The Only Kelpie on the Block

Dominic, a Filipino-American in Chicago for business, tells me at the buffet about how his people congregate in communities in the U.S. and asks me why don’t Scots do this.

Why don’t we? Is it the Scottish Way to skulk off alone? To get absorbed into a new country? It seems we did congregate back when the first significant hordes of us left Scotland back in the 1650s. By now, descendants of early Scottish-Americans are well-absorbed. Perhaps our more modern day departures feel less permanent—home doesn’t feel quite so far away—so we have less need to cluster together in nationalistic clumps?

The US Census states that Lonaconing in Maryland is the US city with the highest percentage of Scottish ancestry. But there are different, far more precise criteria that can be used to locate concentrations of Scotland-born Scots. Based on my studies of how swiftly supplies of Irn Bru, black pudding and Tunnock’s Teacakes dwindle, I can tell you that San Francisco, New York, Portland, Toronto and Vancouver stand out as top North American hotspots for collections of more recently arrived Scots, or, at least, for collections of well-fed Scots.

Personally, other than the difficulties involved in procuring black pudding, I’ve quite liked being the only kelpie on the block for most of my two decades away from Scotland. The novelty of being the lone Scot has definitely won me many free drinks, a higher share of accent attention and the opportunity to answer questions about my homeland without anyone pointing out that I just reinvented various crucial aspects of Scottish history. I fear the flow of complimentary beverages might ebb and the corrections might flow if there was a whole posse of Scots present.

Dominic is looking at me expectantly. Once again, I have to answer for my people.

“We did congregate in the beginning, but the neighbours complained about the sound of all those bagpipes.”

“I was not aware of that,” Dominic says with interest and I feel a small pang of guilt as I imagine this report spreading throughout the closeknit Filipino community of Illinois.

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One Response to The Only Kelpie on the Block

  1. Aitch September 5, 2011 at 12:26 pm #


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