The History of Leith

August 10, 2005

Darien documents go to Central America

The National Archives of Scotland is loaning historic 300-year-old letters to Central America as part of an exhibition on the Darien colony.

The letters tell the story of Scotland’s attempt late in the 17th century to found an overseas colony of its own at Darien in Panama.

The failure led in the end to the Act of Union in 1707 under which Scotland received almost £400,000 in part to repay those who invested in the unsuccessful project.

Three letters written from Darien by a Scottish settler in 1699 are being loaned by the National Archives of Scotland to the International Canal Museum in Panama.

The original letters, sent by George Douglas from the isthmus of Panama to Fife, will form the centrepiece of an exhibition on the Darien settlement.

NAS Outreach Officer Alison Lindsay has accepted an invitation from HM Ambassador to Panama, Jim Malcolm OBE, to travel to the country to deliver a lecture on Darien.

She also plans to visit the original site of the colony, on the north coast of Panama, to see the ruins left by the Scots when they abandoned it in 1699. Alison said:

“This really is the opportunity of a lifetime. I learned about the Darien company at school but I never dreamed I might one day visit it. One of the leaders of the Darien settlement was a Major John Lindsay, so I feel I have a small direct connection to this momentous episode in Scotland’s history.”

George MacKenzie, Keeper of the Records of Scotland, added:

“These letters embody the hopes, the drama and ultimately the heartbreak of the Darien expedition. They are the authentic voice of the past, speaking to us down the centuries. I am delighted we are lending them to this important exhibition marking a historical connection between Scotland and Panama.”

Also attending the opening of the exhibition will be Nat Edwards from the National Library of Scotland and archaeologist Mark Horton, who led a dig at Darien two years ago.

Source-Scottish Executive

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