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Scots in Argentina
"Get thee out from thy country".
The Scot abroad, with a special reference to the
St. Andrew’s Society of the River Plate

Genesis XII, 1-2.-—"Now the Lord said unto Abram Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, into a land that I will shew thee. And I will bless the... and thou shalt be a blessing."


(Preached in St. Andrews, 27th Nov., 1932 Annual Service of the St. Andrew’s Society of the River Plate. Lessons Read by Mr. R. P. Easton, President of the Society. Service attended by H.B.M. Counsellor M. E. Millington-Drake and Lady Effie M. Drake, H.B.M. Consul General Mr. V. St. J. Huckin, and officials of the British Community. Service Broadcast by Radio Excelsior.)

What a wealth of incident there is in the first book of the Bible to touch the heart of any exile, not least the heart of an exiled Scot. Here "Thy country thy kindred—thy father’s house" what surge of memories the mountains, the moors, the mists, father and mother and a happy family circle, the old home shieling, cottage or mansion, — the rowan tree, the sunny or the murky city, beautiful Princes Street, busy Sauchiehall Street, the historic High Street with the Pillars, or Union Street cold and clean.

It is a thousand pities that the Book of Genesis is regarded by so many as merely a statistical record — invaluably full of facts something like "Scottish Settlers in the River Plate" — yet but a record.

It is really so much more. For while it does not hesitate to chronicle the sins of men, it does so with the big purpose of painting in shining letters the highest Hebrew conceptions of Faith, conduct and character. Two ideals in particular stand forth. (1) The ideal of divine fellowship as between God and man. In this old story the Almighty draws very near to man—gives him definite directions, cheers him with His counsel, promises him His presence, schools him through suffering. (2) The ideal of human fellowship as between man and man. The relationships of husband and wife, parent and child, master and servant, warrior and priest, birth and marriage and death — all the sunshine and shadow of life are mirrored in the light of God’s presence and touched to finer issues.

To Abram then, a married man but with no family, came the call "Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred and from thy father’s house". To any man, of any nationality, at any time, that is a hard call. More than most, perhaps, Scotland’s sons have heard it. And the emotions that are stirred, when that call comes, will depend on the bent of a man’s outlook. Some, like Sir Walter Scott, draw their inspiration chiefly from the past, and dwell most fondly on the days that are no more. For such the call "Get thee out" goes deeper than description. One look at the faces in that picture called "The Emigrants" will tell you more than I ever could — the hills on the horizon, the little Highland pier and clachan just left behind as the boat pulls out — no display of handkerchief-waving — the emigrants looking wistfully out to sea because they wouldn’t dare to look back to home. It might mean a scene of emotion, and that is something alien to the character of the average Scot. Some of you, but not all of you, may find it hard to believe that there are Scottish daughters who will tell you that they cannot remember ever kissing their mothers. If you were to infer that such homes were loveless, you would make a big mistake.

Then there are others who, like Robert Burns, are most deeply stirred not by thought of what is past but of the times that are to come — "when man to man the world o’er shall brothers be." For such the call "Get thee out" is probably not so hard. Much of the land of Scotland is uncultivatable; the climate, especially in the north and west, is rigorous, and 4˝ millions of a sturdy population make a problem. And so many cross the border, and more cross the sea. Of the latter, the Argentine has continued to claim a representative proportion for well over a century. It is surprising that our earlier countrymen did not found a St. Andrew’s Society sooner. But when at last they did, they dug deep and built bravely. Almost exactly 44 years ago, on 17th December, 1888, the following founding members met in the old Scots School alongside the old Scots Church — Piedras 55 (to-day the centre of the Avenida de Mayo) :—

Edward A. M. Adamson,
John W. Wilson
John C. Falconer
James Alexander
Adam A. G. Goodfellow
J. J. Nisbet
M. C. Fortune
Robert H. McNee
The Rev. James W. Fleming
Robert L. Goodfellow

The first two are with us in Buenos Aires; the third is at home; the Land o’ the Leal has called the others. Ten days later —27th December, 1888 — a general meeting was held, and the name — "The St. Andrew’s Society of the River Plate" — was adopted. The first office-bearers were elected as follows: President: Thomas Drysdale; Vice-Presidents: A. G. Anderson and James Murray Tulloch; Committee: The Rev. J. W. Fleming, James Dodds, R. I. Runciman, James I. Ramsay, M. G. Fortune, J. McKill, E. A. M. Adamson, R. H. McNee; Hon. Secretary, R. L. Goodfellow. The absence of the mention of any Honorary Treasurer is startling; to-day that official’s duties are very onerous.

The objects of the Society were gradually evolved and clarified, and to-day as for many years past, are as follows: "To foster the Scottish national sentiment, and to promote Benevolence, Education, National Literature, Customs and Accomplishments amongst persons of Scottish origin."

The big plank in this programme has been Benevolence and Education. Every single activity of the Society has these in view. It promotes nothing merely for the pleasure of its members. That is the reason that the Committee’s work has been peculiarly free from difficulties and dissensions. From small beginnings it has risen to a present membership of over 1600 this last year marking a net increase of over 70.

Under the heading of Benevolence an average sum of $1600 is spent annually, paid mostly in small monthly grants to approved and deserving cases, to augment an insufficient income. In almost every case these

grants make the difference between merely existing and living. Last year the Society, in addition, assisted the General Unemployment Relief Fund with $500. With another donation of $1000 it increased the endowment of the St. Andrew’s Society Cot in the British Hospital to $6,500, thus making a total of $3000 for Benevolence.

Under the count of Education (expenditure for which is just a specified form of benevolence) the annual average grants now amount to the handsome sum of $15,000. Why so much for Education? some have asked. Because you know what an influence education (or perhaps the lack of it) has had upon your progress in life, and also because in making the gift of educational facilities, you are giving the children what none can ever rob.

For some years to come it is unlikely that emigration direct from Scotland will continue at its former high level. Twenty and thirty years hence the effects of this reduced emigration from home will be seen in the increasing Anglo-Argentine proportion of the membership of the Society. Can we, as men and women who are humbly grateful for what parent, schoolmaster, friend, did for US, Sons and daughters of a comparatively poor land which has stoutly maintained that poverty never shall bar the road to a first class education can we do less than try to pass on the priceless gift? If, to-day, we can preserve for children of Scots extraction born here, the opportunity to learn to speak and to write in both English and Spanish, we shall be travelling far along the road of preserving certain high ideals which may be Oh! so easily lost if these little ones today grow up speaking only Spanish. And from the business point of view alone, the double language has ceased to be merely a desideratum, and is to-day a necessity.

In concluding, let me lift all these considerations into the higher atmosphere of this act of worship the Society’s annual and official payment of its vows to the Creator and Giver of all. Old Abraham suggested our first thought let him suggest our last. It was by faith in God that Abraham became the prince of spiritual pioneers and pathfinders. And any Briton or descendent of Briton here today English, Irish, Welsh or Scot, it matters not who boldly faces the future and lays his plans in conformity with the known will of God as revealed in Christ, and looks thereby to reach a land of promise, that man is of the creed and of the breed of old Abraham, the father of the faithful.

Yet many still ask "Is faith always sensible?" No, it isn’t! A man has only to advertise "How to make $1000 quickly. Send $5," and the money will probably roll in. There is plenty of faith or rather credulity about! Whether it is silly or sensible depends on the reliability of the object. True faith is an assumption, which is also an assurance, that the best and highest things are real; that God, the soul, immortality are not doubtful dreams but reliable facts. Faith is not sure of the road but it is sure of the destination, and asks only light enough for the next step :—

"Keep Thou my feet, I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me."

My fellow members of the St. Andrew’s Society of the River Plate, if we are to count for more than our name or our numbers or our material possessions in that larger community that we are proud to have represented here to-day by the British Society and the British Chamber of Commerce that larger community still of this busy city and this fertile country, it will ultimately be by our Faith in the God of Abraham. Need I remind you of some particularly favourite Scottish texts :—

"Fear God and keep His Commandments,"
"for this is the whole duty of man."
"Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? He"
"that hath clean hands and a pure heart."
"What doth the Lord require of thee but to"
"do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly"
"with thy God."

God at the beginning God at the end. And if, in between, there has been for us the call "Get thee out of thy country and from thy Father’s house," there is also the promise "I will bless thee I will make thee a blesing." My fellow members, if we merit the Blessing, we will be the Blessing. And so I sincerely pray the prayer of the last hymn we are to sing, familiar and dear to every Scottish heart— "God of our Fathers be the God Of their succeeding race."

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