Gothenburg ( known as Goteborg ) is a thriving industrial centre
in Sweden today, that country's second largest city. At the start
of the 17th Century, however, the King of Sweden had only just
got the surrounding delta area back after taking seven years to
pay a 1 million Kroner ransom to the Danes ?and that was not
for the first time.
The Baron and Lady of Prestoungrange visited the City in August
2002 to gather a host of information on its history since the
17th Century as background to their campaign to reopen The Goth
in Prestonpans. They met with City and Regional Archivists and
the Lord Mayor, Jorgen Linder.
Neither realised the legacy the 19th Century that Scotland had
received from the Gothenburg System commenced there in1865. The
archivists in Goteborg City had not had a temperance visitor for
several generations and the Lord Mayor thought we were pulling
his leg about our temperance pub.
Before returning to Scotland, the key Gothenburg System documents
had been scanned to disk ?all with the compliments of the City
of Goteborg and a photo collection garnered in. They are all now
included in the Goteborg
Gallery as linked here.
What Scotland Did for Goteborg
But why on earth was this city so friendly to a visiting Scot?
Well, quite simply because, wholly unknown to us visitors, Scottish
merchants had played a very significant part indeed in the City's
growth and development since the 17th Century.
Goteborg stands on the estuary
of the Gota Alv, and as Sweden's second largest city today
has some half million inhabitants. It has, since the early 17th
century when today's city was founded with Dutch canal expertise,
been an entrepot for much of the Baltic Sea as well as a centre
for the export of Swedish timber and iron ore to the rest of the
world. The Gota Canal stretching
190 km. across to Stockholm is still one of the greatest achievements
of Swedish engineers and was completed in 1819. Like the Panama
Canal 100 years later it uses inland lakes for its passage across
the peninsular. Shipbuilding led by Keiller grew up on the river
banks followed by cotton textile manufactures. Porter
was brewed by Carnegie. The Swedish East India Company founded
under the leadership of Colin
Campbell traded magnificently with the East Indies and China
for over 80 years from 1731. The roots for the world famous Chalmers
University of Technology today were put in place in 1829 in the
Chalmers School of Crafts. In all these various ways of commerce,
Scottish merchants was there leading from the thick of it.
According to tradition, honourably reported by the Lord Mayor,
it was also Scottish textile workers who first introduced football
to the country with a recorded game played in the City in May
1892. Today there are 250 soccer clubs that play each week and
the City proudly hosts the Gothia
Cup for over 1000 12/18 year old teams from across the world
- truly the Youth World Tournament.
One of Goteborg's finest eras was from 1806-1815 when Napoleon
established his Continental System, banning the import of all
English goods to his Empire. Goteborg obliged as the entrepot
from 1810 with massive trade south across the Baltic whilst a
post-Nelson HMS Victory stood friendly and constructive guard
offshore. From this period Goteborg gained and still retains the
nickname Little London. Most recently in June 2001 it hosted the
European Union's Summit Meeting of Heads of Government during
Sweden's Chairmanship of the Council of Ministers.
What Goteborg Did with the Proceeds of its
If the extensive nature of earlier Scottish connections was a
surprise, so too for us was the inescapable evidence that the
Gothenburg System as we were led to believe in it bore only minor
similarities to what seems to have happened there in the last
quarter of the 19th century.
The facts are that the System related solely to the locally made
vodka and certainly not to beers or other spirits. Secondly an
almost certain 5% return for the shareholders was a very satisfactory
investment to be making especially since the municipality obliged
by refusing to renew all then current licences at the urging inter
alia of two Scottish families the Dickinsons and the Carnegies.
Instead the licences were given in 1865 to the new Goteborg Company
or Bolag led by local businessmen. Thirdly, the surplus profits
which were considerably above the 5% were not given to trustees
per se. 70% went to the municipality; 10% to the rural agricultural
societies; and 20% to Stockholm. It was not until 1917 that ration
books were introduced allowing only 4 litres of vodka per month
per adult over 20 years of age with ladies required to send their
maids. Mercifully, those over 50 were allowed a larger quantity.
The System was in effect a pattern of regressive taxation that
relieved the better off in society of some of the pressing need
to make particular provision themselves for social services such
as education and library services. Kungsbacka,
a market town 20 km south of the city, managed for many generations
to collect no other local taxes at all. Fourthly, although there
was a pattern of encouragement to eat as well as drink, this was
not a major feature of the System and the off-licence trade in
vodka flourished even as on trade sales stabilised and even fell.
In many ways a more impressive system grew up in Denmark based
on encouragement to drink low alcohol beers rather than spirits
and the creation of broadly based social facilities and entertainment
centres where such drinking took place. In Denmark there were
no special companies granted monopolies by law. Local temperance
groups found they could run appropriate facilities that simply
encouraged less alcoholism which was reportedly the underlying
In fact all this had been loudly proclaimed by Edwin Pratt in
1907 after a similar visit to Goteborg, of which he wrote at length
in Licensing and Temperance
in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. It should not have escaped
our attention but then, as he suggested at the time, he was not
telling the facts the way many temperance workers and municipal
socialists wanted to hear them. And it was not for want of field
visits by a host of them either at the turn of the century. As
Pratt reported, the city was inundated with visiting do-gooders.
Beer, Arts & Tourism in Goteborg
It would have been remiss on such a visit not to research and
then sample the local beers. The most widely drunk today, and
still Swedish owned, is Falcon
from Falkenburg some 100
km south of the city. Carnegie's
porter is still to be had but that, like Pripps
Bla the best known Goteborg brew, is now owned by Carlsberg.
The arts in the city are most spectacularly apparent in the Opera
House completed in 1994 after many years controversy. It has
its own resident symphony orchestra. Architecture is on the grand
scale not least in the Head
Offices of the East India Company now the City's Museum.
Other magnificent tourist attractions are the Botanical
Gardens, the Horticultural Society's Gardens including a scaled
down replica of Paxton's Great
Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851, and the Klippans Industrial
And for a leisured time, visits to the
Liseberg Amusement Park and the old wharves by the Goth Alv
now transformed for walking and eating and including the Maritime
Museum are a must. Liseberg was built to celebrate the City's
tri-centenary in 1923 and still attracts 3 million visitors each
year and rising. The 7 metre high statue of Poseidon,
Greek God of the Deep Sea, was also created for the same celebrations.
Goteborg Picture Gallery
In the Picture Gallery
linked here we attempt to do justice to the City of Goteborg,
which can be seen to mean far more for Scotland and vice versa
than a travesty of the truth about late 19th Century notions of
how to organise temperance pubs for the poor - for better or for
Lord Mayor's Visit to Prestoungrange - July
23rd 2003 & Gothenburg Day in the Pans
For Prestoungrange the biggest symbolism of the linkage was the
Lord Mayor's Visit to Prestoungrange on July 23rd 2003. The tale
is written up here on the web at the link below:
Lord Mayor's Tales
And subsequently, Tom Ewing for the Arts Festival painted a commemorative
picture and took a second copy to Goteborg to present to the Lord
Lord Mayor in His Parlour
And finally, to commemorate that visit more actively, each year
The Prestoungrange Gothenburg has declared July 23rd to be Gothenburg
Day - and makes every attempt to attract every Swede living in
Scotland to find their way to the shore of the Firth of Forth
Two More Visits from Jorgen Linder in 2007 and 2011
Such was the interest inour 21st Century initiatives, Jorgen Linder returned in 2007 to launch our Centenary Year. Details are linked HERE
A Civic Reception was also held at The Prestoungrange Gothenburg.
Again in 2011 Jorgen Linder, just retired as Lord Mayor, came to Prestonpans with a group of 14 friends from the city. Details are linked HERE
He was able to meet local artists once again at The Prestoungrange Gothenburg and travel to see the Prestonpans Tapestry - on exhibition at the time in Kirkcaldy. So impressed were Jorgen and his wife Lisbeth,that they agree to assist in the creation back in their city of embroidered panels telling of Gothenburg's historic links since 1621 with Scotland. They will constitute the 'foundation' panels of the exciting new Scottish Diaspora Tapestry planned for 25 global communities by the 2nd Great Scottish Homecoming in 2014.