Scots in New England is a fledgling foundation made from the pooled efforts of numerous Scottish communities, businesses, and associations in the New England region of the United States – an area well-populated by the Scottish diaspora.
Recently, Bob Creighton – director and president of Scots in New England – spoke with Celtic Life International about what he hopes the organization will achieve with its first public efforts, including the New England Scot of the Year awards.
“I was born, raised, and educated in Glasgow in Scotland,” shares Creighton. “I was the oldest of six children and I, along with the rest of my brothers and sisters, went to university. I studied economics and history at the University of Strathclyde. After graduation, I went into work in marketing services, market analysis, and economic development.”
Creighton moved to the United States in the 1980s to work in the investment circuit – in particular, to bring American business interests to the U.K. He quickly became aware that, in America, ‘Scottishness’ tended to be seen as a monolith – tartans, kilts, bagpipes, etc.
“That is actually quite wrong. Scottishness and Scottish interests are a very, very broad table.”
Over the years, Creighton launched his own business, and connected with Scottish sectors across New England. He joined – and eventually became president – of the board of NHSCOT, New Hampshire’s Scottish society, which runs the Loon Mountain Highland Games each September. He was then able to do what he felt had yet to be done; unite all of the Scottish sectors of New England.
“There was no real connectivity between the Loon Mountain games and other Scottish interests across New England,” he explains. “My view is, it doesn’t matter whether your interest is in traditional pursuits like piping, drumming, and athletics, or whether it’s more modern, like in business, education, charitable organizations, media, or just general interest, even if it’s Outlander-type interest. There’s a seat at the table for everyone.
“But one of the things that struck me about Scots in New England – not the organization, but just Scots in New England – and I’m going to use an expression my mother used to use; they weren’t playing very well with each other. So, the original concept was, ‘let’s try and pull some groups and some interests together.’”
Between the COVID lockdowns and other speed bumps, Creighton says there were a few ‘false dawns’ to the Scots in New England initiative. But it got started for real earlier this year, when the British Consul General in Boston invited several Scottish groups to revive the Burns Supper event in Beantown.
Creighton says that Scots in New England is looking beyond the classic elements of Scottish culture – without outright ignoring them – to cast their net wider, and connect with contemporary Scots throughout the original colonies.
“If you look at some of the hospitals – for example, Brigham Young Women’s Hospital – the cutting-edge cancer research being done there’s been led by a Scot. One of the finest Scottish events in the year is run by the National Trust for Scotland Foundation, USA; now they are headquartered in Boston, but run their annual gala dinner in New York.
“We have all these different activities, and what we hope to do is develop a project, an event, or an initiative that can pull these groups together so that they may learn from each other and exchange ideas.”
The signature event this year is the New England Scot of the Year Awards, aimed at highlighting people behind the scenes in their communities.
“It’s tempting to think about the great contribution Scots have made in history; penicillin, tarmacadam, you name it. We almost forget the continuing impact that Scots are having on their communities. With the awards initiative, we are welcoming nominations through to the end of September and the awards will be presented on Saint Andrew’s Day, November 30, in Boston. The winners – in the categories of New England Scot of the Year, Emerging New England Scot of the Year, and the New England Scot Lifetime Achievement Award – will be announced then, and the awards will be presented.”
This is just the start for Scots in New England, Creighton stresses, hoping the organization will be the tide that raises all ships.
“We are building a community of Scots, and developing initiatives, events, and programming – stuff that any single organization might not be able to do on its own but will now be able to as we bring the collective together.”