What has Scotland got to do with the development of Australia? Quite a lot, according to the Art Gallery of Ballarat which has mounted a special exhibition to the relationship between Australia and Scotland, right up to Federation (1/1/1901). The exhibition, For Auld Lang Syne: Images of Scottish Australia from First Fleet to Federation, delves into the most important facets of life - fashion, sport, high art and whiskey.
Exhibition catalogue, Art Gallery of Ballarat, 2014
Tough and resourceful, the Scots were more literate and educated than most early settlers in Australia and were less likely to be convicts, so they flourished in their new land. The Scots, with their successful establishment of economic and cultural networks, occupied significant posts in the social and political life of the early colonies. In particular Scots were prominent among the naval and army officers who ran the NSW penal colony, and they were able to take advantage of generous land grants worked by free convict labour. It is not a coincidence, Patricia Macdonald noted, that three of the early governors hailed from Scotland.
The exhibition brings together artworks and objects from across Australia and overseas. What I had not expected was a passion for early Australians to cast their minds to Scottish culture back At Home. When standing next to the Robert Burns statue in the middle of Ballarat, the guide said that only Queen Victoria was memorialised more than Burns in Australia. And more than that. The poetry and writings of Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns had a substantial influence of our most famous Australian poets eg Banjo Patterson.
Entrance to Glen Etive from near King's House, 1879
By Waller Paton who migrated from Scotland to Australia.
In particular I am grateful (as always) for comprehensive catalogue that includes essays by leading scholars on aspects of the Scottish presence in Australia. The closing day will be Sunday 27th July 2014.
Visitors to this Ballarat exhibition might also be interested in a Sunday-visit Villa Alba Museum in Melbourne (Kew) which was built by the Edinburgh-born William Greenlaw in c1884. The notable decorations were done by the Scottish-trained Paterson Brothers; they include an eclectic mixture of painted, stencilled and gilded decoration and feature a 40’ painted mural of Edinburgh and a dining room frieze decorated with scenes from Sir Walter Scott’s novels.