Scotlands History

Polish immigration

There have been close links between Scotland and Poland since at least the 15th century. Scots traders, merchants and soldiers travelled to Poland. By 1600 around 30,000 Scots (many Aberdonians and Dundonians) were living in Poland. The Scots merchant Robert Gordon made his fortune in Gdansk before founding what became the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.

'Bonnie' Prince Charlie's mother was half Polish – his mother was Clementina Sobieska, the granddaughter of Jan Sobieski, King of Poland.

From the last years of the 19th century to the beginning of the Great War many Poles came to Scotland to find work. Most worked in coal mines or in iron and steel making. Polish communities thrived in villages and towns in Ayrshire and Lanarkshire, as well as in Glasgow.

During the Second World War tens of thousands of Poles were stationed in Scotland. Polish tanks thundered through Haddington in East Lothian and Polish flight squadrons joined the air war. The ships of the Polish Navy fought alongside the Royal Navy. During the Clydebank Blitz the Polish destroyer ORP Piorun defended the Clyde shipyards - putting up heavy anti-aircraft fire against the Nazi bombers. Around 10,000 Poles stayed in Scotland after WWII.

Today Scotland has become home to a new generation of Polish immigrants. Since Poland became part of the European Union in 2004 many Poles have come to Scotland to work and live.

  • Photo of the Polish flag - two horizontal stripes of equal width, the upper one white and the lower one red.
  • Image of Polish tanks in Court Street, Haddington

Click on the image to view a larger version.