Scots in Hawaii

The Scots have a reputation for poking around in every corner of the world. It is like a gift, or curse, this wanderlust. The first man to cross Australia south to north was Scottish, as was the first man known to cross the continent of North America. Scots sailed boats on the roof of the world, probed Africa, fought at the Little Big Horn, founded the Russian Navy and helped found the US Navy. . . the list is endless.

But how many people knew that the Scots were also involved in Hawaii, that most beautiful of all island chains? Well: we were. Here are some of the Scots who made their mark on that magical place:

Harry Byng (1856 – 1960). He was no explorer but a Glaswegian hairdresser. Byng spent his early life at sea, although he had been trained as a barber. After extensive travelling that included circumnavigating the world a reputed seven times, Byng settled in Washington. While there he recommenced his hairdressing career. His reputation was so high that King Klagas of Honolulu appointed him his royal hairdresser so that in 1887 Byng moved to Hoquaim to open his hairdressing business. He worked on that career until he died at the age of 104.

Not bad eh? Imagine the language difficulties there!

Or there was the much earlier

Archibald Campbell (1787 – c 1830). Another west coast man, this time from Paisley, in his autobiography, Archibald Campbell’s describes himself as a ‘common sailor.’ Apprenticed to a weaver when he was ten, in 1806 Campbell signed on an Indiaman to seek adventure. Arriving in Canton, he transferred to an American vessel, which carried him to Japan and Kamchatka, before being wrecked off Alaska. Sailing in a longboat to the Russian settlement at Alexandria, Kodiak Island, Campbell, set off again, to suffer further shipwreck and frostbite that cost him his feet. Having seen enough of the world, Campbell attempted to return home, but instead landed in Hawaii, where he remained over a year. He became sailmaker to King Kamehamela I, building the first loom in the islands.  Eventually returning to Scotland by way of Brazil, Campbell scrabbled for a living, begging and playing the violin in Edinburgh, Leith and the early Clyde steamboats.

Not the best of lives, then.

James Makee had a bit of a happier life.

James Makee (c 1810 – 1879). He was a Scottish whaling master who captained American vessels out of Boston. Sometime around 1843 he was severely injured, either in a bar room brawl in Honolulu or, more charitably, in an accident on board his ship. In either event he settled in Hawaii, in 1856 buying the 20,000-acre Torbert Plantation at Honua’ula in Maui. Makee became a rancher, renamed the property Rose Ranch after his wife Catherine’s favourite flower.

Bringing Catherine and their five daughters from Massachusetts, Makee’s hospitality soon became legendary on the island, perhaps especially after the ex-seaman introduced grapes for wine into the island. He built a large house with a tennis court, Bowling Green and billiard room. He planted over 150,000 trees including the Queensland Kauri, which was excellent for ship’s masts. He also grew roses, bred horses and sugar and became wealthy.  He is remembered by the Hawaiian dance Hula O Makee and by Makee Island near Honolulu.

Robert Wyllie was even more influential:

Robert Crichton Wyllie (1798 – 1865) was an Ayrshire man and travelled to Mexico, where he became a Master Mason at a Lodge in Mazatlan. Around 1845 he arrived in Hawaii, where he became Minister of Foreign Affairs, a position he held for nearly twenty years. Wyllie was successful in this position, for most developed nations recognised Hawaii as an independent kingdom. A keen dancer, Wyllie clashed with both British and American missionaries, who attempted to ban the practice. Instead, Wyllie ensured that dancing was integral to palace protocol. It became common practice for missionaries to leave the palace before the dancing began.

In the early 1860s, Wyllie imported a sugar mill from Scotland for his estate on the Hanalei River. Among his guests was Lady Franklin, widow of the Arctic explorer.

When he died in 1865, the Hawaiian Gazette said that ‘there went a true friend of our King and His People.’

And lastly there is an Edinburgh man

Archibald Scott Cleghorn (1835 – 1910), whose family emigrated to New Zealand when he was still young. Despite, or perhaps because of, the number of Scots in that country, the Cleghorns decided to move on.

In 1851 they sailed to Hawaii, where his father Thomas Cleghorn started a store to supply visiting shipping. Two years later he died, leaving his son, then 18, to run the business. A good businessman, young Archibald Cleghorn opened more shops across Hawaii, but still had time to father three children on a Hawaiian girl. Although he cared for his daughters, he did not marry the mother. Instead he wed Miriam Likelike, who was the youngest daughter of Chief Kapaakea. Although she was far younger, their marriage was successful.

In 1874 Miriam’s brother Kalakua became king of Hawaii and Cleghorn found himself in an elevated place in society. Perhaps he only realised his new status when the birth of his daughter was announced by a salute of cannon on Punchbowl Hill. Given the charming, if long, name of Princess Victoria Kawekiu Lunalilo Kalaninuiahilapalapa Kaiulani Cleghorn, the child was christened at St Andrews Episcopal Church, with an immediate gift of a ten-acre estate in Waikiki. Cleghorn used his gardening skills to beautify his daughter’s property. Naming the estate Ainahau, the Cleghorns took up residence.

In 1877 the king died and the heir apparent took Likelike on a tour of the islands, where she engaged in a brief affair with another man. The marriage survived and in 1883 Cleghorn was brother-in-law and advisor to a king. Ignoring a family feud, he enjoyed the coronation, but was more distressed when Mount Loa erupted in January 1887. In Hawaii, such an event presaged the death of a chief. Believing that somebody had cursed her, Lilelike died in February, leaving Cleghorn to bring up their daughter.   Kaiulani was unhappy when Cleghorn proposed sending her to Britain for her education, but Robert Louis Stevenson, out of Scotland for health reasons, tried to improve her morale with his tales of Scotland.

Cleghorn travelled with Kaiulani to San Francisco before returning to Hawaii. While she was away the king died and the new queen promoted Kaiulani as heir to the throne. It was now that Cleghorn began to play politics. Unhappy with his sister-in-law’s policies, he began to wonder if it would be better for the United States to annex the islands. When this happened in August 1898, Cleghorn realised that his daughter had lost her inheritance. Within six months Kaiulani had died of fever, but Cleghorn married again.

Becoming a member of King Kalakua’s Privy Council, Cleghorn was appointed to the Board of Immigration and the Board of Health as well as the Board of Prisons. However, it may be his appointment as Honolulu’s first park commissioner that was most important, for he is remembered as the ‘father of Hawaii’s park system.’ As well as nearly creating a royal dynasty, Cleghorn planned Emma Park and Kapiolani Park. He died on November 1910.

Who would have thought it? A Scottish prince of Hawaii. Now, I wonder if I have any family connections to the royal Cleghorns!


About malcolmarchibald

Happily married for 34 years to Cathy, I have three grown children and live in the depths of Moray in northern Scotland. I was educated in Edinburgh and Dundee and work as a lecturer in Inverness, while writing historical books, both fiction and fact.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Edinburgh, Exploration, Glasgow,, Hawaii, history, Immigration, maritime, Uncategorized, Victorian values and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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