes and peoples.

Let’s take a few quick examples of well known Scottish names: Fleming, the name of people from Flanders, many of whom settled in Scotland during the reign of King David I (1124-1153); Wallace, a name meaning a Welsh or foreign person from the ancient Kingdom of Strathclyde between the third and eighth centuries.

Stewart is a name which comes from Old English and which was adopted by Scots from the 12th century onwards after English-born Walter FitzAlan became the High Steward of Scotland around about the year 1150 – the change to Stuart happened only after Mary, Queen of Scots, used the French spelling; Bruce, name of our legendary King Robert I, derives from Brix in Normandy in France from where his ancestors came to Scotland via England and took the name de Brus. In other words, all these great Scottish names came from elsewhere.

Before starting this column on the single greatest wave of immigration into Scotland – from Ireland in the 19th century – let me ask you not to forget that the original Scots themselves were immigrants who came from Ireland to settle on the west coast of Scotland before joining with the Picts to forge the nation that became Scotland.

Scandinavians and Anglo-Saxons made their home here, and many English and Irish incomers were immigrants to Scotland over the centuries, and that was long before the Act of Union.

This week I will deal with the issue of Irish Catholic immigration into Scotland. Next week I will look at the Irish Protestant immigration and the modern history of the late 19th and 20th century immigration by peoples such as the Italians and Asians, and show how that has changed Scotland.

Over the past two columns I have dealt with the subject of emigration by Scots to many countries around the world from 1750 onwards, and I more and more agree with the conclusions of Scotland’s pre-eminent historian Professor Sir Tom Devine that, apart from the enforced Clearances, the biggest driver of emigration was the culture of Scots moving abroad to improve themselves.

As he put it: “Overwhelmingly in the 19th century and into the 20th century, Scottish emigration was mobilised by the desire for upward social mobility, by the desire for more success.”

For the Catholic Irish who came to Scotland in the middle of the 19th century, it was not a case of self-improvement but survival. The single biggest influx came with the Great Potato Famine, An Gorta Mor, in the 1840s which, as we have seen recently, had its own mirror-image in Scotland, though never on the scale of death, disease, hunger and forced emigration that was suffered in Ireland.

Scotland was already experiencing immigration from Ireland before An Gorta Mor, the first wave in the 19th century mainly going to rural areas and becoming quite assimilated. Yet the numbers grew rapidly during the course of the Famine and afterwards, and this time it was to the cities, such as Glasgow and Dundee, and the large towns which were developing through industrialisation.

By the 1850s, as quoted by Devine in his seminal work The Scottish Nation: A Modern History, there were around a quarter of a million Irish-born people in Scotland, the vast majority of them Catholics. To put that in Irish perspective, that was a tiny amount – less than 10% – of those who emigrated from Ireland in the middle of the 19th century.

DEVINE’S hunt through the 1851 census shows that people born in Ireland did make up a greater percentage of the population of Scotland than they did in England, but it was only 7.2% compared to 2.9% in England and Wales.

The nature of immigration from Ireland was almost routine. Men would come to work as labourers or semi-skilled workmen in industries such as mining, and perhaps the greatest number were unskilled “navvies” – short for navigators – who built the infrastructure of Victorian Scotland, namely the canals, railways, bridges and roads. Many of the original Irish immigrants were in traditional trades such as weaving, but the rapid industrialisation of Scotland needed a new source of cheap labour and Ireland supplied it.

The workmen would either bring their families or send for them soon after arriving, and as was the nature of Scottish emigration, word would be sent back home that if Scotland wasn’t exactly swimming in milk and honey, it certainly had more going for it than Ireland, especially after the Famine all but destroyed the Irish economy.

The problem for Irish Catholics arriving in Scotland in the 19th and early 20th centuries was their religion. There were many tolerant Scots in the post-Enlightenment era, but they were far outnumbered by adherents to the Presbyterian churches who saw “Popery” as a sin and who were determined to resist any influx of Catholicism. The Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 should have reduced the opposition to Irish Catholicism, but it was opposed by Presbyteries, such as Glasgow.

The fact churches, chapels and other Catholic enclaves sprung up in west central Scotland was not due to their fellow Christians but to the Irish immigrant communities digging deep to support them, as they did the various schools which were constructed to allow at least some education.

It was probably just as well that the Presbyterians were too busy fighting among themselves, leading to the Great Disruption of 1843, for a united force against Irish Catholic immigration at that time might have stopped the flow. Indeed, Devine has shown that 47,000 Irish paupers were sent back to Ireland between 1845 and 1854.

Yet Irish Catholic immigrants continued to arrive and developed a culture and a community spirit all of their own. The Catholic Church sent Irish priests to minister to their people, and two of them set up football clubs which were to become symbols of their Scots-Irish communities – Canon Hannan’s Hibernians (the name changed later to Hibernian) and Brother Walfrid’s Glasgow Celtic. Wonder what happened to them?

The demand for education grew apace, especially after the 1872 Education Act made the teaching of children compulsory – Catholics had no access to public funds but set up a remarkable fund-raising campaign which lasted until the 1918 Education Act finally gave free education to all.

MEANWHILE, people from Ireland or descended from Irish immigrants began to make their mark on society, mainly through political agitation. James Connolly from Edinburgh was a socialist trade union leader who, like many people of Irish extraction, supported the case for Home Rule in Ireland. It would cost him his life, executed by the British for his role in the 1916 Easter Rising.

Others found a natural home in the trade union and labour movement, and for a while there were strong links between Scottish socialists and the Irish independence campaigners, though this fell away after the creation of the Free State and the Irish Civil War.

Though many Irishmen and Scots of Irish extraction fought in the First World War, the Easter Rising, the Education Act and the creation of the Free State brought the Catholic community great opprobrium and proved there was still huge opposition to the integration of Irish Catholics into Scottish society.

Though some ministers decried it, a report to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1923 summed up the feelings of many Scottish Protestants. It spoke of the “alarm and anxiety” which “have been occasioned by the incursion into Scotland of a large Irish Roman Catholic population”.

It went on: “The question of the Scottish Roman Catholic population has not arisen, nor is there any reason why it should arise. They have a right to call Scotland their country, in common with their fellow-countrymen of the Protestant faith.

“Nor is there any complaint of the presence of an Orange population in Scotland. They are of the same race as ourselves and the same faith, and are readily assimilated to the Scottish population.”

The Committee which made the report was clear about the “problem” – the Irish Roman Catholic population in Scotland. The report added: “They cannot be assimilated and absorbed into the Scottish race.

“They remain a people by themselves, segregated by reason of their race, their customs, their traditions, and, above all, by their loyalty to their Church, and gradually and inevitably dividing Scotland, racially, socially, and ecclesiastically.”

They marshalled facts and figures for their argument: “In the twenty years, 1901 to 1921, the Irish population increased by 39%, while the Scottish population increased by only 6%. That is to say, that from 1881 to 1901 the increase of the Irish population was nearly twice as great as that of the Scottish population, and from 1901 to 1921 the increase of the Irish population was six times as great as that of the Scottish population.”

They were very worried that people of Irish Catholic extraction were becoming too successful: “Even now the Irish population exercise a profound influence on the direction and development of our Scottish civilisation. Their gift of speech, their aptitude for public life, their restless ambition to rule, have given them a prominent place in political, county, municipal, and parochial elections.”

The report concluded: “Fusion of the Scottish and the Irish races in Scotland – just as it was in Ireland – will remain an impossibility. The Irish are the most obedient children of the Church of Rome; the Scots stubbornly adhere to the principles of the Reformed Faith.

“The Irish have separate schools for their children; they have their own clubs for recreation and for social intercourse; they tend to segregate in communities, and even to monopolise certain departments of labour to the exclusion of the Scots.

“Already there is bitter feeling among the Scottish working classes against the Irish intruders. “As the latter increase, and the Scottish people realise the seriousness of the menace to their own racial supremacy in their native land, this bitterness will develop into a race antagonism, which will have disastrous consequences.”

How very Christian. This was a diatribe inspired by bigotry and was already out of date by the time it was printed. Next week I will show how it helped sponsor sectarianism.

In the meantime, I repeat my question to all Scottish Catholics, especially those Better Together Labour supporters. You live in an institutionally sectarian country which, in the words of the Act of Union, prohibits Papists from ever gaining the Crown. How can you support such a Union?