Today, when people think Richmond immigration, they think Asian. But there was a time when a huge number of Richmond’s new comers hailed from Scotland — and those Scots left their marks,
School names like Burnett and McNair, the Scotch Pond at Garry Point Park, and the upcoming annual Robbie Burns Day Supper at the Steveston Community Centre all speak to the city’s Scottish ancestry.
However, City of Richmond archivist, Bill Purver, warned against assuming that all Scottish-sounding school names actually have a Scottish connection.
“There were a lot of Irishmen who also settled in Richmond, so don’t be fooled by Richmond names beginning with Mc,” said Purver.
Schools that do definitely have a Scottish origin include the following:
Alexander Kilgour elementary. Alexander Kilgour formed a partnership with Richmond’s first mayor in farming an area on Sea Island and was a signatory to the petition to incorporate Richmond in 1879. Elected to the first council.
Matthew McNair secondary. Matthew McNair was a prominent Richmond farmer and past president of the Richmond Board of Trade. He also served on council.
Donald McKay elementary. Donald E. McKay was a descendant of early Scottish immigrants to Ontario.
He operated a general store and post office at London’s Landing and purchased a farm in the South Arm area.
Other tidbits of history include Alexander Ewan, president of BC Packers Association and commonly referred to as the father of the B.C. canning history, establishing the Ewan Cannery south of No. 9 Road in 1876; and the existence of the Scottish-Canadian Cannery at the entrance to Scotch Pond in Steveston.
Jim Gallacher is a Scottish-Canadian who has lived in Richmond for the last 31 years. He said there aren’t a lot of local Scots left, but there are still expats to be found at places like the Richmond Presbyterian Church on No. 2 Road where Gallacher also attends.
Going further back, he said the original wave of his country people came because of two factors.
“There was a huge impact in Scotland from the Hudson’s Bay Company. They employed a lot of Scots to come out here to be trappers and explorers,” said Gallacher.
“Secondly, it was the economic situation in Scotland 100 years ago. There were little to no opportunities for these people, but there was an opportunity to come to this new country and make something of yourself. People jumped at the chance.”
Gallacher will again be the MC at the second Robbie Burns Day Supper held at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre on January 24. He hosted the well-attended event last year and will perform the address to the haggis among other duties.
The night will feature bagpipes, Scottish dancers and a whisky bar. Tickets are $50, book by calling 604-276-4300 or drop by the Steveston Community Centre.