Dunedin Multi-Ethnic Council – Celebrating Diversity

We are Ōtepoti Dunedin

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Otago Scottish Heritage Council

The Otago Scottish Heritage Council held its first meeting on Thursday September 17, 1925 at the offices of WEC Reid-Co, Carlton Chambers High Street, Dunedin. The first groups to become part of the Council were the Caledonian Society of Otago, the Dunedin Burns Club, the Otago Gaelic Society and the Otago Piping and Dancing Association.

Who are we: 

The aim of the Otago Scottish Heritage Council was to bring together all of the Scottish Societies of Dunedin under one banner to represent their interests at a regional level. This remains the aim.

Membership has increased markedly and in 2021 there are more than 20 affiliated Scottish groups within the Council. Membership ranges from representatives of local clans, dancing and piping organisations to the Dunedin-Edinburgh Sister City Society. Monthly meetings are held on the first Tuesday of each month in the Dunedin Athenaeum Library and guest speakers are invited to talk about their spheres of interest in Scottish-aligned research or studies. These can include leading academics from the University of Otago, world-recognised experts in Scottish history, local bagpipe champions, and organisers of the Robert Burns poetry competition, of which the Heritage Council is a major sponsor. The Council’s members also represent their own links with Scotland through their activities, and the monthly meetings give members a chance to share the activities of their group and provide support where needed at local functions such as the Burns Supper and St Andrew’s Day.

The Caledonian Society still remains a key part of the Heritage Council and its legacy will live on through the Society’s gift of $20,000 to the University of Otago’s Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies. The money will go towards a scholarship which will be used for students of Scottish literature.

The Heritage Council maintains strong ties with the University. Chairman Dr Royden Somerville QC is also Chancellor of the University of Otago and a direct descendant of the Reverend Dr Thomas Burns, the foundation Chancellor of the University and a founder of Dunedin.

What Dunedin means to us:

As many Otago and Southland people are descended from the first Scottish immigrants who arrived through the port of Dunedin, the city remains an integral part of their heritage. Scottish names abound in the south, and in Dunedin itself.  Many street names are the same as they are in Edinburgh. Dunedin is known as the Edinburgh of the South and for good reason. The statue of Robert Burns in the Octagon provides a reminder of how the Scottish settlers to the region remembered their homeland while establishing themselves in their new country.

The city marches in time with a Scottish heart, and the Heritage Council provides an outlet for the many clans and organisations to join together under one banner to celebrate their Scottish roots.