“Scottish Memories” project documents struggles of pioneering generation
Hanover, Trust and Bield housing associations have jointly published a new book documenting the struggles and achievements of older minority ethnic people who came to Scotland as immigrants more than half a century ago.
The book – ‘Scottish Memories – Immigration Stories’ – was launched at separate events in Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow and contains interviews with men and women who came to Scotland from India, Pakistan, China, Africa and the Caribbean from the 1940s to the 1960s.
It captures the diverse experiences of people who were part of a pioneering generation that laid the foundations for Scotland’s transformation into a multi-cultural nation. Many arrived with little money, few clothes and unable to speak English and worked long hours as door-to-door pedlars, mill workers, bus conductors, chefs and shopkeepers.
It includes trailblazers such as Hanover’s own Sir Geoff Palmer (Scotland’s first black professor); an award-winning research scientist; the first Sikh to work offshore in the North Sea; the first man to win a legal right to wear a turban working on the buses; as well as chefs and restauranteurs who introduced Scotland to Chinese food and curries.
Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture & External Affairs, helped launch the book in Edinburgh, and said: “I am very struck by the resilience and tenacity displayed by those who have told their stories in their book. Many overcame significant difficulties to make their life here 50 years ago, often under very trying circumstances. Scotland has a large established migrant community and the Scottish Government welcomes the contribution new Scots are making to our economy and society, as well as the skills and the ethic they have brought to our economy and workplace.”
Rohini Sharma Joshi, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at Trust Housing Association, led the project and said “I’ve been privileged to work with many older people from minority ethnic backgrounds through the Equal Opportunities Programme run by Trust, Hanover and Bield. The project sprang from a realisation that we needed to find a way to share their important stories with a new generation.
She added: “Many of the people who appear in the book had difficult experiences as newly-arrived immigrants to Scotland and struggled with language, the cold and with finding places to live and work. They worked very hard and have made an important contribution to Scottish life in so many ways. Their experiences seldom appear in official history books and so we’re delighted to have got the support of Heritage Lottery Fund to capture a vital missing piece of Scottish history.”