Hugh Nevin

What do you know about the reasons for emigration from Scotland?

What I remember from what I’ve read: specific events like the Scots colony of East Jersey in America, the Ulster Plantation in Ireland, the Highland Clearances, religious persecution; more general circumstances often relate to land distribution patterns in families or the lack of land/employment.

If you live overseas yourself, where do you live and can you say a few words about your personal Scottish diaspora story?

I live in Schenectady, NY, where I’ve dabbled in genealogy for some time. Notes from a Nevin family Bible belonging to a 16th century generation of my family living on the Isle of Bute identify generations from the 15th to 17th centuries in Scotland. Our branch likely moved to North Antrim in Ireland from Ayrshire related to the Covenanter Killing Times in the late 1600s. Family members are still in the Northern Ireland location today, but my ancestors came to America in 1786, settling in the Pittsburgh, PA area where descendants still live.

Have any of your ancestors or members of your family emigrated? If so, where to? And do you know anything about their story overseas?

A number of my Nevins who emigrated from Ireland are documented, notably my crossing ancestor’s first cousin who escaped to Tennessee with a price on his head for his role in the 1788 Rising. Nothing but names and dates from the family’s time in Scotland.

There are also McCoys, McKees and Greggs in my background, so the clannishness of the Scots is apparent – mostly related to being Presbyterian. The story about which I wish I could confirm key details: the early 19th century provincial tall clock in our home that has a repair tag from Aberdeen. It’s an Armstrong family clock that came to my mother because of the connection of Armstrongs and McKees in a Covenanter community founded near Pittsburgh in the early 1800s. In the second immigrant generation in that community there was a couple, one a Scottish Armstrong and the other an Irish Armstrong, a significant reuniting of the original Scottish Border Armstrongs. Was the clock a wedding present?

What do you think is the legacy of the Scots abroad?

Impacts that interest me as an American: among nations, Scotland represents the earliest insistence on widespread literacy – whether this connects directly to the beginnings of public education in America, I’m less certain; of the significant impact of Scottish universities on the development of higher education in America I am sure; the influence of Scots and Scots-Irish in the American Revolution.

Ending with something light-hearted: what did you think when first looking at the image called ‘Piper Kerr and Emperor penguin’?

It’s an unusual picture, so here’s an odd impression: there’s no limit to the lengths a Scot will go to get others to pay attention, even dance to our tune!

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