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Overseas, Scots became homesick and wanted to help their fellow-countrymen. In the northeast of America, on 6 January 1657, only 20 years after the founding of the city, the Scots Charitable Society of Boston was organised for the relief of Scots. The world's first Society of Saint Andrew was formed in Charleston, South Carolina on 30 November 1729. Founded by immigrant Scots, many from Aberdeen and Fife, the Society was dedicated to the relief of suffering and distress among inhabitants of the infant colony. Twenty years later, the Saint Andrew's Society of Philadelphia was started by 25 Scottish residents to give relief to the poor and the distressed. Two signatories of the Declaration of Independence - James Wilson (a graduate of St Andrews University) and John Witherspoon DD, a native of Paisley and president of Princeton College - were founder members.
In 1756 the Saint Andrew's Society of the State of New York was founded as a charitable organisation. Then came the North British Society in Halifax, Nova Scotia, founded in 1768, open to persons of Scottish relationship by descent, marriage or affiliation. In Canada, the Saint Andrew's Society of Montreal was established in 1835, setting up the Saint Andrew's Home and other directly charitable agencies. The Saint Andrews Society of Toronto followed a year later. The London, Ontario St Andrew's and Caledonian Society appeared around 1875. The first Scots to celebrate St Andrew's Day in Montreal may have been those who served with the Chevalier Johnstone in the army of Louis X. The Scots fighting for George III certainly did so. The first recorded St Andrew's Ball was held on 2 December 1816. The Montreal Herald describes the elegant scene:
The dancing commenced about seven o'clock and continued with great spirit till after midnight, when the company to the number of about 130, sat down to a sumptuous and elegant supper The supper room was handsomely decorated, having at the upper end a transparency of glass lit behind by candles representing St Andrew at full length. The supper was lavish: a pyramid of quail, a suckling pig l'Italienne and a boar's head. The entry of the Haggis was a central feature. After supper the dancing continued with much vivacity till five o'clock.
Today there are St Andrew's Societies in practically every corner of the planet.
The night of the patron saint is not the preserve of the Scottish Diaspora either. There is plenty of celebration at home in Scotland. Ceilidhs test the floorboards of many a village hall from Gretna Green to Lerwick on 30th November. In the town that bears the saint's name, St Andrews, there's a week-long festival of arts and activities. And since November 30th 1996, when the Stone of Destiny was returned to Scotland and housed in Edinburgh Castle it has been decreed that the Castle shall be open with free entry on every St Andrew's Day - in perpetuity - to allow the people of Scotland to view the fabled Stone.
Last updated 2 Jun 2014