Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Roots, part one

Back in the early part of the 20th Century my ancestors, like so many people from Great Britain, packed their bags, said goodbye to their families (often for good) and headed off on the long voyage to their new homes. Seeing where the Aikmans and Bayneses came from has always been one of the must-do things for me and in the last month we've done it.

First up was Alloa, the Scottish town where my great-grandfather William Aikman was born. It was a thriving industrial port at the time and though the glory days have gone, it is still a nice place. Very much a typical working class British town, with a mix of pubs, Indian takeaways, pretty old Victorian buildings and the ubiquitous chain stores - WH Smith, Boots and the rest.

Downtown Alloa

The countryside is pleasant too. It's similar to the Waikato, with low hills, plains and lots and lots of green grass. However, it's also where the Lowlands end. Just north of the town is the steep edge of the Highlands. This is the area - near Stirling, the chokepoint of Scotland and site of many battles - the Aikmans come from.
We went to the Alloa library, where a super-helpful librarian dug into the files and found a bunch of interesting information. They're very well set-up for genealogy requests here, as clearly there's a lot of us colonials retracing their roots. I imagine a lot of them hope to find a king, famous warrior or at least a ruined castle in their background. What we found when we went looking for the area where William Aikman grew was a car park, motorway, petrol station and supermarket.

An Asda, but not a castle in sight.

On the bright side, in Edinburgh's Scottish National Gallery I was gobsmacked to find a portrait by a different William Aikman - a famous painter. So there's some glamour in those roots after all.

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