Emigrants 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 city.

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 animals”.

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 the Symmetry.

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 these positions.

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 college.

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 them.

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 Chascomús.

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.

See complete list of former Presidents.

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 Scottish border.

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 prospered.

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 Mary Stuart.

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 United Kingdom).

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 from it.

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; Smith, Adam.)

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) party.

This article was reviewed and updated by Ian M. Matley, Professor of Geography, Michigan State University, East Lansing.

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