A settler colonial conversion: Dani Pickering, ‘Harm Received, Harm Caused: A Scottish Gael’s Journey to Becoming Pakeha’, Genealogy, 6, 82, 2022


Abstract: Beurla an donais. The language of the devil. This is how my great-great-great grandfather, Neil McLeod, described English in his native Gaelic as he grieved the loss of his wife Rebecca Henry in 1886. Even as he tried to distance himself socially and linguistically from the Anglophone world, however, he had already long since been caught up in its colonial machinery. After being cleared from his ancestral homeland of Raasay, Scotland in 1864 and relocated to the colonial frontier in Aotearoa New Zealand, Neil went on to spend more than fifteen years in the New Zealand Armed Constabulary and its reconstituted form, the New Zealand Police Force, before being killed on the job in 1890. Drawing on critical family history literature, firsthand accounts from Neil’s personal diaries, other family accounts and additional historical research, this article retraces Neil’s assimilation into white New Zealand. By unsettling the “constitutive forgetting” by which Neil and his descendants forsook our connection to Raasay and the Scottish Gàidhealtachd to become Pakeha settlers, I explore a history prior to and concurrent with the colonisation of Aotearoa which accounts for multi-ethnic Pakeha origins, beyond the Anglo-Saxon, and enables a deeper understanding of how and why Gaels such as Neil participated in the British Empire. I conclude by considering how Neil’s story deepens our understanding of how the settler-colonial subject is produced by highlighting the occasionally fine but always distinct line between coloniser and colonised.

%d bloggers like this: