Scottish Identity in Australia: The Case of Old Sydneians in the Boer War, 1899–1902


  • Matthew Glozier Sydney Grammar School


Thirteen Old Sydneians lost their lives fighting in South Africa (the Boer War), 1899–1902. Eleven of them are honoured on a memorial board at Sydney Grammar School. The best known of them was Keith Kinnaird Mackellar, killed in 1900. His letters to his sister, Dorothea (the famous poet), are a reminder of the youthful enthusiasm that drove so many young men into the conflic. Another old boy of the School was the famous bush poet, Andrew ‘Banjo’ Paterson, who went to South Africa as a war correspondent. Both men had Scots ancestry and they were among a large contingent of Old Sydneians for whom some form of Scottish identity was meaningful. Altogether, over 150 Old Sydneians fought in South Africa—an unusually high number of volunteers from one school. This paper explores the meaning of Scottish identity for the Grammar old boys who fought and died in South Africa.