Scots in Surinam
Philip Dikland of KDV Architects, Paramaribo, Suriname has created a data base of information on the history of 400 plantations in Surinam. This extraordinarily rich Heritage Database can be accessed through KVD's web site.
Early settlers included Henry Mackintosh, from Inverness-shire, who owned plantation Fairfield on the Commewijn River in 1686.
In the 1770s John Stedman, who served for five years in Surinam with the Dutch Scots Brigade, said that there were only three Scottish planters in the colony: Walter Kennedy, Robert Gordon and Mr Gourlay [Stedman's Surinam: Life in an Eighteenth-Century Slave Society, an abridged, modernized edition, by Richard Price and Sally Price (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992)].
Expansion from Berbice into Surinam
Britain took control of the Dutch colony of Surinam in 1799. It was briefly returned to the Dutch during the Peace of Amiens (March 1802 – May 1803) but then remained under British control until 1816, after the end of the Napoleonic wars. During the period of British occupation both English and Scottish colonists acquired land.
Nickerie and the Coronie coast
The Nickerie region of Surinam was closest to Berbice. In 1797 Governor Frederici granted land on the Nickerie river and in 1800 a first group of immigrant planters brought their slaves from Granada. In 1801, a second group of settlers came from Berbice.
According to Dr R Chander the first plantations on the Nickerie river, Paradise and Plaisance, were established by Frederici himself on the left bank of the river, using slaves who had escaped from Berbice but had been re-captured by Surinam Indians. Frederici later sold these plantations to John Stuart of Grenada [from the parish of Forgue, Aberdeen-shire], who also established plantation Diamond. [A brief sketch of the history of Nickerie]
From 1799 new coastal plantations were laid out along the upper Nickerie coast. This became known to English speakers as the ‘colony’ and subsequently to Dutch speakers as Coronie, the name it bears today. Adam Cameron (of Erracht, Lochaber) is credited with establishing the first cotton plantation, Burnside (Lot 210), on the Coronie coast in 1808. [Government of Surinam, Coastal Management Plan for the North Coronie Area (Paramaribo, 2000), 29]
On the map above [National Archives of the Netherlands, Inventory no 1576] the mouth of the Courentyne river, the boundary between Berbice and Surinam, is in the centre. To the left are the proposed coastal plantations in Surinam; to the right those in Berbice.
In 1835 there were twenty-two working plantations and five abandoned [VEL 1666-1712, M D Teenstra-Mabé, Generale kaart der Kolonie Suriname, 1835] and in 1850 there were twenty-one plantations, of which eight were named after locations in Scotland: Clyde, Novar, Belladrum, Bantaskine, Cardross Park, Moy, Hamilton and Inverness. Three plantations had English place names: Oxford, Leasowes and Totness.
One of the earliest British planters in Nickerie was probably John Wilson [1772–1856], whose Scottish will described him as ‘for many years a resident of Nickerie in Surinam’ before moving to Demerara [SC70/1/92], where we was established by the early 1800s.
In summary, the Scottish planters I have identified in Surinam are:
- Henry Mackintosh
- Walter Kennedy (and his brothers)
- Robert Gordon
- Mr Gourlay
- John WIlson
- John Stuart (Forgue)
- Adam Cameron (Eracht)
- Alexander Cruikshank (Huntly)
- James & Thomas Balfour (Dysart)
- George Fraser (son of William Fraser and Elizabeth Swain Bannister)
- Robert & David Kirke (Carnock, Fife)
- Alexander and William Macintosh (Inverness)
- John Macintosh
- Alexander Cameron (Invermallie, Lochaber)
- Hugh Macleod and Hugh Wright
- Alexander Ferrier (Cardross)
- Alexander and Gordon Macdonald
Other British plantation owners were:
- Thomas Gray and his wife Charlotte Anne Cort
The merchant house of Barkly & Graham, and then Barkly & Davidson, owned estates in Surinam.
Among other Scots in the colony were:
Andrew James Cornfoot, of Largo, Fife, who died at plantation Burnside on 4 June 1830 [Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh, Scotland), Monday, August 2, 1830; Issue 17014].
Lachlan McBean of Tomatin.
Boyd Macdonald, son of John Macdonald of Greenock, died Paramaribo, Surinam, 7 April 1842 [The Morning Post (London, England), Wednesday, June 15, 1842].
Robert Ramsay, fourth son of Robert Ramsay, writer, Dumfries, who drowned after falling from a ship in the river at Surinam, on 25 April 1817 [Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh, Scotland), Thursday, April 9, 1818; Issue 15055].
William Wilson, son of Thomas Wilson, writer in Edinburgh, who died in Surinam on 8 August 1812 [Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh, Scotland), Saturday, October 31, 1812; Issue 14177]
Dennis Lee Kong and Philip Dikland: see their contributions to the website Coronie