on the Symmetry
The sailing ship Symmetry, commanded by Captain Samuel Smith,
sailed from Leith on Sunday 22 May 1825 carrying 220 prospective
colonists, comprising 45 couples, 42 bachelors, 14 single women
and 79 children (see
James Dodds’s Passengers List). After stopping
at the Canary Islands, she arrived at Buenos Ayres on 8 Aug 1825.
The colonists set up the first Scottish settlement at Monte Grande
under the patronage of John and William Parish Robertson and were
responsible for revolutionizing farming and food supplies to the
In addition to the Scots, some specialists were recruited from
further afield. The six bricklayers came from London, as did architect
Richard Adams and his family, and one of the surveyors, James Parris
Fisher, hailed from Lynn Regis in Dorset.
Symmetry at Porto Santo, Madeiras
drawn by Richard Adams. From Lloyd`s List, Symmetry:
Copper sheathed, 3 masted
square rigged ship of 382 tons. Single main deck with beams. Drew
18 feet of water when loaded. Registered at Scarborough in 1823.
Owned by Tindles. Classified A1.
First Scots in Argentina
Arrival of the Symmetry
The history of the Scottish community in Argentina, goes back
to the first Scottish colonists who arrived on the sailing ship
Symmetry. This ship sailed form Leith, Scotland on the 22nd May
1825, and arrived 78 days later in Buenos Aires on 8th August 1825.
This sailing ship was commanded by Captain Smith, and carried 220
colonists which consisted of 45 married couples, 42 single men,
14 single women and 79 children.
In Mr. James Dodds’ “Records of the Scottish Settlers
in the River Plate and their Churches” he relates that when
the ship arrived in Buenos Aires “the colonists were much
surprised and amused at the primitive mode of landing from boats
in queerlooking horse carts with large wooden axles and most enormous
wheels, so high that the spokes were about eight feet in diameter,
towering above both horses and driver, who is seated on one of the
In addition to the Scots, there were some English people on the
ship. The six bricklayers came from London, as well as architect
Richard Adams and his family, and one of the surveyors, James Parris
Fisher, came from Lynn Regis in Dorset. Mr. Dodds names the Captain
as William Cochrane but according to Ms. Cecilia Grierson, Cochrane
was the normal captain of the Symmetry but was replaced by Captain
Smith for this particular voyage. Captain Smith’s name is
recorded as the Captain in the Argentine records.
Mr. James Dodds also gives a list of the people who came out on
There are few copies left of Dodds’ book because some of
the people whose ancestors were listed as servants destroyed many
copies. As a matter of fact, the people listed as servants were
actually farm workers such as ploughman, dairymaid, labourer, etc.
Mr. Dodds’ list is not complete, it contains some mistakes,
it doesn’t give the name of all the children and some couples
are listed as married when, in fact, they didn't get married until
after they arrived in Argentina. In this list maiden names are given
in brackets and Mc and Mac prefixes are given as M', although the
Symmetry colonists all adopted the Mc prefix.
In spite of these minor differences we find Mr. Dodds’ account
invaluable and our main source of information.
During the voyage, an anonymous passenger on the Symmetry wrote
a poem wondering what they were going to find when the arrived in
the new land. This poem is titled “Tam o’ Stirling”.
A year had gone by since President Rivadavia and William Parish
Robertson had signed a contract and still the resources and land
hadn´t been given, while the future colonists were on their
way to Argentina. The land that was to be given to the colonists
in the south of the Province of Buenos Aires was exposed to indian
attacks, that was why this land wasn´t accepted by Robertson.
Once the colonists who were able to afford their trip, tools and
maintenance for a period of time arrived, the Robertsons and the
group of eight Scottish farmers accepted President Rivadavia´s
generous offer of land near Buenos Aires City, which the Robertsons
bought. The arrangement between the Robertons and the Scots was
that a plot of land was given to each family head or single man,
free of rent, but had to work on it for 5 years, after that time
the land went back to the Robertsons or was sold to the farmers
at a reasonable price.
The colony prospered and by 1826 they felt it was necessary to
have a minister and a teacher so they appointed Rev. Brown to fill
The Robertsons expected to demonstrate the great advantages the
citizens of Buenos Aires would receive from getting fresh farm produce,
as actually happened. They believed that it was these advantages
which insured that the government complied with the contract.
This land is in Monte Grande, which formed part of the Santa Catalina
Farm, where there was a big house where the colonists lived until
they were able to build their own homes. This land was situated
5 or 6 leagues from Buenos Aires City, on which the Southern Railway
(now called Ferrocarril del Sud) built the Llavallol, Turdera and
Monte Grande stations. The entrance to Santa Catalina farm is 20
blocks Southwest of Llavallol station.
The amount of land President Rivadavia gave the colonists wasn´t
as large as they had expected, it measured 6500 hectares approximately,
which in 1870 was reduced to 739 ha, when it was finally offered
for sale to the government. What is now left of this property is
named Santa Catalina, which measures 80 ha and is used as an agricultural
This was the first and only Scottish settlement in Argentina.
The founding of this colony brought about one of the most significant
events in Argentine history because the colonization contract signed
by President Rivadavia the 11th March 1824 was the first official
declaration of freedom of religion in this country.
The colony in Monte Grande
In 1828 General Lavalle overthrew the Government of Manuel Dorrego,
and in 1829 the civil war began between Lavalle and Rosas’
forces. As the Scottish colony was located between the rival camps,
and according to Jane Rodgers, a daughter of one of the settlers,
there were bands of soldiers roaming around the countryside, attacking
innocent settlers and in many cases stealing from them and killing
Therefore many settlers fled to Buenos Aires city, where they
integrated rapidly within the British community and others moved
south, to form new Scottish colonies in Quilmes, San Vicente and
This proved to be the failure of the colony in Monte Grande as
it made the Robertsons nearly bankrupt.
Compiled by St. Andrew’s
Society of the River Plate - Sources:
Dodds, James (1897). Records of the Scottish
Settlers in the River Plate and their Churches. Buenos Aires.ElectricScotland.comEscuela
Escocesa San Andrés (1998). Un Siglo y Medio Después.
Buenos Aires.Graham-Yooll, Andrew (1999). The Forgotten Colony.
Buenos Aires.Grierson, Cecilia (1925). Colonia de Monte Grande:
Primera y única colonia formada por escoceses en la Argentina.
Buenos Aires.Stewart, Iain A. D. (2000). From Caledonia to the
Pampas. Scotland. Genealogy index: Emigrants on the ship Symmetry,
Leith-Buenos Aires 1825
Foundation of the St. Andrew's Society
of the River Plate
On Monday 10th, December 1888 a little company of young Scots
men met at 505 Maipú, to consider the possibility of forming
a Scottish club and celebrating New Year’s Day in the old
fashion. The original members of the Society then initiated, were
Messrs. E.A.M. Adamson, Jones Alexander, John C. Falconer, J.W.
Fleming, M.G. Fortune, A.A.G.Goodfellow, R.L.Goodfellow, R.H.
McNee, J.J. Nisbet and J.W. Wilson; Messrs, Adamson, Goodfellow
and McNee being the first executive.
At the first general meeting on Wednesday 19th, December 1888,
the following were appointed office bearers: President, Thomas
Drysdale; Vice-presidents, H.G. Anderson and J. Murray Tulloch;
Committee, Messrs, Anderson, Dodds, Fleming, Fortune, Goodfellow,
Mackill, McNee, Ramsay and Runciman.
Brief history of Scotland
The history of Scotland begins in the 1st century AD, when the
Romans invaded Britain. The Romans added southern Britain to their
empire as the province Britannia. They were unable, however, to
subdue the fierce tribes in the north. To keep these barbarians
from invading Britannia, Emperor Hadrian had a massive wall built
across the island from sea to sea. The Romans called the land
north of the wall Caledonia, and they called the people Picts
from the Latin piclus, meaning "painted" because they
painted their bodies. Parts of Hadrian's Wall still stand on the
In the 5th century Celtic immigrants from Ireland, called Scots,
settled north of the Clyde. The Scots were already Christians
when they left Ireland. In the next century St. Columba converted
the king of the Picts to Christianity. In the 9th century Kenneth
MacAlpine, king of the Scots, added the Pictish kingdom to his
own. In about the 10th century the land came to be known as Scotland.
After the Normans conquered England in 1066, many Anglo-Saxons
from England settled in the Lowlands. Here the Scots gradually
took on English ways. Feudalism was established, and the chiefs
of the clans became nobles. Towns grew, trade increased, and Scotland
War of independence. In 1290 Margaret, heiress to the throne,
died. Thirteen claimants contested the Crown. Edward I of England
claimed the right to bestow it and made John de Baliol king. When
Edward asked John for help against the French, however, John entered
into an alliance with France. For 260 years Scotland held to this
so-called "auld alliance" with England's enemy.
Edward crossed the border in 1296, took John de Baliol prisoner,
and proclaimed himself king of Scotland. To symbolize the union
he carried off the ancient Stone of Scone, on which Scottish kings
had long been crowned, and placed it in Westminster Abbey where
it still lies beneath the coronation chair.
The Scots rose again. Led by William Wallace, they routed the
English at Stirling Bridge in 1297 and pursued them across the
border. The next year Edward returned and inflicted a disastrous
defeat on the Scots at Falkirk. Wallace was later captured, and
the English hung his head from London Bridge. (See also Wallace.)
The Scots' spirit was still unbroken, and they soon found another
great champion in Robert Bruce. The last great battle in the war
for independence was fought in 1314 at Bannockburn near Stirling
Castle. There Bruce inflicted a disastrous defeat on superior
English forces led by Edward II. In 1328 Edward III formally recognized
Scotland's independence. (See also Bruce, Robert.)
In the later Middle Ages Scotland suffered from weak kings and
powerful nobles. For two centuries there was a constant struggle
between the Crown and the barons. Border clashes also continued.
James IV of Scotland married Margaret, daughter of Henry VII of
England, in 1503. This marriage led to the union of the Crowns
of both countries in 1603. When Henry VIII went to war with France,
however, James IV invaded England. He fell, "riddled with
arrows," at Flodden Field in the last great border battle
(1513). James V died brokenhearted after his army had been slaughtered
at Solway Moss (1542). The throne went to his infant daughter
Reformation and its consequences. Meanwhile the Protestant Reformation
had swept across Europe and into England. Scotland was still a
Roman Catholic country. Its young queen, Mary Stuart, was in France
when John Knox returned home to Scotland from Geneva, Switzerland.
Knox was a follower of John Calvin, one of the leaders of the
Reformation. With fiery eloquence he spread Calvin's Protestant
doctrine. When Mary returned, Knox and others drove her out of
Scotland, and she fled to England. Queen Elizabeth I made her
a prisoner and finally had her executed. In 1560 Scotland's parliament
adopted a confession of faith drawn up by Knox and established
the Church of Scotland on a Presbyterian basis. (See also Calvin;
Knox; Mary, Queen of Scots.)
Mary Stuart's son, James VI, was brought up as a Presbyterian.
When Queen Elizabeth of England died in 1603, James inherited
the throne of England. In England he was called James I. The two
nations were thus united under a single king, but Scotland remained
a separate state with its own parliament and government. There
was no free trade between England and Scotland, and Scots were
excluded from the profitable commerce with England's growing empire.
(See also James, Kings of England; Stuart.)
England tried repeatedly to impose the Anglicans' episcopal
form of worship and church government on the Scottish kirk. The
Scots took up arms against Charles I. When civil war broke out
in England, they aided the Puritans against the king. After Oliver
Cromwell executed Charles I, however, the Scots welcomed Charles's
son as Charles II. Cromwell then marched into Scotland and imposed
his rule. When Charles II was restored to the throne, persecution
of Presbyterians continued.
Finally, after James II had been driven from the throne, Presbyterianism
was firmly established as Scotland's national church. The Highlanders
long remained loyal to the exiled Stuarts. In 1715 they attempted
to restore the house of Stuart to the throne; James Stuart, known
as the Old Pretender, was proclaimed James III. In 1745 they supported
his son, Charles Edward, known as the Young Pretender. The youth
became famous in Scottish song and story as Bonnie Prince Charlie.
(See also Pretender.)
Union with England. The age-old rivalry between Scotland and
England ended abruptly in 1707 when the parliaments of both nations
agreed to the Act of Union. This act merged the parliaments of
the two nations and established the Kingdom of Great Britain (see
Scotland now had free trade with England and the colonies. As
Britain's empire expanded the Scots played a great part in its
development. They also shared in the inventions that brought about
the Industrial Revolution and in the wealth that flowed into Britain
The end of the 18th century was Scotland's most creative period.
David Hume won world fame in philosophy and history, Adam Smith
in political economy, and Robert Burns in poetry. In the next
generation Sir Walter Scott made the land and history of Scotland
known throughout the world. (See also Burns; Hume; Scott, Walter;
The history of modern Scotland is inseparable from that of England.
Scotland, however, has its own special problems, and a movement
has grown up to establish some sort of home rule. The Scottish
National party, which favors the setting up of a legislature for
purely Scottish affairs, won increasing popular support during
the 1960s but a majority of Scots vote for the Labour (Socialist)
This article was reviewed and updated by Ian M. Matley, Professor
of Geography, Michigan State University, East Lansing.