A wet October Saturday afternoon in Vilnius. What could we do?
Ikea? A museum?
We ended up driving to Kėdainiai (population 24,000), 80 miles (130 km) to the northwest. The reason – a Scottish heritage.
The Scots arrived in Kėdainiai in the late 16th and 17th centuries, serving in the army and personal guard of Prince Radziwill. Encouraged by the conversion of his wife Anna to protestantism, the community exerted considerable influence in the city and persisted until the mid-19th century.
The historian Kaminskas wrote: ‘The Scots are still arriving, and settle near the big market, They settle for a long time, as walls of a house, are thick, strong and smell of stability“. Eleven of the main market square’s nineteen grand properties were once owned by Scots merchants.
At their most dominant in the 17th century, Scots reached exalted positions, including mayor, court members, clergymen and academics. At the Academy of Vilnius, John Hay was the master of rhetoric and Scots contributed to collections of published poetry. By the 18th century the ascendancy of catholics in the Counter-Reformation in the area led many Scots back to their traditional strongholds in ports such as Prussia’s Königsberg (now Kaliningrad).
The names of Scottish settlers often naturalised, and it is possible to find names such as Andersonas (Anderson), Benetas (Bennett), Diksonas (Dickson) and Gordonas (Gordon).
It was interesting – although I could see no signs of Scottish architectural style in the main square – and I got a flavour of town life “off the beaten track”.
Oh, and an excellent coffee and cake.
ⓒ iain taylor, 2018 🏴🇱🇹