Page last edited on: 09 Oct 2013

The 'Scottish Diaspora Tapestry'

by Christina N. Polderman




On the 29th of September the Honorary Conservator of the Low Countries, Mr. Neil Wallace, did the last of the stitching of the Veere panels.

In 2012 a start was made in Scotland to design a tapestry of many meters long, depicting the history of the Scotsmen “in diaspora”. In other words: The migration of the Scots throughout the centuries. At various places all over the world volunteers are presently embroidering “their” parts of the tapestry, the so-called “panels”. Veere was assigned the production of six of these.
The initiative of the project was taken by Doctor Gordon Wills, baron of Prestongrange, of Prestonpans near Edinburgh. A large number of volunteers of Museum De Schotse Huizen (the Scottish Houses) and the Scotland-Veere Organization are presently heavily engaged in the creation of the “Veere panels”.
The artist Andrew Crummy has designed the tapestry. Yvonne Murphy and Gilian Hart are the coordinators of the project team. On the 29th of September the Honorary Conservator of the Low Countries, Mr. Neil Wallace, did the last of the stitching of the Veere panels. 2014 is the Year of Homecoming when Scotland will welcome descendants of Scots emigrants from around the world. The 12-month programme of celebrations will provide a perfect arena for the assembly of the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry. During this event, which takes place every five years, the Scots celebrate their “Homecoming”.

Why is the city of Veere participating in the “Scottish Diaspora Tapestry” project?

The ties between Veere and Scotland go back for more than 700 years. Its position at the North Sea coast and in the proximity of the river Scheldt was of great importance to develop into an important trading place. As early as the 13th century fishermen from Veere called in at ports in Scotland. Some of the skippers made a lot of money with the trade what made them decide to establish trading houses in the cities at the isle of Walcheren. Since 1400 Scottish tradesmen came to the province of Zeeland to perform their business. In the Middle Ages city councils very much wanted their city to hold the monopoly on stocking up certain types of merchandise. Such a city was then called a Staple. Veere was officially granted the rights to staple in 1541. Until 1799 a large community of Scotsmen was living in the city of Veere, leaving their mark.


Below follows a further clarification of the subjects of the various panels.


Panel 1. ‘Princess Mary’.

Key persons: Wolfert VI of Borsele, lord of Veere married Mary Stuart, daughter of King James1 in 1444. The Scottish king presented them as a wedding gift with county Buchan, situated north of Aberdeen. This marriage meant a great impulse to the ties between Scotland and the city of Veere.
The banners in the background show: Veere, Castle Sandenburgh (residence of the Lords of Veere), Bruges (the city holding the Scottish Staple before it was transferred to Veere).
Top right: coat of arms of city of Veere.
Top left: In the middle of the 15th century a cousin of Wolfert by the name of Paulus van Borsele was awarded the county of Lauderdale in the Scottish Borders. He then named a brick built house in the Wijngaardstraat: “Laterdale”.

On various panels you’ll find names of former Royal Scottish trading cities in their authentic spelling. These trading cities, united in the Convention of Royal Burghs, were obliged to have all the “dedicated” merchandise destined for Europe, shipped via the city of Veere.
The Royal Burghs on this panel are: Pettinweem (Pittenweem), Dunfermling (Dunfermline), Bruntyland (Burntisland), Arbroth (Arbroath), Elgin, Carraill (Crail), Kinghorn, Innerness (Inverness), Brechin, Kirkaldy (Kirkcaldy).

In the corners of some of the panels you can find ‘tags’, being the ‘signatures’ of the makers (stitchers).



Panel 2. ‘Special privileges’.

Theme: the cistern. In the staple contract of 1541 it was agreed that a well would be dug for the traders (in old Dutch: “cooplieden”). In 1543 a mainly underground water storage facility was built. The Scottish wool traders used the well. In 1551 the well was roofed over by means of an octagonal stone building with Tudor-style supports.

In 1550 of the roughly 3500 inhabitants of Veere some 400 were of Scottish origin. The Scots were granted special privileges; they were exempted from paying taxes on wine and beer. In addition they were entitled to practice their own jurisdiction and religion (Scottish judges and clergymen). The Lord Conservator appointed a doctor for the Scottish citizens and an innkeeper of the Scottish House (see also panel 4).

To the right: A merchant with export products from the Netherlands: linen and pan tiles (roofing tiles; the latter also used as ballast for the vessels on their return journey).

To the left: A merchant with products imported from Scotland: wool, salmon, butter, leather, coal and hides.

Below: Plaque of het Lammetje (the little lamb), building built in 1539 together with De Struys (the Ostrich) by Scottish businessman Joos Oliviers. Quite a few residential buildings in Veere carry names that remind us of the trade with Scotland: Aberdaam, Domfris, Kasteel van Edinburg, Wolsack. Part of the quayside (Kaai or Kade), between bridge and market was dedicated to the mooring of vessels coming from Scotland. It was named Schotse Kaai.

Right bottom: many houses on the Scottish east coast (East Neuk region) have stepped gables that resemble the ones in the Netherlands. Likewise the roofs are covered in (Dutch) pan tiles.



Panel 3. ‘Scots House’.

In the 15th century business was prosperous. Many Scotsmen had beautiful houses built at de Kaai (the Quayside) and at de Markt (the Market square); many of the names these houses carry remind us of this time of prosperity (see panel 2). Nowadays the buildings Het Lammetje and De Struys are known as (Museum) ‘De Schotse Huizen’. As a matter of fact, only ‘De Struys’ was the ‘Scottish House’ when it was handed over by the mayor of Veere to the Conservator of the Scottish Privileges as the official House of the Scottish Nation. Between 1614 and 1764 there was a(nother) Scottish Nation House in the Wijngaardstraat.

To the left: fusilier regiment no. 22 Houston Scots, serving in the Netherlands Army between 1779 and 1782, based at Veere. Soldiers in Veere were quartered at various barracks within the city boundary.

Right bottom: wall clamp (anchor) of het Lammetje, depicting a thistle, Scotland’s national flower.
Left bottom: again a picture of a lamb, reference to the most important product traded, wool from Scotland.
Royal Burghs: Aberdeine (Aberdeen), Dundie (Dundee), Irwing (Irvine), Linlithgow, Sterling (Stirling), Ayr, Kirkcaldy, Glasgow, Hadingtoun (Haddington), Dumfries, Edinburgh, Iedburgh (Jedburgh).



Panel 4. ‘Conservator’.

DThe Scottish trading Cities entrusted supervision on the compliance with the privileges to the Conservator of the Scottish Privileges in the Low Countries (the Netherlands). Acting as a sort of Consul the Conservator was head of the Scottish community; he governed it together with his ‘deputy’. When the French ruled the Netherlands all privileges for the Scots were abolished and by 1799 the trade with Scotland came to a halt. Gradually the Scottish community left Veere.

Middle: The Badge of Honour of the Conservator of the Scottish Privileges in the Low Countries, with a text in Latin Nemo me impune lacesset (should be: lacessit). This is the motto of the Order of the Thistle, the highest decoration in Scotland. The meaning: “nobody can touch me without punishment” (free translation) can refer to the bearer as well as to the thistle.

One of the residents of Het Lammetje (the Lamb) was a certain Thomas Cunningham, a businessman, who earned a fortune by shipping out thousands of muskets from Veere to Scotland. These weapons went to the Scots fighting the English in the civil war of 1642 – 1649. The main reason for that resurrection was that the king tried to impose a different religious order upon his people. Thomas Cunningham’s loyalty to Scotland became also visible through the so-called Thrissels Banner designed by him. This banner carried a poem in which he vented his gall on the English.

Left margin: George Gordon 1541, the first conservator.

Right margin: Sir James Crauford 1799, the last conservator.

Top left: De lure Regni Apud Scotos 1579, (‘A dialogue concerning the Rights of the Crown in Scotland’) written whilst in exile by the Scottish historian and humanist George Buchanan. This publication was a charge against the Crown, and for that reason suppressed in Scotland and England.

The publication was printed in the Netherlands and smuggled through the Scottish Staple to Scotland.
Top right: the Bullet 1663 (no further explanation given)

Right bottom: St. Andrews. In the city of Veere’s town hall there is a painting depicting all the ships that sailed into the port of Veere in the year 1651. One vessel was sailing a red flag of war with in the corner the (Scottish) saltyre (saltire). At some of the covers of its gun ports one can spot the Saint Andrew arms. Saint Andrew is the (national) saint of Scotland.

According to the accompanying summary the vessels name is “Seelandia” (Zeeland). This is in fact incorrect as it concerns the Scottish man of war Saint Andrews that called at Veere whilst on its way from Lisbon to Great Britain. In the old Dutch script St Andrews could have been mistaken for Seelandia.
Royal Burghs: Kirkudbright (Kirkcudbright), Wigtoun (Wigtown), Dumbarton, Renfrew, Lanerik (Lanark), Pebils (Peebles), Selkirk, Dumbar (Dunbar), Whithorn, Rothsay (Rothesay), Ruthglen (Rutherglen), Lawder (Lauder).


Panel 5. ‘Kirk’.

To perform marriage services, baptizing children and holding funeral services the Scots in Veere had their own church and burial ground.
The Scottish Church in Veere was attached to the Edinburgh Synod and became the first Scottish protestant kirk in continental Europe in 1613. Services were held in the northern section of the hall chancel that was separated from Veere’s main church.
Left margin: Reverend Alexander McDuff 1614, the first clergyman.
Right margin: In 1799 the Scottish Church in Veere was discontinued. The last clergyman, reverend Lickly held a very emotional farewell service in which the community sang Psalm 122:2-3 ‘met groote aandoening door hem en zijn gemeente’. (Free translation: ‘he and his church community suffering deeply emotionally’).
Both clergymen can be seen on the pulpit of the Scottish Kirk. This pulpit was sold to the reformed church of Westkapelle in 1837. In 1686 it had survived a great fire in the Grote Kerk (the large church in Veere), unfortunately however it was lost in the allied bombardments at Westkapelle in 1944.
Upper margin: in 1620 the church community ordered from Isak de Cliever, a silversmith from Middelburg, four engraved Communion goblets. The goblets with a height of some 16 centimeters are made from silver, carry circular engravings and bear the year 1620 as date.
Central motive: the bottom of the goblets with the inscription: Brotherlie Love is Good and Pleasant (Psalm 133). Furthermore there is a bundle of arrows held together by a wide string.
In a square cadre showing the engravings.
Right bottom: Michael Burgerhuis, Middelburgh, Nethergate. There is a story that three church bells were founded in 1621 ‘at Campvere in Zeeland’. Two of these were destined for the St. Giles church in Edinburgh, the third one for the Netherbow gate. However the inscription in one of the bells now hanging in the Dean Gallery in Edinburgh (the Scottish Storytelling Centre) discloses that the bell was not founded in Veere (Campvere) but in Middelburgh (now: Middelburg) by Michael Burgerhuis.
Royal Burghs: Annan, Lochmaban (Lochmaben), Sancher (Sanquhar), Galloway, Queensferry, Perth, Saint Andros (Saint Andrews), Dysert (Dysart), Montrose, Cowpar (Cupar), Anstuther Easter (Anstruther), North Berwick, St. Ilhonstoun (Johnstone).


Panel 6. ‘Infatuate’.

Operation ‘Infatuate’ (November 1-8, 1944) concerned the liberation of Walcheren, then occupied by the Germans, a crucial phase in the battle of the river Scheldt, the access to the port of Antwerp.
In the Battle of Walcheren troops of many nationalities were engaged, Brits, French, Canadians, Dutch, Belgians and Norwegians. On October 11 the dykes (sea defenses) of the isle of Walcheren were bombarded by allied air forces, thus flooding the isle. Subsequent heavy fighting took place to get the German forces out. Veere was liberated on November 7, 1944 by Scottish troops. These were the 156th Infantry Mountain Brigade consisting of 6th and 7th Cameronians (‘Scottish Rifles’ with commanding officer C.F. Nason), 5th Company of the HLI (Highland Light Infantry), 1st Glasgow Highlanders (HLI) of the 52nd Lowland Division (lead by E. Hakewell Smith), along with the Royal Engineers and Royal Artillery.

Nason wrote about this episode the following: “In the early morning (…) I looked across the flat fields of Walcheren and saw Veere with its beautiful Town Hall and Cathedral on its northern boundary. My immediate thoughts were: what a terrible crime it would be to destroy this lovely old town with its historic connections with the wool trade of Scotland and the very heavy civilian casualties which would result”. The city of Veere survived the war virtually unharmed.
In the liberation of Walcheren other troops involved came from the (Royal) Marine Commandos, Special Services Brigade, Lowland Men, Fusiliers, Lothian Yeomen, Black Watch Canadians, Calgary Highlanders and the King’s Own Scottish Borderers. The German surrender was declared at Vrouwenpolder on November 8, 1944.

Middle: Variation in the Coat of arms (of the province) of Zeeland. The climbing lion also shows in the arms of Scotland (‘the ramping lyon’). In Zeeland however the lower part shows six ‘waves’ of the sea.

Right bottom: Culross in Fife, one of the Royal Scottish trading cities Veere has entered into a bond of friendship with. Shown is the so-called ‘Palace’, the residence of a tradesman built in 1597.

Left bottom: ‘The Holland trade’.

Royal Burghs: Anstruther Wester, Banff, Forfar, Forres, Cullan (Cullen), Nairn, Innerkethen (Inverkeithing), Kilrany (Kilrenny), Thaine (Tain).




© Stichting Veere-Schotland / Scotland-Veere Organization, 2013.
Translation: Hans Muschter