A Documentary film

"Why They Left: A Scottish Migration" is a documentary film that tells the story of the first large group to migrate to the United States, the Scots.


Most people think of the romantic Highlands as the place our ancestors came from. And many did. But the purpose of this documentary is to explore where the majority of Scots migrated from - the Lowlands of Scotland. Most Americans of Scottish descent don't know where their ancestors came from, why they left, and on what ship and where they arrived. These details have been lost to the generations. This film tells why the Scottish Lowlands became so crowded, and what life was like there. The reasons that caused people to leave everything they knew, climb aboard a crowded ship, and sail in unspeakable squalor for many weeks to start a new life, penniless, in an unforgiving land.


One young man, William Gregory, was sent by his family in Kilmarnock to work in Alexandria, Virginia. In March of 1807, he boarded a wooden sailing ship in Greenock and sailed to America. The house he raised his large family in stands in Alexandria today. This film tells the story of how William suffered embargo's, deaths, participated in the war of 1812, witnessed the civil war, and became a leading citizen in Alexandria. He kept in close touch with his family in Kilmarnock, overseeing the import of the factory's carpets and woolen goods to Alexandria.


Ellen Hamilton shows us port cities of Port Glasgow and Greenock, nestled in the beautiful scenery of the River Clyde where so many people left from, never to return. The busy Ocean Terminal port in Greenock has changed since the late 1700's, but it is still a vibrant port today for shipping containers and tourist ships.


Hamilton interviews the Scottish author Derek Alexander in the 600 year old, beautifully preserved Newark Castle, by the River Clyde, to learn about how that area became a major seaport for Glasgow.


Lance Malamo, head of the Office of Historic Alexandria talks about how Alexandria started out as an important seaport town and place where Scottish migrants started their lives in America. Americans of Scottish descent are interviewed, to find out how much they know of their family's past.