Scots in Hawaii
Rob McClure Smith
In 1784 Archibald Menzies, a Scottish botanist of the Vancouver expedition, became the
first non-Hawaiian to ascend the slopes of Mauna Loa.
Flight-delayed four hours in Heathrow, the pair of them were already
steaming on vodka and oranges in the airport bar and so, on the overnight stopover,
immediately got totally slaughtered on vodka-heavy Bloody Marys in the Hiawatha lounge of
the L.A. Marriott. They were still nursing mega-hangovers the next afternoon when the Big
Island spooled beneath them in grids of brown and green smudged by the scattered shadows
of clouds. The ocean was a patchwork crazy-quilt along the coast tooa shifting wash
of greens and yellows and blues. Snow-capped mountains sweeping down to black-sand beaches
got Morag to thinking that maybe the trip was going to be worth it after all.
"Ah cannae believe they make ye pay fur the
headphones," said Bethia, stuffing the wires in her tote bag. "Cheapskate
bastards. That wis a right sucky film tae."
They shared their airport taxi with a bald punter from
Chicago who was most definitely checking out Bethia big time. You couldnt blame him
really. She was wearing this stunning lei braided with purple orchids, creamy tuberoses
and mauve plumeria, which somehow set off the gorgeous drift of her flame hair just magic.
Bethia noticed him noticing her too. This Morag noticed. The Yank's Nike flexons were
practically misting over.
"Ah heard that iverybody goat laid here,"
Bethia said, running her fingers through the necklet. "Bit this wisnae whit ah hud in
That was Bethia all over. The lassie was funny as all
get out sometimes. Sometimes.
The Chicagoan was major chatty and told them all about
how he was an Assistant Professor of Astronomy, off to the Big Island to work for a couple
of weeks on one of the telescopes up yonder on Mauna Kea. He pointed out the row of
white-domed observatories on the peak and said it was so freezing up there, and the air so
thin, that the scientists had to come down a ways to check their data. This halfway house
on the mountain they called the Thinkery. His own research mostly involved observing
stellar development in the Carinae Nebula. Hed been over here three times before,
star-mapping up a storm.
"That must be terrible fascinating," said
Morag, stifling a yawn.
"We know next to nothing about star formation
really," he said, frowning. "Everything we thought we knew about it we
"Paris Hilton wid be a guid example oaf
that," said Bethia, who'd chugged a good quart of red on the plane, her being a big
believer in hair of the dog, among other myths. She gestured at the People magazine
open on her lap. "Weird star furmation, ah mean. Doan't even git me started oan
Lindsay Lohan's tits."
Morag was half-cut too, with a rare rolling glow. She
let her brow rest cool on the glass for a moment before winding the window down. She felt
her hair whipped back by the same trade winds swirling the ocean creamy. The light and the
moisture in the air made all the colors true.
Pinned halfway up the avenue of palms were signs that
read: "Beware of falling coconuts and fronds."
"Fronds dinna let fronds stand unner coconut
trees," said Morag, which cracked Bethia up no end.
"That's the least of our worries," said the
astronomer, grinning. " Hilo is the tsunami capital of the world. Really. The bay is
funnel-shaped and that makes the waves bigger."
Morag pretty much had her fill of him already. What a
balloon. He was just shattering her Tom Selleck fantasy about American guys in Hawaii.
"Its alright," he added, quickly.
"You guys needn't fret. They have a real good warning system in the Pacific. It's
called the Pacific Warning System."
Later, when he interrupted Morag to correct her
pronunciation of Hilo, she said: "You say Hee-Lo. Ah say guidbye."
The conflict between the forces of Mauis King Kahekili and those of the invading
Kamehameha I in 1790 is a key event in Hawaiian history. Kamehameha brought with him to
the final battle a cannon and John Young and Isaac Davis to operate it. On the third day
of the battle, the two Scotsmen wheeled out their death machine and duly slaughtered
The taxi looped north of the bay across the
Wailuku. The sea was so bright it hurt to look at it. Morag had come to see volcanoes, but
glimmer-glass blue was dazzle enough for now. She watched the swishy fronds overhanging
the clear water, listened to the slow percussion of surf on lava-lace rocks. She tried to
take it all inthe volcanic ridges and their deep green valleys, the low drift of
clouds and the coral rubble beachesand failed.
"Its awfu pretty, right enough,"
"It is that," said the astronomer.
"This place is Honolulu before the jets came in."
"Everyboady is very nice. At the airport an
"Its always been a welcoming place.
Provided you weren't Captain Cook. When he landed, the natives did for him pronto. He was
the first Haole to get offed in these parts."
"He wis English though, right?" said Bethia,
thoughtfully. "That's how ye huv tae deal wi' the Sassenachs. It's them ur you."
Morag wondered if all the alcohol was mellowing her
out. She felt so strangely relaxed. So wonderful.
The street outside the Hilo Hawaiian was lined with
thick-knotted banyans. The roots of the trees hung down, loose brown ropes in places
brushing the pavements. Bougainvillea vines choked the trunks green.
"Coolest thing about those trees," he told
them, fast become the tourist guide from hell, "is that famous people planted them
here back in the day. Amelia Earhart, Cecil B. De Mille. The massive one outside the hotel
is Babe Ruths."
"Niver heard oaf her," said Morag,
stretching. "Whens the bar open?"
"Love your accent," he said, turning to
Bethia. "You girls Irish?"
"Aye," said Bethia, "sumthin like
Alexander Adams came to Hawaii on the Albatross in 1811. Kamehameha I immediately
placed his tiny navy under Adams command. Five years later, Adams expelled the
Russian filibusters from Kauai. As a reward, the king gave the Scot the land of Niu,
eastward of Diamond Hill, which was where Adams retired after serving as Honolulu harbor
pilot for thirty years. It was Adams who persuaded the king to consent to missionaries
taking up residence in Hawaii and who originally inspired the design of the Hawaiian flag,
with its Union Jack in the upper corner.
Pinned in the middle of the notice board in the
hotel foyer was a poster featuring a kilted bagpiper. Bethia wrinkled her nose when she
The Honolulu Police Pipes & Drums, performing
Saturday and Sunday at the annual Hawaiian Scottish Festival at Kapiolani Park.
"Ick" said Morag.
"It gits worse," wailed Bethia. "Check
Hawaiian Scottish Festival 2004. Highland Games and Athletics! Entertainment: Piping,
Music, Song & Dance; Demonstrations: Swordplay, Weaving; Vendors: Highland Wear,
Celtic clothing, Jewelery, musical instruments; Food: Traditional fare.
"They spelt joolry wrang," noted Morag.
"Dye reckon yon traditional fare wid be
fish an chips?"
"How come ahve lived in Motherwell 20 year
an nivir hud any decent swordplay?"
Morag slid the door along its metallic groove and
stepped out on the verandah. She felt her feet sink in a spiderwebbing of cracks in the
concrete. There was an oval ornamental pool below, replenished by a bubbling-froth
fountain. Fat Japanese carp swam back and forth all orangey in the pool. She lit up the
Regal shed blagged from her friend.
"You think mibbe we should hook up wi baldy
starman later?" called Bethia. She was stretched across one of the beds, flicking
through the hotel room mags.
"You can," said Morag. "Ah need sleep.
Dont ye iver sleep?"
"Naw. Looks like theres tons oaf stuff
asides snorkelin' though. This fluming the irrigation system thing looks like a
Morag inhaled the strangeness that was a mingled scent
of oleander and frangipani. Mynah birds scolded her from the banyan branches and saffron
finches flitted on the vines like yellow budgies. It was nice.
"Ah'd mibbe like tae test-drive a black guy when
ah'm here," said Bethia excitedly. "Some Denzel lookalike. Hawaii Sex-O if ye
know whit ah mean." She began ba-ba-bababaing the theme, tapping her knees. Bethia
had nice knees too.
"This is awfu nice," Morag said.
"Is that a cuckoo ah hear?"
"Cannae be a cuckoo," said Bethia,
"Must be a Hawaaian burd sounds jist like wan."
"Ah think its a cuckoo, really. Only a
cuckoo wid sound like a cuckoo?"
"Whitever. Ah tell ye, ahll be cuckoo masel
if ah dont git anither voddie soon."
In January 1834, David Douglas climbed Mauna Kea, returning after five days with
50 species of fern, and mosses and lichens. During his brief life, Douglas introduced to
Europe more than 200 plant species including the Douglas Fir (Pseudotsua douglasii, though
Douglas himself gave the tree the botanical name Pseudotsuga menziesii after Archibald
Menzies). Several Hawaiian plants including Pukeawe (Cyathodes douglasii) and Hala
(Pandanus douglasii) are also named for the Scottish botanist. Douglas died after falling
into a pit dug by the islanders to catch wild cattle. A bull was already in the pit.
However, there was suspicion of murder by an Englishman named Gurney. Douglas was buried
in Honolulu where more than 200 firs were planted at the dedication of his memorial.
Two Mai-Tai drenched days later Morag finally got
to see her volcano at last. Whats more, and what made it all the more worthwhile,
was that the volunteer guide from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory was hot as red chili
peppers. Well Aloha there, boy. His name was Adrian and he said he was a graduate student
from Tuscaloosa. He probably was. Mostly, his job involved setting up GPS monitors on the
summit of Mauna Loa. But weekend afternoons they let him do the Kileau van tours for an
"Ah widnae mind blowin yon volcano boy's
tap aff," Morag observed to Bethia.
Bethia smiled at that, but Morag couldn't help
noticing she was also doing that lipwetty thing with her tongue she did when she was
looking for a lumber herself.
As they clambered out the van on Chain of Craters
Road, Adrian said, with mock pomposity, "Folks, y'all are about to witness the birth
of the planet you stand on."
In bygone days of yore the natives, so he informed
them, worshipped the fire goddess. They believed she lived in the Kilauea Volcano. Today
they'd be visitors paying their respects to old Pele herself."
"Ah thought Pele played fur Brazil," Bethia
The main lava tube system feeding flows to the ocean
had broken down earlier in the month, leading to a series of break-outs and surface flows
between the Pu`u `O`o vent and the coast. One of these, the Banana flow, had found the
water, already amassing new land on the southeast coast.
Adrian extracted a parcel of yellow waterproof ponchos
from the back of the truck.
The tour party put them on reluctantly.
"Adrian, naebiddy looks guid in yella bar Arsenal
an Brazil!" teased Morag.
Bethia looked at her and sighed. "Ah suppose the
idea is tae look like wee bananas oorselves hen."
They began the hike towards Kilauea.
Robert Crichton Wyllie, born in Ayrshire, entered the service of King Kamehameha III in
1845, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, a position he held until his death. During his
tenure, Hawaii was acknowledged as an independent kingdom by treaties with all the major
nations, and Wyllie himself regarded as the most influential man in the kingdom. He often
found himself at odds with American and English missionaries over the issue of dancing. A
tireless dancer himself, Wyllie made dancing part of palace cultural affairs. Thereafter,
missionaries attending state dinners left before the dancing began, one complaining
bitterly that Wyllie looked like he could hardly wait until they were out of the room.
And now here they were inches from creation,
watching the earth being born. The burning lava, as it spilled into the ocean from the
severed lava tube, was instantly shivered into millions of minute pieces, tephra jets
sending fragments of hot rocks, froth-scalding waves and molten splatter across the
delta's leading edge where a circular littoral cone the height of a man had stiffened. The
water under the shelf was sludgy browna mix of glass fragments, filaments and frying
planktonunder surging acid plumes of laze. A few meters from the shoreline, a second
tube had ruptured, and bubble bursts of molten lava sheets spattered rhythmically.
"Its new to us," Adrian shouted,
"but old as time. You can see the most incredible littoral explosions on a flow south
"Ah've hud those," Bethia said to Morag,
winking. "They're the best kind."
"He said littoral," said Morag, near wetting
"Ah widnae say no tae a littoral explosion wi'
volcano boy masel."
"Paws aff," barked Morag, snapping. 'Ah seen
him furst. Ah'm serious as anythin'."
Bethia rolled her eyes. "Take a chill pill
"Mark Twain said, after seeing what y'all just
saw, that here was room for the imagination to work. Isn't that just great?"
Morag thought it was.
The tour party strolled, a taut yellow string, across
a cooled and set field of lava, a once crystalline stream frozen now into dark rock glazed
with silver burnish. They hiked over hummocky surfaces of pahoehoe, smooth and ropelike,
cracking underfoot now like thin panes of glass. In places, skylights had formed from the
collapsed roof of a lava tube and, crouching rim-ward, their guide urging care, they
glimpsed the molten flow beneath. Miles deeper than human ken, the burning magna chambers.
"Wid ye look at that?" Morag said.
In the distance, they could see the blood-orange flow
on the surface, morphing jewel lava. Black tongues crept down the slope, the leading edges
of the glow-ooze blushed red, silver-sooty tendrils in their wake. You could hear the soft
hiss of methane, the quiet tinkling of the volcanic glass shedding off cooling rocks, see
the haze of the noxious fog long before it seeped deep in nostrils.
A little shrub burst into flame, sun-bleached branches
"A burning bush spoke tae Charlton Heston as well
ah hear," said Bethia.
"You wheesht now," said Morag, irritated.
"That's enough. Nae mair kiddin aroon. This is. . ." She thought for a
moment. 'This is like being in a kirk."
"Mair like being oan acid," said Bethia.
"Nice an hallucinogenic."
The daytrip ended with a lu'au at the Volcano
House on the rim of the caldera. They scoffed their salmon and chicken long rice, pork and
coconut pudding, squid with steamed tar greens. Sucking the tiny opiphi out of their
little black shells they watched the distant orange arteries stream across the hornito's
sulphur banks in the sudden darkness.
Morag felt something she'd never felt before. It
seeped into her heart.
In the 1850s the huge Ulupalakua Ranch, covering more than 20,000 acres, was the
property of the legendary Scottish sea captain James Makee. He settled on Ulupalakua after
being seriously injured in a bar-room brawl in Honolulu. The captain is still celebrated
to this day in the Hawaiian song and dance Hula O Makee.
Back at the hotel, they hit the chrome-lipped bar
right quick. Sitting on the patio with their cool rum and cokes, mealy damp moths flitting
suicidal around the guttering candles, Adrian told them some more about Pele. He was
looking mostly at Bethia while he spoke. Morag was starting to think how this one might be
full of it too, yet another chancer, and of how Bethia always had them bumming their load
in no time.
"The Hawiaans thought Pele was akua noho,"
he was saying, "a god who talked. She could take possession of a human and make her a
kahu. A zombie, right? You recognized a Pele kahu by the way she makes her
hair stand out and by her inflamed red eyes."
"Sounds like Christina Aguilera," said
Morag, finding him more and more a bigtime suave blowhard.
'They say the kahu blinds her victims," he
said, ignoring her.
"Zombies, eh? D'ye think we should be tellin'
either such intimate things this early. . ." said Bethia coyly, flickering those
lashes of hers, lime-green eyes flirting up a storm.
They told Adrian about the competition at the Travel
Agents they'd won, anywhere on the globe under a thousand quid, about how they didn't even
have passports at the time, and how it took forever to get time off from the Prudential
office. Then of how Morag had always wanted to see a volcano up close, ever since she was
a wee lassie, so there was no question of where they were heading once they ruled out
"Ah wisnae gonnae spend aw ma holidays bein' felt
up by randy Tallys" explained Bethia.
The story took some telling. After a bushel of
Bacardis (they ditched the Cokes) they were criminally wasted. Morag oscillated across the
lounge to the Ladies for yet another pee. When she came back, Bethia and Adrian were out
Morag wasn't really gobsmacked. Bethia was a fabulous
friend and could be a real sweetheart, but mostly she was a terrible floozy, especially
after a serious bevvy. Still.
The hotel bar seemed to be spinning away from her now.
The low ceiling was a visitor from some fluorescent nightmare. She noticed the bald
astronomer sitting alone by the bar. He was reading a thick book. He was wearing a
Hawaiian shirt. Christ on a fucking bike. How tacky was that? She lurched towards him. She
consoled herself that she was wearing a primo pair of going-to-the-doctor knickers. He
smiled at her approach, as well he might, Christmas come real early, and offered her a
handful of cold dead fish.
The planter James Campbell's vision made it possible for Hawaii's people to grow sugar
cane on the dry lands of the Ewa Plain. The wells the Scotsman dug in 1879 uncovered a
vast pure water reserve that still provides the Pearl Harbor and Honolulu areas with
He liked variety. She'd been in more positions now
than a circus contortionist, just letting him have his way with her, giving him his wee
mundane fantasies. Right now he was behind her again, with her hanging off the bed
practically, uncomfortable as anything, hand splayed on the carpet, him breathing faster,
more insistent. He was the sweaty type, and for all the expanse of effort, all the Olympic
gymnastics, not much good. She could tell there would be no second go the night. He'd
likely be a snorer too. What a loser. She kept spacing out, thinking about tsunamis.
He jerked her hair back suddenly. It took her by
surprise. She actually gasped.
"I want to come on your face," he said, his
breath hot and wet in her ear.
"Whit?" she said.
He stopped moving. "I want to come on your face.
Is that alright?"
"Sure," she said, wheeling around. She knelt
on the bed, facing him. "But only if ah git tae shite oan yir heid tae."
She pushed him away from her hard and he rolled
backwards, disappearing over the edge of the bed, legs flailing, his head hitting the
floor with a solid clunk.
"Aye, an after that ah'd like tae puke in yir ear
as well. If that's awright?
The song "Hawaii Aloha," is derived from the Scots hymn "I Left It All
In the bathroom, she put on her bracelets and
earrings, her necklace of little cowrie shells, slipped the rubber zoris shed bought
in Puakenikini Passions back on her feet. Her toes looked braw anyway. She risked the
mirror. No, her face didn't. She barely recognized herself, looked like hell, eyes red as
radial flares of dying galaxies. She was amazed Baldie even needed a hairbrush. She
backcombed her own like a machine till it looked mental as anything. The overall effect
was wild, mad and sexy. Then she broke the frame in bits, all bar the lenses, which were
too thick to snap, and flushed the pieces down the toilet.
"We're not done here," he said when she came
out. He sounded more hopeful than menacing and looked small in every way. She very near
felt sorry for him. He'd howked his knees up over his wee potbelly.
"Let's be sure tae dae it agin sometime
though," she said from the doorway. "Like when wur deid."
"I can't seem to find my glasses," he added
plaintively, as the door closed.
Victoria Ka'iulani Cleghorn, Crown Princess of the Kingdom of Hawai'i, was the daughter
of Princess Miriam Likelike (sister of Queen Lili'iuokalani) and Archibald Cleghorn,
prosperous businessman, horticulturist, and eventual governor of Oíahu during Queen
Liliuokalanis reign. On Robert Louis Stevensons arrival in Honolulu in
1889, the king introduced him to Cleghorn, assuming their common Edinburgh origins would
prove a bond. At tea parties under the Ainahau banyan, Stevenson became fascinated with
the half-Scottish princess. After all, he reported, she was "the wrong half Edinburgh
Scots, like mysel!" In the poem written in her honor, he called her "the
daughter of a double race."
She kicked the door open and it slammed against
the rubber stopper on the wall. It was totally her intention to scare the shite out of
them. She sure as hell wasnt going to be sexiled by that pair. But Bethia was
sitting up in bed all by herself reading Premiere. She did look startled though.
She'd smeared her face with white cream and that helped the look some. She was most
startled at Morag's appearance.
"Christ whit happened tae you!"
"Yir the wan looks like Caspar the fuckin'
friendly ghost. Whit's wi' the gunk?" Morag looked around the room. "Where's yir
boyfriend?" she added coldly. She pulled the cupboard open and investigated the
"He left." Bethia grimaced. "He wis tae
pissed tae git it up. Goat embarrassed an then hostile, so ah made him git the hell oot.
Telt him tae invest in some Levitra."
Morag began howling with laughter, a regular
"The guys ower here ur jist regular forces oaf
nature, eh?" said Bethia.
"It's jist like being at hame" said Morag,
Then, before she knew it she was crying like a baby.
"Don't greet, pet," said Bethia, stroking
her hair. "Dinna greet noo."
Morag was able to stop her bubbling when she began
puking in the toilet. Bethia held her head, kept telling her she was fine. Later, when it
was her turn to be sick, gagging her own thimbleful of bile, Morag brushed that long red
hair of hers smooth away from the edge of the bowl, kissing Bethia soft on the cheek. It
was just vomit central for a while in there. But a nice girly-girl bonding experience
HB 74 is the official government act of creating a tartan for the state of Hawaii. The
legislature found that Hawaii has a strong and flourishing Scottish heritage, ever present
since the early days of the monarchy. Today it is embodied in many local organizations and
institutions including the Hawai`i Handweavers Hui, the Caledonian Society of Hawai`i, the
Celtic Pipes and Drums of Hawai`i, the Scottish Country Dancers Association, Hawai`i
Thistle Pipe Band, the St. Andrews Society, the Scottish Association, the Scottish Rite
Cathedral, the Celtic Catholic Church. . .
The afternoon after, a jackhammering bastard
behind her eyes, her mouth rough as a badgers arse, Morag sat out on the verandah,
legs slung over the railing. She was watching a sleepy honeycreeper peck at seed on the
"Freak," Morag screamed.
She looked down at the flopping orange fish, who
likely felt the same way about her.
From her sixth floor perch, Morag could see kiddies
leaping from the Coconut Island tower into the blue, a wedding party trailing their
yellow-pink sarongs through the Liliuokalani gardens, now placing their tapa cloths
underneath the standing stones. Thick trees like mushroom clouds loomed over parties of
Japanese tourists, their cameras blazing.
The earthquake shook the ground alive, ten on the
Richter, and the fiery lake of Halemaumau, home of wild Pele, erupted in sympathy,
vomiting the tide of lava that gushed down the slopes to merge with the tidal wave rushing
ashore to greet it. They embraced in a lover's hiss. The island was swallowed, buried like
Pompeii in ash, then down, down like Atlantis. The meteor from the Carinae Nebula finished
the job. Glug-glug.
Hell, Morag thought, there surely was room for the
imagination to work in a place like this right enough. If she were to stay here, and never
go back, this here verandah might well become her very own personal fucking Thinkery.
She ripped the filter off her Regal to make it
stronger, lit up, inhaled, let the smoke curl warm in her lungs, fingers tingling as the
lovely nicotine rush made her heart tender. Mellowed out some, she went back inside the
Bethia was skinning up on the bed, Rizla wrappers
scattered across the sheets. God alone knew where that girl could have scored already.
Unbelievable. Bethia was wearing her very own improvised icepack around her skull. She'd
tied a wet white towel around her ears and looped it up on the corners. She looked like
Bugs Bunny after a bender.
"Ah'm gonnae need a drink soon," she said by
way of greeting. "Clear mah heid."
The light filtered yellow through the window, warm on
the nape of Morag's neck.
"Yon D.J. wi' the hair said he'd spin Goldfrapp
an the new Basement Jaxx fur us the night," Bethia said. "Might jist hit the
In a downtown Honolulu museum one can still view the beautiful music box given to the
Princess Ka'iulani by Robert Louis Stevenson. This exquisite music box plays an assortment
of pretty Celtic tunes, none of which have yet been identified.